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Is Sutil the Force India driver looking for a seat elsewhere?
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Nov 2011   |  8:43 pm GMT  |  75 comments

The Force India team has three drivers on its books and has said that it will announce which two will be the race drivers on December 15th.

There has been a lot of speculation about which of the three is to be disappointed, but in the press conference yesterday, Bob Fearnley the deputy team principal, said something very interesting,

“I think it is only fair we deal, obviously, with the drivers. We have got three very talented drivers and we need to make sure that the one that is going to be disappointed has the best opportunity to position himself and that’s our priority. Once we are clear with all those programmes, Vijay will announce it.”

This indicates that the team knows its line up and is engaged in helping the one who is not to be retained to find the best possible seat elsewhere, by giving him the next two weeks in which to keep his stock high. After an announcement the disappointed driver’s negotiating position would change.

If that is the case, which driver has clearly the busiest manager at the moment? The signs are from asking around the teams that it’s Adrian Sutil’s manager Manfred Zimmerman who has been wearing out the shoe leather, diving in and out of team offices, having meetings.

Sutil has certainly been pushing hard on track, qualifying and racing ahead of Di Resta in the last two events and was well ahead of the Scotsman in qualifying in Brazil.

“We have two or three options that we are negotiating. We expect to sign a new contract about a week after Sao Paulo,” Zimmerman is quoted as saying this weekend by German news agency SID.

One of those could be Williams, although there are rumours in the paddock that GP3 champion Valtteri Bottas might make the big leap up to a race seat, as Jenson Button did with Williams from F3 in 2000. Bottas has been Williams’ test driver since January 2010 and the young Finn did a good job in the Young Drivers test at Abu Dhabi last week, covering 161 laps over two days with good pace.

It seems that Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg therefore could be set to race for the team next year and in that scenario a new third driver for Friday running would probably be drafted in. The word in Brazil is that this will be Jules Bianchi, currently reserve driver at Ferrari.

Force India is the team which has made the best use of the third driver on Fridays, giving Di Resta a chance to learn the tracks in 2010 ahead of his race debut this year and keeping Hulkenberg sharp and up to date with Friday runs this year ahead of a race return in 2012. It’s been well thought out and has worked well for them. Bianchi needs mileage in an F1 car to prepare him for a race seat somewhere in 2013.

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If Pedro can get a ride next year, I predict Williams might be knocking on Damon Hill’s door soon….


Woops, wanted to add one more thing… I find it strange that everyone thinks Lotus-Renault is such a vastly superior option to Williams. All I see at Lotus is decline with key personnel departures, a loss less money and engineering support with the loss of factor backing and a team manager who has clearly shown poorly the entire year.

Meanwhile, Williams has hired a top flight designer like Mike Coughlan who was good enough to be the Chief Designer for McLaren from 2002 to 2007 along with other successful engineers and secured Renault engines for next years which will be a tremendous improvement over the awful Cosworth lumps. Besides this year, they weren’t exactly terrible the past few years. The only fundamental problem they’ve got is that they don’t have a big enough budget to be competing for championships. Without that, you cannot expect much better than fourth or fifth in the WCC.

Lets not forget, just last season they grabbed a pole, a fourth place, about 20 top tens and finished ahead of all the mid-field teams. They would have been fifth in the standings if Lotus-Renault were the team they are now and not a factory-funded contender that they were. With superior infrastructure and technical resources, it should be expected that they should easily be fighting for fifth next year compared to the still relatively small budgeted and operational mid-field competitors (with the exception of Sauber who have great facilities, but not the budget to operate it to capacity or hire the talent and number of people needed to exploit its potential).


James, can you elaborate on why Nick Heidfeld hasn’t even been mentioned as possible candidate for Williams or anywhere? He would seem to be a perfect fit considering the Qatar sponsorship hasn’t seemed to materialize which was widely thought to have been a condition for Williams entertaining an expensive Kimi contract. As we have seen and as stats bare, he’s a proven quantity and easily the calibre of a Sutil or Hulkenberg except with much more experience. Also, one would assume that Heidfeld could be had on the cheap with essentially zero options on the table (we knows he’s not going to Renault). I understand Sutil is a much better option since he’s shown he’s as fast or faster than Heidfeld, is younger and critically, brings personal sponsorship to the table. However, I find it odd that he hasn’t even been mentioned, unless Williams is absolutely positive he can be had.


Don’t know about Heidfeld, but I think Qatar situation will prove very positive for Williams


Thanks! That buoys my spirits. Now, if Sauber could just get a fraction of the sponsorship they deserve they could really turn out some competitive cars with those BMW-expanded Hinwil facilities.

ps-wish we could edit responses. Just read my post below and it reads as if I were drunk. Anyways…


I agree that the BBC definitely go over the top about PDR. However, just a couple of points that haven’t been brought up yet.

He’s been giving up his car for a crucial practise session at most GPs this year. Also, Force India tended to split their strategies towards the end of the year and he was the one to cover the early safety cars, which never actually came. He deserves another year.

As for Heidfeld, he wouldn’t have got more than a handful of extra points if they kept him on – the Renault was slower than FI, Sauber and Torro Rosso by then.


Personally I’d like to see Sutil going to Lotus Renault. He is way better than Petrov and Senna. Williams would be a downgrade for him.

Lotus Renault: Sutil & Kubica

Force India: Hulkenberg & Di Resta

Williams: Raikkonen & Heidfeld


Don’t think that’ll happen anytime soon.. Remember the bad blood between Lotus and Adrian?? But I think the time has come to bid adieu to Rubinho although I would love to see hm do his 20th and final year with Force India. Start and end his career with the same team effectively


Why not Hulk back to Williams ? He is a known quantity.

Could someone also please give Di Resta some media training! He comes across so dull and unhumorous in all interviews.


I don’t see how people can suggest that Sutil and Di Resta should be compared equally. Has anyone looked at Sutil’s results in his first year? I seem to remember he spent most of his time crashing into everything in his first two seasons, but I may be wrong.

Di Resta had a few incidents in the first half of the season, but since then has produced nothing but solid performances, mostly on tracks he’s never even driven before.

IMO, all three drivers deserve a drive, and Mallya is left with a choice. Stick with a driver who has had four years to show his worth, and has proven to be solid but unremarkable, or take a punt on two promising rookie’s who most expect to at least turn out to be just as solid after another season or two, but who might just be the next big thing.

If you couple that with the fact that Force India seem to be turning themselves into Merc GP’s driver testing ground, then I think it’s fairly obvious which way Mallya was going to go.


Whilst I agree yes the British media has got a little worked up about PDR, he has had a solid first year, he has been fairly quick, hasnt crashed it (that might not be true but I cant remember him having a big one) and has shown a mature attitude to his racing. Hulkenberg showed a similar level of speed in his rookie year but I think lacked the maturity that PDR seems to have.

Sutil is a highly rated and reasonably quick guy, however he has been around for a while now and hasnt shown any really outstanding performance. It would be a risk to drop him as you know what you will get from him, but thats just it, he is a Fisichella, Truli, Barrichello, a quick and safe pair of hands that will get the car home and score points but nothing more.

It comes down to what the team wants to do, whether they want to risk having two relativly unpexperienced guys with a lot of potential (I hate that word) or keep doing what they have been with the mix of experience and youth.

For what its worth I would continue with Sutil and PDR, I dont think theres much to choose between Hulk and PDR but on balance of their respective rookie years I would swing to PDR… …[mod]


Who retains the seat should be decided by results – Championship points and qualifying results.

In that vain – Sutil should stay.

Hulkenberg has a lot of potential as a future world champion and should have a seat.

The rough and cut of it – Di Resta should go.

In saying all that, I think Force India will take Di Resta and Hulkenburg for 2012. Sutil’s exit might have something to do with smacking that Renault boss.


I really don’t get why everyone’s raving about Hulkenberg!? Yes a great pole and stuff but for me he did little else in 2010 to prove he was a real talent. FI should stick with this decent pairing and see if they can mount a challenge for fifth next year. Just my opinion, I’m sure many will argue!


Hulkenberg has won almost all categories before, has at least as good CV as Hamilton.


All the indications seem to point towards Hulkenberg and di Resta as Force India drivers for 2012. But Sutil’s stock has improved, over the course of 2011, and hopefully a deal will be done to retain him in F1. I guess Williams is the most likely place, but I’ve a strange feeling that there will be a seat at Caterham, despite Trulli claiming to have a contract. Someone of Sutil’s experience would make a strong team, alongside Kovalainen…..


If you saw Sutil on the BBC F1 Forum after the race he did not give the appearance of a man who feels safe in a race seat for next year. If it’s true Force India are ditching him I think he can feel hard done by. In the second half of the season he has come on strong and a 6th place today is more than he should expect.

On the other hand he’s been in that seat now a good few years without hitting the heights as often as he should. So maybe “time to move on” is fair enough. He can’t say he hasn’t had a crack.


Hulkemberg with his CV must have a seat in F1 or the sport as a whole is not working well. Sutil has had his chances and apart from a few strong performances he has not shown anything special. The last few races do not provide enough base for a long term judgement. Shame for Kimi not coming back, he should be in F1 fighting for top places. One of the most exciting and purely gifted talent of modern F1. Money is too much of a factor nowadays.


Hope Sutil will have a Williams-RENAULT fast enough to be in front of FI 🙂


Whatever happened about the nightclub “incident” in Shanghai with Sutil? Was there a civil case brought in the end or is it all still outstanding???


Yes, a case was brought in Munich as I understand. I don’t think it’s started yet.


Now that Sutil has got the hang of the tyres, he’s much better than Di Resta.

Big mistake IMHO.


Hope Hulk and paul di resta live up to their promise they offer … i think the end of the season 2012 … it will be a dead end for one of them … both a season old and pretty much both of them would be gunning the Merc seat of Schumi.

somehow di resta seems to have the edge over the Hulk …all the Hulk has to hold on to his pole lap in Brazil ’10 but yes he is much better than some of the pay drivers who are common sight in the F1 grid..


Well Sutil would be a good fit to Williams … now that it is pretty much a known fact that Kimi Williams is not going to happen … a experienced driver like Sutil may be the best option the Williams has now … am not sure Bottas/Pastor would be driver combination that the Williams team would want to bank on their step up to the front of the grid….it is shame the Kimi Williams deal did not work out …


There was a time when Sutil struggled to keep the car on the track always trying to push the car beyond it’s limits, but at Force India he has consistently been the fastest driver bringing in valueable points. Di Resta did better in the first half of the season, but seems to have become less competitive of late. I actually think Sutil is a very fast driver and given a competitive car would do well. Not sure what the curent thinking is in Force India, but it is always a combination of talent and sponsorship.


Looking at the comments here prompted me to take a look at the standings… Incredible to see that heidfeld is still above all of the drivers being discussed above. Petrov has had 5-6 more races and is only two points ahead. I know he was a little inconsistentthis year but still seems strange to think f1 doesn’t have a place for a guy like nick and we watch guys like Maldonado and Petrov trash their way around every other weekend.u


if you look at the results nick got before they booted him, the results where he didnt break down or get taken out. he was usually best of the rest. What did renault expect him to do???


Of course Di Resta is not the new Senna – stop exaggerating things.

However – prior to 2011 Di Resta was racing touring cars for the last four years. Sutil meanwhile was racing in F1 for four years – and for the very same Silverstone-based team.

Considering this, Sutil really ought to have been far ahead of Di Resta, no? He hasn’t been very far ahead at all though.

Prior to his arrival in F1, Hulkenberg was considered a very good talent. The same cannot be said for Sutil, who actually got his chance in F1 courtesy of his cash, but actually did a reasonable job and hence held on to his drive for a further four years. I’d be happy to see him stay in F1 – but not at the expense of Hulkenberg.


From what I gather, two bad news in a day:

KIMI RAIKONNEN, unfortunately I hear, will not be going to Williams….

…instead, the one partnering Pastor will instead be Mr. Adrian Sutil. Force India will retain Di Resta and also Nico Hulkenberg.

…this also means we will not have proper good-bye for Mr. Rubens.



He should have said goodby himself don’t you think?


That’s real lousy news, no Raikkonen next year.

Real lousy for Williams too, cos that’s more or less the end of that team before 3 years are up.


I don’t understand the basis of these Bottas rumours. As far as I know, he doesn’t bring bags of money to the team. He doesn’t bring experience and they can’t afford to have two inexperienced drivers in the cars next year.

If not Sutil at Williams, any chance of Bruno Senna?


Does this mean the Kimi/Williams deal is off? Things have been a bit quiet in the media of late. I would personally much prefer Williams took a gamble on an exciting fan favorite, world champ like Kimi than a middle tier racer like Sutil.


James, whats the latest situation about Kimi’s deal with williams. Have the talks broken down? Is he really serious about coming back ? would like to hear your insights on this.


Well, i will not be surprise if Sutil run for Mercedes or McLaren as 2012 test driver, assuming the W04 after Schumacher definitely retirement.

The McLaren option seems to be good for Hamilton, who’s a good friend of Sutil.


I think it’s indeed likely that next season will see Hulkenberg and Di Resta as the FI drivers. Sutil has been there for several years now and I think that a change would do him good as well as the team. He hasn’t been far enough ahead of Di Resta this year, he has more experience in both F1 and the team and whilst I think he is a good driver I don’t think he is going to move the team forward. Someone else in a race seat may also add fresh ideas to development and car set up.

Di Resta has had a good season, Rookie of the Year is between him and Perez for me. All season long I’ve switched my view which has had the better season and tomorrow’s race will be the deciding factor. Bear in mind that although Sutil has outperformed Di Resta in Abu Dhabi and so far in Brazil, he has driven those tracks before and I don’t believe DiR has. Combined with Hulkenberg who did so well last year I think FI would be looking for a good year.

Sutil would be a better bet for Williams than a rookie if they keep Maldonado as expected. I think they need some experience and someone who can drive consistently to offset Maldonado’s impetuous nature and average ability.


Is the possibility of Kimi coming back still alive?


I have teh strong feeling that Kimi’s name has rather been brought into play to get a better position for negotiations, but no one is seriously considering to give him a seat.


Funny that I have never seen Sutil’s manager actually make that 95% of the drivers whose managers I have never seen.

Hopefully Sutil will get a competitive drive next season for we need more drivers like him that give their all while keeping their mouths shut & last I checked, Sutil is pretty decent in the wet.

But really disappointed with Vijay for how many times has Sutil asked him to make a decision early & if he had the humanity to have done so, maybe Sutil’s manager wouldn’t have been wearing out the soles of his shoes at this rate.

Sheesh, who can ever understand bosses, most don’t even want to pay up.


they have made their decision but they aren’t going to say anything until after this race. They told sutil he’s the one going so he has this weekend to impress and have his manager get him a new deal before he loses his leverage.


Another possibility is that Dr. Mallya HAS made his mind up, told the drivers (or at least the one being sacked) and not told anyone else in order to help his “chosen” find another place, as the blog’s text says.

That’d be the stance of a very honourable boss, imo.


Well, Vijay might have not announced his decision publicly, but it appears that he did tell Sutil about his decision some time ago.


I quite like the way Paul has gone about doing the job the season. Having said that, I do not understand Force India backing Paul despite the fact that he is the man tipped to replace Michael once he hangs up the helmet. Dr. Mallya has to be getting a very good deal on engines then.

Sutil has already closed a door at Enstone. Any of the 3 drivers of FI missing out on a drive in 2012 will be a travesty.


If I had to read between the lines of what James is saying here its that Force India are helping Sutil secure a drive with Williams and in return they will possibly give Bottas the third driver role for 2012 and thereby Williams can let him develop elsewhere and possibly give him a race seat in 2013 if he impresses.

Still very generous on Force India’s part if that is the case.


I dont understand why they keep Di Resta, he has not shown anything special and is easily being beaten by Sutil.

The British media hyping this guy up like he is the new Senna is always hilarious to watch/read though.




He beat vettel, in what was it- GP3? If Vettel is really as good as we think then surely Paul deserves what ever comes his way- so I do not think that the media hype him up overly. In fact you could argue that if they were reversed would Paul be the double world champion:-)


Performance in other series often bears little relation. Sebastian Bourdais, Nelson Piquet & Nico Hulkenburg are all recent examples of drivers that have performed in GP2 but had a bad time in F1. Alex Zanardi and Michael Andretti are other good examples of this. Paul himself only narrowly beat Garry Paffett to the 2010 DTM championship yet Garry has never seemed all that likely to secure an F1 race drive.

Paul had a good start to the season but the fact is that Adrian has done a much better job since the half way point and the results show this. Paul deserves a chance in F1 and in FI I think, but not at the expense of someone that has scored nearly 50% more points than him.


This kind of argument is so over-used. Driver development is never static. Some plateau whilst others continue to improve. It is as true in racing as it is in other endeavors. Just because driver “X” beat driver “Y” years ago, it does not mean the same will be true today.


What argument, What is fact is diresta beat vettel in that series, I never suggested that diresta was a better driver, just that he surely deserves his chance “TO DEVELOP” at Force India.


You’re so right Allan. It’s a beguiling argument though, in 2005 Sutil was runner up to Hamilton and in 2006, Vettel was runner up to DiResta (having comprehensively beaten DiResta in 2005 incidentally) I can see how a simple extrapolation would lead to the idea that DiResta must be great, but there’s clearly so much more to it. Looking at those results, it’s amazing how many drivers there are out there that don’t make it!



No, but he came a close second to Senna.


Wasn’t it Martin Brundell that beat a certain Ayrton Senna to the British F3 crown?


I agree. I just don’t rate Di Resta as much as they do on the BBC. I’d have Sutil and Hulkenberg.


With Sutil, they know what they get. A driver who will bring the points, consistent but nothing more.

With Di Resta (who used to beat Vettel) they might find a very fast driver. It’s his first F1 season and you expect him to beat Sutil who’s been in F1 for years and years?


Sutil is not a mega driver but solid and should be kept by that sort of team. If Di Resta was the next Vettel we would have already seen it by now. Vettel came in and smashed his then team mate but I feel Di Resta just hasn’t stacked up that well against Sutil.


The problem is that the gap between Adrian and Paul has got bigger as the season has progressed. There is potential with Paul, much like there is potential with many other drivers in GP2/F3 etc, but that potential has to manifest itself in results. How long do FI have to wait until this potential is realised?

The truth of the matter is that Adrian has had 2 very good seasons in a row, and now it looks like he is being muscled out by a driver that he has soundly beaten this year and a driver that didn’t stack up against Rubens last year. Odd decision.


Sutil & Di Resta have been closely matched all year. Ive not once seen Di Restas name mentioned in the same breath as Senna’s, but for sure people have been complimentary of Paul in light of Sutils renowned pace – a credit to Sutil if anything!

Being that Di Resta is a rookie, which driver has the most potential for the next few years? Most would agree that’s Di Resta.


Only the nationalistic British would agree, to put it bluntly. The future most would say are the likes of Ricciardo and Hulkenberg.

Read German, Italian, Spanish sites (they have English versions of the sites). Not many rate Di Resta high except the British and Force India’s accountant who is happy with the money Di Resta brings.

And they are not closely matched, Sutil is beating Di Resta in everything.


I don’t think nationalism has anything to do with it! If that was the case Anthony Davidson, Justin Wilson and Ralph Firman would all have been press darlings…and they weren’t. The fact is he is a very good driver and has huge potential. It might surprise you that as an Englishman i do not automatically support the Scots! As an F1 fan I support drivers on merit and like most others, personality! Hence being a big fan of KK at Sauber.


It’s been alleged that Di Resta was faster than Vettel when they went head to head in the past, but if that’s the case then you have to suspect that Sutil would be faster too given that he’d had the edge over the Scot for a few races . . . Some refer to Di Resta as a rookie, but he’s actually in his late 20s so is far from being an inexperienced driver. As a scot I’m far from hostile to the idea of seeing him gain success, but it’s a little strange to see Force India letting Sutil go in the circs unless it’s about cost or personality clashes, or perhaps marketing because of PDR’s excellent image. Di Resta is certainly competent but I don’t think he’s going to be a world beater regardless of the car he’s in. We’d have seen the evidence by this time. I’d have let them both go and hired Raikkonen on a short term contract to put him under pressure to do well.


You’ll find that the Germans rate, the Scot, Di Resta quite highly as he was a DTM champion and raced for Mercedes.

Also Sutil brings in money from Medion, Force India’s accountant rates him too.


Hope the new third driver is Chandhok, if he can’t get a race drive.


Well, Chandhok’s career does seem to have finished off after Trulli was re-signed with Team Lotus earlier this year leaving Chandhok nowhere to go as mentioned here so I doubt that Chandhok will have a race drive for next season.

However, there is some new racing series in India called ‘i1 Series’ of which he is a favourite. But should he step back and go back to local / national racing series in India? That argument too is valid and being discussed on this link – what do you think?


Sutil has had his chance to prove for a long time and yes he has been doing a good job recently but had been pretty average quite a many times before. Solid driver, but not exceptional in my opinion.


What?? do me a favour and look at Sutil’s record for the last four years!!! He has been brilliant for FI for a few years! You have to remember he started with FI when they were Midlands and if you remember Midlands had a very poor car!! Always back of the grid. He didn’t get the drive because of Money but by talent!! fastest in a practice and a test! in a rubbish car!! Then FI brought the car and again he was fastest in Monaco!! and also got the first points for FI!!

The year FI got pole in spa, sutil qualified got third place in Monza and Brazil and brought alot of points home and fighting with the top driver (Kimi!!)

last year he was in the points all the time and getting a 5th place in Malaysia!! this season delivered majority of points!! The FI isn’t the best and my opinion he has maximised the performance of the FI. He needs to be resigned!!! with the HULK!!


Dude Fisi got the first points for FI. Cheers




Sutil has been by far the superior of the 2 in the last 6months.

Paul has done well, but he doesnt look like getting on top of sutil any time soon


Di Resta is on his rookie year while Sutil is a four year ‘veteran’ (+1 of proper testing). Sutil has been embarrassed by having Di Resta even get close.


2nd season is usually harder than your first. So next year they will have 2 drivers in their 2nd season. Not a smart move.


If Sutil shoud be embarassed that DiResta is “close” then surely Alonso should have retired in 07′ when he was beaten by Hamilton?

Hyperbole aside, DiResta has had a fairly good first season, but the truth of the matter is that Sutil has scored over 50% more points than him… which for a team scrapping for the last available points is pretty important.


Lol good point! I for one would like to see the same line-up.

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