F1 Winter Break
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?

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