Force India’s Adrian Sutil has set his sights on a maiden podium in Formula 1 after twice leading the Australian Grand Prix before finishing seventh on his return to the sport.
The German, 30, missed the 2012 season after being convicted of grievous bodily harm following an incident with Lotus F1 co-owner Eric Lux in Shanghai 2011.
However, Sutil was given another chance by a team whom he drove for between 2007-11, beating off competition from Jules Bianchi for the seat alongside Paul di Resta.
And the German, who only had three days of testing, delivered a brilliant performance to finish seventh having started 12th, in Melbourne with team mate Di Resta eighth for a total of 10 points. It was an impressive performance from Force India who went relatively unnoticed during pre-season testing.
With the top five – Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, Lotus and McLaren – likely to take up the points-paying positions as the season progresses, it’s important for a midfield team like Force India to take their opportunities early in the season – and this double points finish could prove crucial for the final constructors’ standings.
Sutil said: “We showed we are absolutely strong enough to score points and I’m always aiming for my first podium – for a long time I’ve wanted to do that. Whenever it comes I want to be ready – that’s a good target for this year. Maybe it happens, maybe not, but I will push for that.”
The German was one of the only drivers to start the race on the medium tyres which allowed him to go deep into the race, and run a two-stop strategy, and move into the lead. He ultimately finished seventh after struggling with graining on the super-soft tyres in the final stint.
“It was my first time leading in Formula 1,” he added. “After my second pit stop I was back in the lead once again, so I knew that it was possible to come away with a great result. It is only three weeks since I knew I was back and I just had three test days – it couldn’t be a better start.
“I knew it was probably a little advantage to start on the medium tyre compared to the other ones – they grained up the tyres in qualifying already – so I was expecting to go in front but of course leading the race I didn’t expect, it’s even better that it happened. This result for the team is a perfect way to start the season and I want to say a big ‘thank you’ to the team once again.”
Deputy team principal Bob Fernley added: “Adrian’s return to racing has been fantastic and it’s clear he has lost none of his speed or racecraft. He was on a different strategy to most of the front-runners, but made it work beautifully and showed strong pace throughout the grand prix.
“Paul was on the opposite strategy and finished just a fraction behind Adrian in the end. He probably could have passed Adrian in the closing laps, but he held station to ensure we brought home the strong team result.
“Ten points is a great effort and confirms the pace we have demonstrated all weekend. Hopefully we can build on this next week in Malaysia.”