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Prodigal son Adrian Sutil takes final seat on F1 grid with Force India
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Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Feb 2013   |  5:06 pm GMT  |  79 comments

Sahara Force India F1 team today ended the long running sage of who would fill the final seat on the F1 grid in 2013.

Just 16 days before the drivers hit the track for Free Practice in Melbourne, Adrian Sutil was confirmed in the seat alongside Paul di Resta.

Sutil, 30, who missed the 2012 season after being convicted of grevious bodily harm following an incident with Lotus F1 co-owner Eric Lux in Shanghai 2011, has been restored to F1 and has a point to prove.

“I’m delighted to be back in Formula One, especially with a team I know so well,” said Sutil. “I’m very happy and I want to thank Sahara Force India for giving me a second chance. Having been away from the sport, I’m even more determined to achieve my goals in Formula One.

“Things went really well at the Barcelona test last week and it almost feels as though I’ve never been away. Driving the car felt so natural and I was able to get back in the groove quickly and find the limit. Now my focus is on making the most of the final test session this week.”

Today has been wet at Barcelona, Sutil had a day in the car last week and has limited time this week to get up to speed before the start of the season in Melbourne. He will be playing catch up for the first few races of 2013, but his progress thereafter will be interesting to watch. He was closely matched with Di Resta when the pair were team mates in 2011.

Dr Vijay Mallya, the team principal, said that the decision on a second driver had been particularly hard to reach. Clearly the team was not that impressed with Jules Bianchi’s outings on Fridays, otherwise he would have been promoted, as Nico Hulkenberg was in 2012. That said, budget is clearly part of the reason for going down this route and Sutil ticked more boxes than Bianchi when it came to a consideration of all the aspects.

Mallya said he hopes to be able to continue to work with Bianchi to prepare him for F1. It’s not clear where Bianchi’s career goes from here, as he has done GP2, the third driver role in F1 and now needs to race in F1 to keep career momentum going.

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79 Comments
  1. Random 79 says:

    Cue the controversy…personally I’m just glad they’ve finally made a decision.

  2. James Lewis says:

    I hear Sutil says he “deserves” a second chance.

    Really?!

    If that was a requirement for the job, I’d have thrown my name in the hat – I’ve been an F1 fan for decades – I’m far more deserving!

    1. Chromatic says:

      Same here

      Sad that the promising and exciting Bianchi is passed over for the mediocre and distasteful Sutil

  3. James Lewis says:

    Oh and James, be careful if Sutil invites you out for a drink?!

    1. James Allen says:

      I’ll bring my assistant, Cato…

      1. KGBVD says:

        with some antiseptic and band-aids…

      2. Kay says:

        Might be a better idea to bring your lawyer with you, plus a couple police friends just in case…

      3. Craig says:

        Cato? As in Cato Fong? Clouseau’s man servant/sparring partner?

        If so, GREAT reference. One of THE best sidekicks. EVER. :-)

    2. JeremySmith says:

      Very poor taste..

      1. Kay says:

        James Allen doesn’t seem to mind from the looks of his reply.

      2. rjbetty says:

        Hi Jeremy, yeah I have to agree. It’s true that mud sticks. He did something very wrong, but what I wanna know is how many people wouldn’t have done the same thing in the circumstances. I just don’t believe it was a premeditated thing as people make out.

      3. Jeff says:

        The best jokes always are.
        James’ reply raised an even bigger laugh.

  4. Seán Craddock says:

    Sutil has a lot of catching up to do. There must be a very good reason that they couldn’t come to a decision sooner, because having a driver with only a handful of hours since 2011 with completely different tyres is a big disadvantage.

    I do like Sutil though, glad to see him back. He’s always a character, I remember him wearing crazy glasses on the grid at his last race

  5. FerrariFan says:

    I expect some on track fireworks between the former friends Sutil and Hamilton. Especially if Mercedes has produced a mid field car for this season.

  6. Michael Prestia says:

    This situation is a complete joke. Ferrari will not be pleased… wonder where Force India will get their engines from in 2014…

    1. FerrariFan says:

      Mercedes I guess

    2. FerrariFan says:

      Besides Ferrari doesn’t seem to be very keen on their development drivers.

    3. Random 79 says:

      Maybe they made a deal:

      Let us use Sutil this year, and whoever does worst out of him and di Resta gets dropped for Bianchi in 2014.

      Just a theory…

  7. alexdhq says:

    I’d rather see Alguersuari or Kobayashi on the grid instead of Sutil. Both ‘deserve’ it more IMO.

    I can however understand Force India’s choice of driver for that final seat, considering the candidates. Sutil should (and will) bring more points to the table than Bianchi would.

    BTW, where does the ‘prodigal son’ title come from?

      1. alexdhq says:

        “Wastefully Extravagant” – seems a good fit for yesterday’s F1. But, what has he done to earn it?

      2. Ernesto De Puesto says:

        He has been with the team since the beginning?

        As for the Kobayashi and Alguersari commment:
        Sutil has scored consistently good results with Force India, brings sponsorship money, has a Mercedes connection (think 2014 engines) and has beaten the highly praised Di Resta 42 to 27 in 2011.

        Makes much more sense to hire him than the other two, unless Honda wants to rekindle the old turbo days :-)

      3. Wanja says:

        Driving fast I guess. Like being Force India’s most successful driver and outclassing both DiResta and Hülkenberg.

      4. KRB says:

        Well, he never went up against Hulkenberg, at least not with him in a race seat. We’ll see how he fares this year.

        If Di Resta can’t beat Sutil this season, his future prospects will rightly dim. When Sutil and Hamilton were teammates in 2005 (at the top team ASM in Euro F3), Hamilton annihilated him, only being beaten by him twice over 20 rounds.

      5. Vince says:

        “Prodigal” used incorrectly here. People think it means ‘someone who comes home’, but it really means ‘Wastefully Extravagant’ like alexdhq says…

      6. James Allen says:

        I know what prodigal means

      7. rjbetty says:

        This is news to me! I guess it’s true you do learn something new every day. :)

    1. Simmo says:

      I completely agree about Kobayashi and Alguersuari. They’re the two drivers I want to see back in F1 most.

    2. Robert says:

      Not just the points – Sutil has been with the team since 2008,when their car was really, really bad. He helped develop it to a mid-field car. From the interviews with their engineers a week ago, they gushed over Sutil – “he has great feedback, like he’s never been gone”, etc. I think he is very well liked in the team – not to say Bianchi isn’t, just that Sutil is liked a lot more – been through more of the ups and downs. And GBH aside, I think he is actually a pretty nice guy – very understated and smooth. So, yeah, given the progress FI has made since 2008 and the effort that Sutil has put in to help them get there, he probably CAN say he has earned it…

    3. Kay says:

      +1 on Alguersuari or Kobayashi

  8. madmax says:

    Wishes for F1 2013

    Sutil, Hamilton and one of the Lotus drivers accompanied by Eric Lux on the podium in China.

    1. Chris says:

      If we (as in FI) get a podium out of it, bring it on.

    2. Kay says:

      Now watch out for Eric’s face then! :D

    3. Aaron says:

      I suspect Eric would send another team member up to the podium. The other teams seem to send different personnel up to collect the constructor’s trophy.

    4. Jake says:

      No problem Lux has a restraining order and Sutil can’t take his place on the podium. Just hypothesising.
      It would be comical if it were not so serious.

  9. goferet says:

    Prodigal son >>> Lol… Perfect analog.

    Personally, am glad things worked out for Sutil for we all make mistakes and it would have been unfair if Sutil’s one mistake ended his career >>> maybe the Eric bloke intervened on his behalf.

    Anyway Force India have made the right decision in my view for this is a young, midfield team that needs all the constructors money it can squeeze out of their cars.

    Jules on the other hand was a big risk and that’s why big teams like Ferrari send their protégés to smaller teams so they can prove themselves first >>> Force India do not have this luxury.

    Meanwhile, the driver that’s been put in the spotlight with this move is Di Resta. Yes, all eyes will be on Di Resta this season for he will have a lot of explaining to do if another prodigal son ends the season ahead of him whilst Sutil can always blame cobwebs for his poor performances.

    1. Andrew says:

      Absolutely true what you say here. I think if Di Resta doesn’t get the better of Sutil this time then he’ll go the same way as Buemi, Alguersuari, Petrov et al.

      Sutil was always very good in the wet but was overshadowed a little by Fisichella in 2009. He is possibly lucky to get another go after 5 seasons. I’d have preferred to see Kobayashi stay or failing that, the GP2 champion Valsecchi.

    2. Random 79 says:

      Agreed…except maybe for the part about Eric intervening…

  10. Ernesto De Puesto says:

    I don’t want to reach into tabloid territory here, but there must be more to the M1nt-Club story than most fans are aware of.

    From what I could gather from the incident, Sutil and Hamilton where seated at the same table when a discussion broke out with Lux over some “spilled” drink on some girls dress. Lux then grabbed Sutils arm, who promptly struck back with his other hand, apparently forgetting he was still holding a champaign glass, which shattered and required Lux to get 20ish stitches on the neck and Sutil to get his hand stitched up.

    Sutil later called Hamilton “not a man” and broke the friendship due to the fact his “friend” wouldn’t testify in court.

    If all this is true (as apparently evident from a camera which filmed the whole thing) not only do I wonder why was Sutil was convicted at all (probably to do with Germany’s very strict views on the borders between self-defense and assault), but more importantly one has to wonder why Lewis would refrain from testifying, especially as a character witness.

    As I said I don’t like to reach into tabloid territory, but it really makes it seem like he did not want to testify about the exact nature of their “friendship” – just saying.

    By the way James, I love your site, best F1 information on the net. Thanks and keep up the good work.

    1. madmax says:

      Problem is the camera footage doesn’t enlighten anyone whether Sutil did or didn’t know he was holding the champagne glass.

      1. Ernesto De Puesto says:

        Good point. That’s probably why he needed convincing character witnesses who would testify about whether he was an aggressive person likely to hit someone with a glass or not.

        Too bad his good “friend” had some important meeting to attend to, haha.

    2. Robert says:

      Easy to explain – if you hit a ROBBER breaking into your house in Germany and hurt them, you will get convicted of hurting him. Seriously. Lux knows this, so he filed charges in Germany not China, for this reason.

      As for the friendship thing, I think Hamilton was advised that the media play on the whole thing was very, very negative, and “Ham The Brand” should not be associated with it in any way. Even if it meant losing a friend who most likely would never drive in F1 again.

      I am really, really happy for Sutil – he and Force India have a long history together, and he was with them when their car was the rough equivalent of a Caterham. He helped bring them into the mid-field, and has been repaid with the chance to show that he still has it. I don’t think he brings huge sponsorship AFAIK, so I think this is about skill and loyalty. Things that are beginning to go missing on the F1 grid…

      1. Ernesto De Puesto says:

        I don’t buy that argument for a second.

        Hamilton’s influence as a character witness might easily have swayed public opinion which in turn might have changed the court’s decision to make an example out of Sutil and he is supposed to have been a very good friend of Sutils for many years. Plus the media play on the thing wasn’t very negative at first and would have been even less so if Hamilton had taken Sutil’s side.

        Unless Sutil asked him to lie about the incident, there is no reason why he should have left a friend hanging, even if he thought his testimony wouldn’t have changed anything.

        Just think about one of your friends being in trouble like that. Nothing save a serious illness or death would stop me from going to that courtroom…

      2. Jake says:

        I know were I would rather face court for GBH and China is not it. Seriously Lux is the victim here, he did Sutil a favour by filing the charges in Germany. We have no idea why Hamilton did not give evidence. Why there should be any negative publicity regarding Hamilton being a witness eludes me and I do not think that is the reason. There is something we do not know/will never know about this case.
        What we do know is that Sutil stabbed Lux in the neck with a glass, fact.
        Is this the role model we want in the sport? No, not even if he was the best driver that ever lived. I think the FIA are a bunch of wimps, his license should have been cancelled.

    3. Andrew says:

      Ernesto, this is a very childish comment even if what you are insinuating were true.

      1. Ernesto De Puesto says:

        Sorry, but I don’t see how it is childish considering it reflects both on Hamilton’s character and might also influence how the two will get along on track this year, possibly resulting in crashes etc.

        I kind of agree that celebrity’s personal lives should ideally be off-limits, but if you look at real life, that is totally impossible nowadays and the fact is that most famous people actually cash in on their so-called “role-model” function, so I think it’s kind of valid to ask questions about Lewis’ actions in this matter.

        You want to be the some kind of golden boy of F1 you better behave in a decent way on and off the track, which I personally think might be grave doubt after what happened in China last year.

        If an old friend and another F1 driver can call you a “coward” and “not a man” and you have no good answer to that, maybe it’s time to ask some character questions…

      2. KRB says:

        How do you know there was no answer to that? Why do you assume that you should be privy to a falling out between two former friends? You have no right to know, nor should you assume you should.

        I suppose Hamilton could’ve appeared by videoconference at Sutil’s trial, but it’s debateable what effect it would’ve had. I seriously doubt that it would’ve changed the final verdict and sentence for Sutil, which in any event was suspended by the court.

    4. Jake says:

      We do not have all the evidence thus it’s pointless for us to judge the case. He was found guilty by the court and that’s what counts.
      I still believe he will have issues with visas due to his conviction.
      There is only one reason I can come up with for not giving evidence on behalf of your friend and that is that the evidence you give would not be helpful. Making a statement as Hamilton did allows him to choose the wording carefully but more importantly he is not open to cross examination. Who knows what would have come out if Hamilton had taken the stand.

      1. Ernesto De Puesto says:

        That is exactly the point.

        It certainly seems like Hamilton was afraid of something coming out if he had taken the stand.

        Still makes him a coward and not a very good “friend” at all.

      2. Jake says:

        Yes, it takes a real brave man to stab someone with a glass, and you want your friends to get you locked up somewhere where innocent till proved guilty has no meaning and the legal system takes forever. Fortunately it did not involve locals and the authorities were happy not to get involved, but it had the potential to be very messy. Instead of Sutil blaming Hamilton for his predicament he should consider that his foolish actions could have ruined Hamilton’s career as well as his own.

      3. carl says:

        Correct my thoughts exactly – Cross examination might have actualy damaged Sutils defence not help it. Personaly I think LH was wise to distance himself from Sutil and the case. By keeping out of the courts could have saved Sutil even more pain.

      4. Ernesto De Puesto says:

        If that was true, they would still be friends. Plus, Hamilton was called as a character witness, I can’t imagine there would be any cross examination.

        Hamilton protected himself and left his “friend” behind, not necessarily an awful thing to do, but doesn’t really reflect very good on him either in my opinion.

      5. Robert says:

        You also forgot that Hamilton would have been testifying AGAINST one of the most powerful men in F1 – a team owner, as part of supporting Sutil. Someone that actually might have some say in Hamilton’s employment at some point in the future. So plenty of self-serving reasons for Hamilton not to have testified….

      6. Jake says:

        Lux was not the one being prosecuted so how could Hamilton be testifying against him.
        At worst Hamilton could have contradicted the statement by Lux in some way; however this is unlikely given the CCT evidence. If Hamilton was called as a character witness then there is no gripe with Lux.
        You should also consider the other option that Hamilton thought Sutil did it on purpose and actually wanted nothing to do with it.
        Not saying that is the case, however it is possible and does explain Hamilton’s actions.

      7. Robert says:

        Jake – Lux filed charges against Sutil – so testifying FOR Sutil is testifying AGAINST Lux. Lux got his pride hurt, as much as his neck, and it was important to Lux to get his revenge – helping Sutil gets in the way. As for “knowing Sutil’s intent”, let me simply point out that the people that know Sutil the best are not on this website – they are the Force India team, for whom he has driven since 2008. They not only took him back – reading interviews, the rank and file in the garage WANTED him back from the way they gushed over him. No one that knows Sutil seems to think he is violent or a hot head…or else he certainly would not have gotten another chance at FI. They have 5 years of behaviour, travels, and conversations to base their judgement on, the rest of us have a snapshot and sensationalist headlines.

  11. Charan says:

    Is it just me – but you can’t have a guy in F1 who goes around stabbing people in the neck. If he was a genius talent – I’d say fine – I’m as practical as the next guy. At least he will feel at home at the Bahrain event with the other criminals – or should I say ruling family.

    1. Ron W says:

      Yet you can have drivers ramming other drivers off the track and that’s ok. I’m glad to see Sutil back. What he did was wrong, but it was blown out of proportion. I look at other drivers: Alonso – clearly knew about the Piquet safety car incident, got away with it. Vettel – rammed his teammate off the track. Button – a playboy much of his early career. Hamilton…oh Hamilton! Apart from flat out lying to the FIA, got caught doing a burn out and ‘hooning’ about in Oz.

      No one in F1 is squeaky clean, despite what the publicists would like you to believe!

      1. Jake says:

        Same thing isn’t it, stabbing someone in the neck with a glass and spinning the wheels in your car!

    2. Jake says:

      Not just you.

  12. Geenimetsuri says:

    I’ve heard rumours about Marussia’s driver change…?

  13. gudien says:

    Here’s to Sahara Force India finally turning the corner and becoming a solid, potential winning Formula One team. They certainly have the drivers.

  14. Davexxx says:

    No-one has raised this question yet – can you explain your penultimate line regarding Budget James: does Sutil actually bring money to the team (as a paid driver)? Or is he just – somehow – more attractive to sponsors (maybe the more trouble he gets into, the more headlines, so more sponsor coverage?)

    1. James Allen says:

      He brings sponsors, of course

      1. carl says:

        He does, Elastoplast and band-aid apparently

  15. Aliaksei Kandratsenka says:

    Romain Grosjean returned to GP2, won and then got normal F1 seat. I believe Bianchi can try doing same.

    1. Random 79 says:

      You’re right of course – there’s no reason why Bianchi couldn’t compete in GP2 for another year – but in Romain’s case it was more about getting his confidence back after a shocking intro to F1.

  16. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

    James – Ferrari seem to be hot and cold about the idea of Bianchi driving for another team to gain experience. Could it be that they have their 2014 driver line up sorted now and therefore their desire for Bianchi to get a seat is less critical?

    1. James Allen says:

      They don’t take inexperienced drivers, so even if he was in another car in 2013 he wouldn’t be in a Ferrari in 2014.

      I still think they want Vettel and sooner or later he is likely to go there to add another dimension to his career and profile as well as to prove he can win in another team

      1. Chris says:

        James, do you think if Red Bull are still making the best cars and dominating, Alonso would seek a Red Bull drive, and we could see Red Bull and Ferrari swap a ace of diamonds for an ace of clubs.

        Also in taken Sutil back, is it a case of we know how he likes a car, wheres Bianchi doesn’t even know how he likes a car, never mind the team (it took half a season to get it right for Nico H for example, and he probably knew what he wanted). How much of a risk is it for a midfield team to take a driver with no F1 race experiance?

      2. Random 79 says:

        I can’t confirm this, but I have the impression that Fernando wants to finish his career with Ferrari. I can’t see them swapping, but stranger things have happened…

        As for your second question it would be the same risk for them as it would be any employer to take on an employee with no experience – i.e. a big one.

        It’s a catch 22 – you can’t get experience unless you’re employed, but you can’t get employed unless you have experience…unless of course you have wads of cash handy ;)

    2. Andrew says:

      I don’t know why Ferrari like Bianchi so much anyway, he’s nothing special. I know Todt’s his manager and he has an italian name but you would think they would look for more than that.

      Would it really hurt them to support Valsecchi and get him a seat at Marussia? Surely he’s just as good as Bianchi if not better.

  17. Elie says:

    James I think Adrian Sutil must bring more money to FI and that he is a known quantity within the team rather than raw talent, because the few times Ive seen Bianci in any car he has been impressive ( times wise at least) – More so the young driver test and even during testing he was consistently up there in the times.
    “Clearly the team was not that impressed with Jules Bianchi’s outings on Fridays” – is this more feedback and personality or outright speed. There seems to be alot of different impressions of Bianci out there: ?

    1. Elie says:

      I will answer my own question with this. Apparently it was just the experience Sutil had with the team that finally swung it.
      http://formula-one.speedtv.com/article/f1-experience-gave-adrian-sutil-edge-says-vijay-mallya/#.US_JtuZEDrk.twitter

  18. UncleZen says:

    “He was closely matched with Di Resta when the pair were team mates in 2011″
    Depends what you mean by matched, he beat Diresta on points, by quite a margin. Lets face it, Direstas not that good, in all 3 seasons he’s been beaten by his teammates.

    Far “sage” read “saga” first para.

  19. schick says:

    Never heard anything quite so ridiculous “forgot he had a glass in his hand”,c’mon….glassing people is lower than a snakes belly. F1 doesn’t need Sutil and his type, he’s obviously unbalanced and a F1 car is no place for a nutter.

    1. Random 79 says:

      Not excusing Sutil, but I heard someone say many years ago that all F1 drivers have to be at least a little bit insane to drive these things.

  20. Fernando Cruz says:

    Last year Hulkenberg had all the right conditions to perform and was beaten by Di Resta in the first half of the season only because he had less experience. Now Sutil won’t have the good conditions Hulkenberg had last year, as he was out for a year and lost the first tests with the new car. So don’t expect him to do what even Hulkenberg didn’t do in the first half of 2012. I’d say the same whover had won the Force India seat (Bianchi, Senna or Kobayashi…)

    I think this would be the right time for Bianchi to be promoted. In 2014 Bottas and Gutierrez will have one year of experience as race drivers, so Williams and Sauber will have an advantage over Force India on driver line up if Bianchi is promoted. So maybe the french will be just another wasted talent, at least in F1…

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