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No surprises as Force India unveils 2012 drivers: Di Resta and Hulkenberg
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Dec 2011   |  6:38 pm GMT  |  68 comments

Another midfield team has unveiled its driver line up for next year, but unlike Toro Rosso, which sacked both incumbents this week, Sahara Force India has gone with the line up which was predicted in the final third of this season.

Paul di Resta keeps his seat for another year and Nico Hulkenberg steps up from reserve driver to race driver alongside him. This means that there is no place for Adrian Sutil, who has been with the team for four seasons.

Sutil’s manager was a man on a mission in Brazil, which was the tell tale indicator that this was the line up the team had in mind. Sutil brings some budget with him from Medion and with his results and performances in the second half of the season, surely has a good chance of a seat at Williams. Sutil finished the season in 9th place in the drivers’ championship, which is the best finish of his career and the best of the rest after the drivers from the top four high-spending teams.

Sutil is fast, has sometimes been erratic, but clearly Sahara Force India think that he’s reached a plateau, whereas there is still more to come from Di Resta and Hulkenberg. It’s a young, dynamic line up and they will no doubt push each other hard next season.

The team’s engineers have had a good chance to evaluate Nico Hulkenberg this season, by running him on Friday mornings. He is a known quantity anyway from his rookie season with Williams in 2010.

“I think Paul caught the eye of everybody in the pit lane during his rookie season,” said team principal Vijay Mallya. “His speed, maturity and racecraft confirmed that we were right to believe in him and we look forward to working with him again next year.

“As for Nico, we identified him as a rising star at the end of 2010 and chose to evaluate him during the course of this season. Despite having only limited time in the car, he convinced us that he deserved a race seat for 2012.”

Mallya himself remains something of a question mark in this team. He sold almost 50% to Sahara shortly before the Indian Grand Prix and problems in other areas of his business empire have led to the suggestion within F1 circles that he may be heading out of the team in the near future, either selling the remaining shareholding to Sahara or to other investors. Whether he would keep a minority stake remains to be seen.

The team has been on a steady rise since it became Force India in 2008; 9th in the constructors’ championship in 2009, 7th last year and 6th this season.

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Happy New Year to you.

You excluded Ron Dennis in your suggested list for a knighthood.

Why not Ron Dennis? The architect and driving force behind McLaren in seeking perfection has taken mcLaren from an F1 team to one of the best teams in the history of F1 and now a sports car producing company, employing many Britons.

I am disappointed that Ron’s achievements have not been recognised with a knighthood, especially as his success is benefitting others through new UK jobs.


I just don’t understand the di Resta critics on this place. People need to remember that it was his rookie season and that he hadn’t raced single seaters in almost 5 years yet Sutil didn’t have an answer to him for the first half of the year, it’s hard to compare them later in the season as FI had di Resta on some strange and risky strategies compared to Sutil.


Frankly, I think I would have kept Sutil over Diresta as you should be rewarded by your results. I think the folks at FI need to take a look in the mirror and realize he drove better than the car they gave him. Add Adrian’s name to the list of drivers never to be seen again who were better than the car they drove.


No surprise Resta and Hulk would be the line up. Where would Sutil be? I hope he does get a drive for 2012.

Looks like 2012 can be a shocker for some drivers, ‘I fell from the sky.’


Great picture!!


Di Resta and Hulkenberg confirmed at Force India for season 2012. Oh my God how painful was it waiting for that confirmation (as if it was a great big secret). Everyone new when they signed the Hulk as a reserve driver a year ago that he was going to replace Sutil for 2012.

Just like a year before when they signed Di Resta as a reserve driver everybody new he was going to replace Liuzzi for 2011.



Sutil is fine, but Barrichello is much better and much more useful for Williams in 2012.


Seat at Caterham F1 too isn’t there?Surely dear old Jarno has to go..

sudhansu kumar patra

best choice is nico and sutil,2012 will be sutil’s year


So, in the middle of December, Williams now find themselves shopping at The F1 Reject Shop for a driver.


No surprises with the news, though it does clarify the driver market as there are only 2 seats left on the 2012 grid – 1 at Williams and 1 at HRT. Drivers who took part in 2011 and do not currently have a contract are:












I hope Sutil can keep a drive, as his performances this season demonstrate he deserves one. That said, I was more upset that Hulkenberg didn’t get a drive in 2011 than I would be if Sutil doesn’t get one for 2012 – and so I can fully understand Force India’s decision.

Of the 2 remaining slots, the Williams will surely be the more coveted. The list would seem to me to be between Sutil, Petrov, Heidfeld, Barrichello, and Senna for the Williams seat. But then, I didn’t think Maldonado deserved to keep his seat, so I’m clueless as to who they will go for.

I would hope Alguersuari gets a drive at HRT, given the Spanish link and his performances this year – I think Liuzzi has had his day, and Alguersuari has bags of potential.

So in my ideal world, Sutil will be at Williams next year, and Alguersuari will be at HRT. Is this just wishful thinking, or will the respective team bosses concur with my thinking? What do you think James – do you have any predictions/info for who will take those last 2 spots? Is it just between the drivers who took part in 2011, or are there and more rookies you think could make the step up?


To be fair, of that list, Heidfeld, Liuzzi and Karthikeyan have had their day and Petrov, d’Ambrosio and Chandhok haven’t convinced so far. Even Senna and Buemi I’m not sure of.

That only leaves Sutil, Alguersuari and Barrichello as the top choices for seats – if ability counts about all else.

I worry that Rubens has made too many enemies at Williams as I think he would have been a good choice to help push the team forward as they seem to have made a few positive steps in the technical department of late.

It would be a shame to see Jaime relegated to a HRT so unless Caterham are intending to free up Trulli’s seat for next year it might be better for him to cut a deal somewhere similar to Hulkenberg and sit the year out with a race seat ready for 2013. For some reason I can’t see him going to Williams – too much of a risk for Frank maybe, plus his sponsors may clash with those of Maldonado.

Sutil – well, I agree with Joe Saward that he is a very fast driver but I also feel that he is too Kimi at times – either turns up or doesn’t. Whether any team would take a punt on him I’m not sure, especially if the rumours about the Medion money no longer being on offer are true.

Personally, though, I just wish they would get their fingers out and name their drivers, preferably sooner than December for all teams!


I think Sutil lost some respect at Spa 2009 when he could do only 11th when Fisichela was on pole. He has matured though over the last couole of years.


Just how much did Sutil’s cutting someone’s neck in a night club have to do with this decision?

Maybe all?


Well, sutil has indeed contributed a lot to SFI, however he had been repeatedly telling the media that he deserved a top drive. Last season it was force India who were waiting for his decision and now it is the other way around. With nico nd pdr they now have an excellent line up and just can’t wait till 2012 season opener.


Hi James,

With Force India and Toro Rosso in the news this week with their 2012 driver announcments, I was wondering what recruiting they’ve been doing with their technical departments?

We’ve heard who Merecedes have brought on board to push for the front, as well as Caterham’s efforts to go from the back to the mid-field, but what about the established mid-field teams, have there been any staff shake-ups?

Any chance of an article to learn who’s doing what and if it’s likely to mix up the order of constructors 5th-9th a bit next year?

Love your work as always!


The most Exciting line up in f1.BTW Indian government has decided to bail out Kingfisher and Mukesh Ambani is slated to take over Kingfisher airlines


Hi James, slightly off topic here, but I wondered if you had any news on what we can expect with the 2012 cars? I’ve read reports that Rory Byrne has returned to maranello and conceived a revolutionary floor for next years Ferrari that uses extreme side pod shapes to channel air through the diffuser. Any news would be much appreciated, many thanks.


Di Resta and Hulkenburg is a fast, hungry combination. I hope Force India can further improve the car to let these young guns fly, and push each other hard. Sutil I feel is better than we have seen, but early frustration in his career made him seem erratic, but seems to have matured well. I hope he gets a good mid field seat.


Sutil was erratic because he was pushing too hard in trying to impress in a car that was most definitely the slowest on the grid back then. Don’t forget in wet practice sessions he would more often than not top them. If only he didn’t get taken out by Kimi whilst running 4th in Monaco…


I’ll say! Look at it the other way and he should have been in a faster car. – It’s frustration. You’re quite right though as there was a time when he did not seem to be able to keep the car on the track. Given all that I think there’s more in him than we’ve seen just needs a faster car as in one of the top teams.


Force India is going to be a big team & a competitive team. In my opinion the reason why they replace Adrian Sutil is that they really want a more competitive driver. Of course it is just my opinion.


Now this situation right here is what they call the pressure cooker.

With both Di Resta & Hulkenburg highly rated well this can’t end good (in terms of brownie points) for whichever driver gets beaten (most especially if the driver were to be Di Resta)

And if it turns out Hulkenburg is the one that gets beaten, the sacking of Sutil will have irony written all over it, something similar to when Fisichella left a capable Force India to race for Ferrari in 2009.

Just keeping my fingers crossed that the ex Mclaren bloke at Williams is able to put out a car that is faster than the 2012 Force India so we can all have a mighty hearty laugh.


Well said. I also hope that Williams comes back to at least 6th place for 2012 and with a more decent car we will finally see how good (or bad) Maldonado really is.


Very sad for Sutil. He seems to indicate that his early season form had something to do with the problem he had with a member from the Renault team. Plus, he mentioned he had trouble with coping with the new tires.

I wonder if this has more to do with personality clashes within the team rather than a first half season form slump. I’m sure his early problems and probably some complacency on his part, as I’m sure he felt secure in the team, have cost him his seat. Force India have thrown out the wrong driver


Sutil is the best driver out on the market right now. I don’t see any reason why Williams shouldn’t sign him.

I think the reason Sahara Force India was delaying the decision was, they wanted to make sure Sutil had something sorted by the time they announced their line up. Hopefully we will come to know before Christmas.

Dr Mallya has done a lot to bring the team to the current status. Not sure how things will go if he leaves.


Biggest reason I can think of is Sutil’s reputation for car development and engineering know-how is not very strong, particularly compared with someone like Barrichello. The improvements in Force India’s form as of late owe as much to the tie-up with McLaren and increase in funding as anything, and while Sutil has provided a useful yardstick as to the car’s performance level I can think of very few instances where he has exceeded it. Barrichello may be in the twilight of his career, but for next year at least I would say he is the better bet out of the two.


Possibly the most exciting driver pairing for next year. I certainly will be following them with interest


Are you a publicist for Sahara Force India?


No, I’m not. I’m entitled to my own opinion same as you are. You don’t agree and want to say so, come out and say it. no need to make nasty comments and snide remarks.

I still think that even though these two drivers will be in a car that will be far from the podium, they will be interesting to watch and I believe them exciting because they are young, talented and will be pushing each other hard all season. If you’d asked me if I think they are the best drivers? My answer would have to be no.


My apologies for my terse response, and my late reply. I just don’t feel that this is the “best pairing on the grid”, nor the most exciting. Nothing snide or derogatory meant. Your statement just “felt funny”.


Other than the pairing that was announced yesterday?


Ricciardo and Vergne? It will be interesting watching them too, but I’m curious about the Di Resta/Hulkenberg dynamic.


I’m disappointed by this. Sutil was clearly the better driver than Di Resta and to me Hulkenberg showed nothing in 2010 to show he deserved a second shot. He was often thrashed by Barrichello. Anyway, I hope Sutil ends up at Williams. Sutil – Maldonado is a much stronger combination than Hulkenberg – Di Resta in my opinion.


Maldonado is pretty useless. He is quick at times but completely failed to improve over the course of the season. Evidence of this is that while he often qualified reasonably well, in virtually all his races he went backward either as a result of mistakes or failing to manage the tyres. If the Williams had been a tad more competitive and reliable, you’d have seen Rubens picking up many more points than Maldonado to make the gap bigger. Having said that, in general terms his debut season was about the same as Hulkenberg’s, which in my opinion was a little disappointing. The thing about Hulkenberg is that he showed potential to develop and got better as the season went on. Clearly FI agree – dumping the known quantity of an “OK but nothing more” Sutil in favour of taking a chance on di Resta and Hulk’s potential.

Last point to be made of course is that Rubens thrashed Hulkenberg AND Maldonado but looks like leaving stage left 🙁


That’s because Maldonado outqualified the car by getting in the top ten. Like Rosberg outqualified the Mercedes but dropped back in the races. Like Senna did at Lotus in the 80’s by miraculously getting pole.

Obviously Maldonado is no Senna but he was the GP2 champion so he certainly isn’t useless. He did as well as the overhyped Hulkenberg did against Barrichello.

In reality, there is little diffence between most drivers. For example we know that Button was broadly equal to Barrichello from their seasons together.

Detailed studies of spending and performance of football teams show that there is a very close correlation between the wage bill and performance. Over time it seems that the choice of manager is irrelevant. Arsene Wenger has been the only exception to this in recent years.

Similarly, in F1, generally the teams who spend the most win the most. Only the most special drivers like Senna or Prost can win when they haven’t got the best car.


Any driver who takes half a season to get on top of a rookie team mate is not good enough.


Half the season? Which season were you watching?

Di Resta; the most overrated and hyped rookie in a decade. But he is British so expected…


Agree…cant see what the fuss is about..its not as though the Force India wasnt a good car..


So I suppose you’d argue that Alonso isn’t good enough for F1 then?


Were you watching the same 2010 as the rest of us? Outside of understandably rookie errors – and the crash at Monaco which wasn’t his fault – this is the young man who put his uncompetitive Williams on pole at Brazil. POLE!

The last rookie to do that well was one Mr. Hamilton.


It was a fluke, pure and simple. He was the only driver who didn’t have to go off line on his out-lap, which gave him a massive advantage.



If the Williams on pole has actually a realistic showing then logic dictates that he is so much better than Vettel that he not only out matched the difference between the cars, but also gained some!

If that was an accurate showing then every team principal which snap him up because he could have (with that 2 second+ ability) put the McLaren on every pole this year!

It may have helped that he had more aero, and quite possibily a slightly different setup. Williams were in a close WCC race with FI and might have taken a gamble by giving hima setup better for the rain. He also had great timing for the quali.

That theory is also helped along by the fact hat in the race, which was dry, he was nowhere and finished 8th.

Barichello in the sister Williams also made the top 10 in quali but was in a more indicitave position.


One hopes that Sutil had more notice than the lads at Toro Rosso. If the team principals don’t tell their drivers what they have in mind before the end of the season, when they must have a very good idea of how they see their future, it’s a very poor attitude.

It’s one thing when you are a WDC, secure in your skin, it’s something else to be in the middle teams, always looking over your shoulders, struggling to show your ability with a car which can’t challenge the leading teams, no matter what prodigies you perform.

To delay telling your drivers until mid-December that they are out is outrageous, it suggests a sadistic willingness to sabotage their careers. One must hope that they have, in fact, been negotiating a suitable severance pact and that the drivers have actually had time to investigate other opportunities, unbeknownst to us mere onlookers.

I certainly hope that Sutil will find a worthy seat, though even that probably needs Rubens to bow out, something I am not at all sure is justified. I have no patience with these people who loudly proclaim that old drivers should step aside for new talent. Why should they? If they are doing a job which satisfies their teams, they have every justification to continue. Young drivers, just by being young, have no God-given right to take their seats. They have to wait their turn, just like the these older drivers had to do, in their day.


Can’t argue with any of these points, particularly the final one.

I’d go further though and begin to stipulate minimum ages for various categories in all forms of motorsport, rather like they do with karting, Junior, Senior etc. They would need to be introduced over years so that the system can adapt. I think this is even more important now with limited testing and the need to control costs.

At the moment we have so many fast drivers going (too?) quickly through the ranks that a massive bottleneck forms. As we’ve seen, being simply fast does not always make you the best F1 driver, and to me F1 is the pinnacle so I want to see speed AND experience on show, call it quality.

So lets say the minimum age for GP2 is 18 and F1 is 21, that means that excellent drivers who blitz GP2 can try their hands at other categories e.g. sportscars – remember that’s where Shumacher, Wendlinger and Frentzen came from. It would boost other series and provide far more rounded drivers entering F1. The cream will always rise to the top, especially given the amount of data from simulators etc – I’m sure Red Bull would have used that with their recent driver changes.

The current lask of testing means that it’s incredibly hard for a new fast driver to succeed unless he has many millions behind him to sustain his seat until he gets the experience. In the past young drivers would be able run test programs to help them establish themselves.

Not sure it will ever happen like this but I think it would be a good initiative for the FIA to consider.



Can’t agree with the suggestion age restriction proposal – where would Vettel be now? If you are good enough you are old enough. Torro Rosa is a business to find the next number 2 or ultimate replacement for SV. The two incumbents didn’t perform well enough, hard on JA who looked like he was on the up but F1 has always been a cut throat business with no sympathy. Sutil remains a bit of a mystery, too inconsistent (imo)and maybe a move will suit him and get him focussed. Perform well for one year at a lesser team and nick DiResta’s berth at Mercedes when MS retires….


I keep hearing that the Toro Rosso drivers had little to no notice. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The general thought leading up to the decision was that one of them was going to go, and that’s what most people thought in the final few races of the season. If you know that one of you are getting the axe, wouldn’t you be getting ready “just in case”? Making calls to other teams, having something as a backup? Yes it was a bit of a surprise that both drivers were removed, but both of them absolutely knew that it was a possibility that they’d be gone. I’m a supervisor at my job, and if I knew that we were making cuts and my boss was likely to axe one Supervisor job, I wouldn’t be burying my head in the sand and hoping that everything’s just going to work out.

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