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.