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Two horse race for Force India seat as Buemi is ruled out
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Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Jan 2013   |  10:40 am GMT  |  82 comments

Sebastian Buemi has revealed to Swiss paper Blick that his chances of returning to the F1 grid with Sahara Force India are finished, after he was informed by the team that he is out of the running.

According to veteran Blick writer Roger Benoit, this leaves Jules Bianchi (pictured above with FI’s Bob Fearnley) in pole position for the seat, with former FI driver Adrian Sutil still a possibility.

Bianchi’s case is apparently being helped by discussions with Ferrari over a supply of engines for 2014. It seems that there is a possibility that Force India could switch to the Ferrari units when the new turbo formula comes in and with Ferrari keen to place its reserve driver Bianchi in a race seat, there could be a deal to be done there.

Bianchi drove for the team during a number of Friday practice sessions during the 2012 season but the feeling was that he had not impressed the team in that role to the same degree that Nico Hulkenberg had the year before.

Former Toro Rosso driver and Radio 5 Live F1 analyst Jaime Alguersuari was also in the running but is now being tipped to move to BMW’s DTM team.

Force India is due to launch its new car on February 1 at Silverstone.

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  1. AMSG says:

    So why was Jamie telling everyone he had signed a contract, but could not reveal what F1 team is was with for 2013. All hot air then…

  2. Craeas says:

    Sutil is over rated but not sure if Paul ready to leed team yet. Hmm hieki still available by the looks of it

  3. Scuderia McLaren says:

    Hope Sutil gets another shot at F1. Without judging on his personal issues, he would lift the quality of the mid field compared to the other options. Wish Kobayashi would replace Di Resta also.

  4. James says:

    Sad state of affairs if Bianchi gets the seat having failed in GP2 and been beaten in WSbR in the best car by Frijns barely in single seaters.

    Ultimate case of ‘who you know, not what you know’.

  5. goferet says:

    For sure F1 is a tough business for it’s not enough that some drivers have to pay to get a drive but it also depends on what connections one has in F1.

    So you have the likes of Sutil, Jaime falling by the way side in favour for a driver that has the backing of another team in this case Bianchi.

    It would have been okay if Bianchi had impressed but according to Force India’s management, it appears like their hand is being forced here which in the real word would rank as a form of bribery.

    Anyway, I hope Sutil gets the drive because he’s a proven commodity unlike Bianchi who may turn out to be not worth the free 2014 engines.

    P.s.

    From the looks of it, Torro Rosso isn’t the right place for any young driver with the hopes of a stable environment in which to horn their skills.

    It seems to me that’s one team where you either shine or you’re out.

    I mean Sebastien Bourdais got the chop and is yet to return and now the same thing is happening to Buemi and Jaime with the possible exception of Luizzi who got the sack, then made a return with HRT only to get the boot once more.

  6. Jimbob says:

    Bah, this is silly. Jaime is a no-brainer if they want speed, consistency and potential for improvement. It’s a shame that money gets in the way so often.

    Oh, and I hope they don’t bring Sutil back. He’s good but not good enough, he’s had his chance.

  7. Phill says:

    James, when can we expect Kubica to make his return. Been 2 years now, a driver like him needs to come back to the great sport?

  8. Pranav says:

    What’s the point of bringing Sutil back? They already have a mediocre driver in the form of DiResta. Atleast Bianchi is an unknown quantity and might impress instead of bringing the car in the position it is supposed to finish in.

  9. Richard says:

    Sutil is very fast and I hope he is given another chance. He perhaps is a bit of a hot head when provoked which landed him in trouble, but I expect he has learnt his lesson. I also suspect the incident was not entirely his fault, but he should have known better to get into such entanglements. On the grid however I think he is more than a match for Di Resta who seems to be good but not brilliant. – Unless of course he can prove otherwise.

  10. klaus says:

    Is this an opportunity for Lewis?

  11. Werewolf says:

    From my position of armchair ignorance, Force India sems to be making some poor decisions here. Sutil is/was a decent midfield driver but had probably more or less reached his full F1 potential before the year out. Kobayashi or Kovalainen are at least as good and have had no time out; Alguersuari and Buemi are comparable to Sutil in every respect, I’d say, with Alguersuari the youngest and having perhaps the greater potential.

    Bianchi is a real risk. The speed for which he was originally touted has become questionable in recent years but the errors are still occurring.

    I would also doubt the wisdom of Ferrari engines. Historically, Mercedes’ customers have done better than Ferrari’s and I would suspect the units come with less political baggage and a greater expectation of equal treatment.

    Of course, there are probably wider business/financial issues at play but Mallya’s standing here is definitely sub-HRT at the moment and it would be sad to see the F1 team join his extensive list of expensive failures.

  12. chow says:

    what a pity|. Money overrules talent

  13. Arya says:

    James, would I be right in saying Cepsa signed the deal with STR because of a talented young Spaniard?
    If yes, why are they still with STR? And why isn’t the same young man not able to find enough money?

  14. Elie says:

    No idea FI would even consider Buemi in the first place. It’s a fair bet that Hulkenburg is a very high marker for any driver to follow even on his 2011 season. I thought Biancis test times were strong with both Ferrari and FI.

    I would definitely have put Kobayashi ahead of all contenders for his performance this year alone. But it all comes down to money and politics and if deal for Ferrari engines comes with a driver – then I guess that’s going to be a big factor. If they don’t go with engine deal then it looks like Sutil could be back – I think he would be a risk- can you imagine what happens if he runs into Hamilton on / off the track..

  15. SynMan says:

    What puzzles me most is why di Resta is still there, despite showing little promise or improvement.

  16. michael says:

    Are Jaime Alguersuari and Bruno Senna completely out of the running?

  17. tom adams says:

    What about Bruno Senna, was he not in contention James?

  18. JB HAM says:

    Sutil is just as good as Rosberg/Webber if you ask me. He outclassed Paul quite handlily in 2011 despite problems understanding his tyres.

  19. Lee Gilbert says:

    Sutil has Visa issues as he has a criminal record. Me think that rules him out.

  20. Simon Donald says:

    I agree with most of the comments above, I’m surprised that Bianchi is in the running for this when you have drivers of the talent of Alguersari, Kobayashi, Senna and Kovalainen floating around without a drive!

  21. All this talk about Todt – but doesn’t Bianchi bring Aethra (brazilian car parts maker) money as well?

  22. Kay says:

    Hi James, do you know the possible reasons to FI’s consideration for Ferrari engines rather than Mercs? Mercs seem pretty good and from various sources on the internet, they seem to be in a good position for 2014 spec engines. Ferraris are heard to be thirsty on fuel so that adds penalty to the car’s weight.

    Could it be money saving on drivers and engine costs or..?

  23. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    Difficult decision.

    I guess that money talks, and the engines for 2014 is a point so far away for the 2013 campaign when the owner of Force India already has so many financial problems according with the press.

    I think there is no clear candidate, it should be a gamble, it could be SENNA?, he has sponsorship, experience and he can also be sometimes good and even consistent, hopefully.

    Interesting a Brazilian car parts maker Aethra was Bianchi’s sponsor in 2012.

    So maybe Bianchi could be a test driver for another year, after all, Ferrari will certainly have Hulk as a potential driver in the grid.

    Hmmm, Sutil maybe.

  24. Robert says:

    How any team can see beyond Kovi, Sutil or even Alguesari to fill a mid-field seat is beyond me. Any one of the three would be reasonably fast and reliable, and has experience to help grow the team. Oh, yeah, $$$$$$$$….. :-( The fact that Kovi in particular looks to be out of a seat next year is IMHO a sign of all that is wrong with F1…

  25. Fernando Cruz says:

    I’m sure Senna would match Di Resta if he could get the Force India drive for 2013! Di Resta was better than Hulkenberg in the first half of the season but was clearly behind his team mate in the second half even in race pace, while Senna was level with Maldonado in race pace almost all year. Di Resta was in his second year of racing with his team to Hulkenberg’s first, while Senna was in his first to Maldonado’s second. Furthermore Di Resta had more track time, he didn’t lose 15 FP1. So Senna has a lot of room to improve, as even in 2012 he was not given equal conditions to his team mate. Senna would be even better than Sutil, as he raced this year and Sutil was out. Another thing that would help Senna to improve would be 2013 tyres, which will have a larger performance window, suiting more his driving style. So he would qualify much better in 2013, recovering the qualifying form that he showed with Lotus in 2011. As he is already very good and consistent in races, that would make him a really good asset to Force India, capable to win races if he has a good car. He would be at least as good as Paul Di Resta.

    However, I reckon there is a degree of uncertainty, as even the driver or his fans can’t be absolutely 100% sure he will be fast
    enough and will completely recover his qualifying form. But surely he would do better than Bianchi, now the favourite for the drive. Also drivers like Kobayashi, Kovalainen (or even Alguersuari or Buemi, despite spending a year out) could do better than Bianchi or even better than Sutil, so that says a lot about how things are done in F1.

  26. Jason Norwood says:

    Hi James, is there any way that I can contact you please to ask a couple of questions? Thanks Jason

  27. zombie says:

    There should be a parallel series for F1 rejects. It is a tragedy to see talents like Jamie, Heikki,Kobayashi, Buemi etc sit on the sidelines ..what a waste of talent !

  28. Harry Morgan says:

    I would prefer to have Kobayashi but in the end I think Sutil will get the seat. Would be a shame to see Kobayashi and Kovalainen out of F1, to be honest.

    But we will know soon, fortunately. Until then we wait in an exciting way!

  29. eric weinraub says:

    We are talking about Force India so do we really care how and why you come by a drive on the team? The team is privately held and the owner can make the decision based on any criteria to his liking. The whole argument seems kinda pointless when you consider that we’re talking about a team that is craping to run in the top 10 consistently and certainly won’t be now that Nico Hulkenberg has moved on. Honestly, if they were *serious* about improving and not just making up the numbers they would get Schuey….

  30. Daniel says:

    Isn’t the bigger issue for Force India money, I read today that the kingfisher airline is now India’s smallest and they have let their license to fly lapse. Only 12 months ago it was the 2nd biggest in India. You’d think Bianchi is a Schu in if money/engines matter and it seems it does for F.I. right now.

  31. Scuderia McLaren says:

    Really?! If that is the case, that sounds like a series I’d be interested in following. F1 “reserve grade” for want of a better word.

  32. Darrin from Canada says:

    any chance of catching these races on NAmer TV?

  33. Mike says:

    Just to mix things up bit… Michael Schumacher.

  34. Hold says:

    Yeah, Sutil had his chance and took it. He was clearly faster than Di Resta.

  35. [MISTER] says:

    LOL!
    Bribery? Are you serious? You’re a joke if that’s how you see things! Can’t believe it!

  36. Martin says:

    From what I understand, Kubica still needs to get greater mobility in his arm. From what I read in Autosport, he’s getting a special gearshift for him – something like paddles with a delay to match the shifting time that the other drivers have with their floor mounted shifter.

    The vibe from the rally teams is that he’s a great talent, but he still needs to able to drive an F1 car. For his sake, hopefully he can, but F1 has survived without, even though he has been missed.

  37. Scuderia McLaren says:

    Kubica won’t be back in F1, which is almost depressing. I can only imagine how he must feel. So much wasted potential. He won’t have the fine motor skills required for F1 or the shoulder movement and strength required. Maybe he can show em how it’s done in a tin top series, maybe GT cars?

  38. heartworm says:

    recent comments from kubica sadly suggest he won’t be back, and if he is it won’t be any time soon due to a lack if movement in his arm.

  39. Sebna says:

    Kubica is not fit to come back at this stage of his rehabilitation and lets hope he will ever be.

    I personally believe he will come back but now it is all in nature hands and as we all know she bows to no one, unfortunately.

    So hopes are all his fans have, but the good news is that is fit enough to drive in normal cars so we will see him in one of the series those year. Maybe not in full campaign but who know?Kubica is not fit to come back at this stage of his rehabilitation and lets hope he will ever be.

    I personally believe he will come back but now it is all in nature hands and as we all know she bows to no one, unfortunately.

    So hopes are all his fans have, but the good news is that is fit enough to drive in normal cars so we will see him in one of the series those year. Maybe not in full campaign but who know?Kubica is not fit to come back at this stage of his rehabilitation and lets hope he will ever be.

    I personally believe he will come back but now it is all in nature hands and as we all know she bows to no one, unfortunately.

    So hopes are all his fans have, but the good news is that is fit enough to drive in normal cars so we will see him in one of the series those year. Maybe not in full campaign but who know?

  40. GordonD says:

    Kubica, by his own admission, is never coming back. The extent of his hand injury would seem to preclude him handling all the controls on the steering wheel

  41. Jesse says:

    It’s been two years. Let your hopes down gently now.

  42. vicnsi says:

    After he was seriously injured in a crash at the Ronde di Andora rally on 06 Feb 2011, partially severing his right forearm, it is Kubica himself that has recently ruled out a possible return to F1 any time in the near future.

    Just over a week ago he was reported to have told the Daily Express:
    “If I can move my arm again [freely], there is a chance that I will return. But until that happens, we’ll have to see. There’s no chance of me coming back to Formula One soon.”

  43. Richard D says:

    It’s a bit unkind to describe DiResta as “mediocre”. I admit he didn’t have a brilliant season but I’ve always felt that he has potential if the car will give him a chance.

  44. someone else says:

    Sutil is surely one of the fastest drivers available today. Anyone who doubts that should watch how he did in Monaco, especially on that occasion when he was shot from a secure P4 by Kimi Räikkönen.

  45. AuraF1 says:

    An ego driven racing driver bigging themselves up? This must be a brand new phenomenon!

  46. Jon L says:

    Spanish driver, signed a contract, couldn’t say anything because it probably meant replacing a driver who already had a contract for 2013 and suddenly goes quiet and is looking elsewhere; I therefore deduce, my dear Watson, that it was possibly HRT… mind you, a DTM car might be quicker anyway!

  47. Rich B says:

    bianchi lost wsbr thanks to frijns punting him off the track.

  48. Aldo says:

    Failed? Sure he hasn’t impressed as much as he did in 09, but in his rookie year of GP2 he was beaten only by Maldonado and Perez, two drivers who have proven their speed in F1. The next year he was extremely unlucky, and imo was second only to Grosjean, another driver to show good speed in F1. In WSR he only finished second because Frijns deliberately crashed into him (Sam Bird confirms this).

    Bianchi must be doing something right if Ferrari are willing to give Force India an engine discount in return for giving Bianchi a drive. Also recent comments from Luca Baldiserri imply that Ferrari believe Bianchi is a potential world champion:

    http://www.ferrari.com/english/formula1/news/headlines/Pages/121221-fda-the-fda-year.aspx

  49. [MISTER] says:

    Well, Sutil should’ve understand those tyres better than a rookie, don’t you think so?
    If he didn’t, that tells alot about him.

  50. James says:

    No, Bianchi lost in WSbR because Robin Frijns did a much better job than him in a much worse car, despite only having 2 years open wheel experience.

    Bianchi is 23, with 2 failures in GP2 and a failure in WSbR under his belt, despite driving for top teams.

    However, his manager is Nicolas Todt.

  51. James says:

    He has had two good (top of midfield) Force India cars and been trounced by two successive teammates.

    But he is British.

  52. James says:

    That was rumoured this time last year but swiftly denied.

    Considering the state of the Spanish economy, its not surprising he can’t find massive backing.

  53. Asanator says:

    Lol, and Bourdais was rubbish and rightfully dropped from STR!!

  54. Elie says:

    No apparently he’s clear to travel anywhere including USA. He has provided Force India all the relevant evidence for this.

  55. JC says:

    Except he doesn’t have visa issues. It’s been investigated and confirmed that he is OK to travel to the countries F1 is being held in.

  56. Bart says:

    I don’t really follow WSBR, but I thought they used a spec-chassis, so no-one can have a “much worse car”? Correct me if I’m wrong.

  57. Jack Byrne says:

    Totally agree with James on this one. Bianchi doesn’t deserve a drive in Formula 1. Despite massive backing, he has been unable to show consistent performances in the lesser categories. It’s a sad state of affairs in Formula 1 now that drivers of genuine talent are getting overlooked by those who no matter how many cars they destroy, continue to be silver-spooned into a Formula 1 drive.

  58. James says:

    WSbR like GP2 & GP3 are spec chassis but getting the best from the car needs the best engineers etc which the best teams usually have.

    Tech 1 (Bianchi) have won the 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 teams championship.

    Fortec (Frijns) have been a good team in recent years with 3rd, 2nd, 4th, 5th in the team championship.

    Bianchi’s teammate last season scored twice as many points as Frijns’.

  59. Rich B says:

    perez didn’t win a single championship of any significance before f1 and he’s done ok

    robin was the better driver in wsbr and a deserving champ, but punting bianchi out was a big help

  60. Bart says:

    That’s a bit of a stretch. Apparently he was due to get a post race penalty for passing under yellows. However he was good at Brazil 09 where he qualified 3rd, before Trulli took him out.

  61. JC says:

    Sutil was only in P4 because he overtook under yellows. Gaining an advantage by breaking the rules doesn’t make one a fast driver…

  62. Kay says:

    Probably Merc funding, after all he was a Merc DTM driver prior to joining F1. Just my guess.

  63. Kay says:

    Well Sauber DID beat FIF1 this year.

    But like you said, it’s all business/financial issues, as well as politics and these are all blind to the fans so we’ll never know.

  64. nns2703 says:

    what about lewis struggle that year?
    Driver’s having aggressive style were struggling with the fast degrading tyre. Even the like of Barichelo who had 20yrs of experience was struggling against a debutant.
    Once Sutil adapted his driving style to the tyre,he started dominating him.Until British Gp,qualifing record was in favour of diresta by 7-1 and come the end of season Sutil beats him by 10-9.

  65. Jimbob says:

    Clearly faster than Di Resta in his rookie season and to be fair I don’t rate Di Resta either. I just mean that Sutil isn’t ever going to be one of the elite so he may as well forget it.

    Jaime has serious potential but it seems that’ll never be realised. Kovalainen would also be a better bet than Sutil & Bianchi.

  66. David Ryan says:

    …well, faster once di Resta outqualified him for the first part of the season. However you look at it, for a driver in his 6th season with the team that’s not a particularly impressive start to proceedings. He certainly upped his game thereafter, but I do not believe he showed anything in terms of pace or form to suggest he is more than a decent midfield driver who is a safe pair of hands. He could score points consistently, maybe the odd podium and even luck into a victory on the right day, but he’s not one of the elite. I can only assume Force India came to the same conclusion.

    My choice for the seat would have been Kobayashi, such that it matters, but as he’s now ruled himself out for 2013 I’d be inclined to go for Alguersuari. He has unfinished business with F1 and much more potential than I believe Toro Rosso gave him credit for, so I’d say he’s more likely to make the most of the opportunity. Knowing modern F1, though, that probably makes it even less likely to happen…

  67. Craeas says:

    Scottish

  68. Wade Parmino says:

    Why is that relevant?
    Force India is owned by an Indian. I don’t understand your point.

    With regards to Di Resta’s driving, you are right. DTM was the place for him, or he could have a go at V8 Supercars.

  69. James says:

    The fact he is British is relevant in the level to which the British F1 press hype him, conveniently ignoring the fact that he has been well and truly trounced by two (non british) teammates.

    The only thing relevant to Force India is his Mercedes backing.

  70. Wade Parmino says:

    He should never have stepped into that rally car. He threw away a dream career for the sake of a bit of fun.

  71. Wade Parmino says:

    So he gets a dispensation because he is a Formula 1 driver? The average Joe with the exact same record probably wouldn’t be given such leniency.

  72. James Allen says:

    Funny you should say that. I think that’s what Formula E represents from 2014 onwards

  73. Fernando Cruz says:

    I completely agree. Drivers like Robert Kubica, Alvaro Parente, Kamui Kobayashi, Bruno Senna, Heikki Kovalainen, Sebastien Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari, Adrian Sutil, Nick Heidfeld, Lucas Di Grassi, Christian Klien, Jerome D’ Ambrosio, Vitantonio Liuzzi or Adam Carroll all in the same series, that would be outstanding!

    However I fear most of them won’t consider Formula E as a real option. The only one I bet will be there is Lucas Di Grassi, as he has been the official tester for the series.

  74. Werewolf says:

    That in several years of F1 only a couple of races are regularly cited for Sutil’s speed says it all really: he could be impressive on occasions but was inconsistent. Perhaps he could be more applied with a second chance but, to my way of thinking, there are drivers available who are as quick and at least as or more consistent but without the risk of a year out; or youngsters with greater potential.

  75. Martin says:

    Hi Fernando,

    have you seen anything that points to where Bruno might end up? I haven’t seen anything in English/Australian media since his DTM test. Guessing by your support for di Grassi, you may be able to read the Brazilian (Portugese) reporting.

    I know James has stated on this site that he leaves alone of lot of the weak rumours, but declaring this a two horse race is interesting. I would personally be surprised if Sutil brought a larger budget than Senna based on what I had read, but I’ve nothing to back that up.

    Cheers,
    Martin

  76. Werewolf says:

    Mallya’s companies have enough debts already! Perhaps Schuey could buy Force India!

  77. Scuderia McLaren says:

    +1

  78. Sudha S says:

    +1000

  79. AMSG says:

    I think even a Hertz car would be quicker… sadly.

  80. Fernando Cruz says:

    Hi Martin,

    I haven’t seen anything about that, but as far as I know he won’t go to Force India and he didn’t consider Caterham as a real option. If he quits F1 I’d like him to follow the path of Formula E. He could do GP2 this year, why not? I think rules allow it, as he didn’t win that series in 2008. Meanwhile, until Force India makes an announcement on their line up I think he won’t consider anything else.

    Cheers,
    Fernando

  81. David Ryan says:

    Given that the only person who could confirm whether Frijns deliberately crashed into Bianchi is Frijns himself, I’d be inclined to take Sam Bird’s testimony with a pinch of salt. His “front row seat” was in reality about 20+ metres back, with Kevin Magnussen blocking his view for good measure (who, in contrast, has stayed mostly quiet on the incident), and having watched the replays it was a fairly standard junior formulae racing incident. Both wanted to win, neither wanted to yield, and as Bianchi was on the outside he paid the price. Backing off and lining up a pass on the next corner would have probably saved his race, but then hindsight is a wonderful thing…

    But I digress. Bianchi clearly has some talent, but so do the other contenders for the drive both past and present. Should he be signed, it will as James said be more down to who he knows and the commercial consequences therein as opposed to being better in terms of performance.

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