By Phillip Horton on Thursday, February 28, 2013
Former Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari and the team’s 2012 reserve driver Jules Bianchi had been heavily linked to the team, with Bianchi even being given two days of running in the VJM06.
In the end, the team opted to fall back on a safe pair of hands. With rival midfield teams Sauber and Williams fielding a rookie each in Esteban Gutierrez and Valtteri Bottas, Force India may already have an advantage with their driver line-up. Neither Paul di Resta or Sutil are likely to develop into world champion material, but they are reliable, dependable drivers who the team know and trust. Bianchi is a gamble, a potential gamble that the team is obviously unwilling to take in the current financial climate. Teams frequently look to the future without thinking about the present; Force India sees Sutil as a better option for 2013 than Bianchi.
Sutil has started all of his 90 races with the team – the first season as Spyker – and his development as a driver has coincided with Force India’s gradual improvement. The German was a regular points scorer in 2010 and 2011.
“If he can rediscover the exceptional form he showed in the second half of 2011, I’m confident that we can pick up where we left off at the end of 2012”, said team principal Vijay Mallya. It raises the question as to why Sutil was dropped in the first place. The team insisted his departure had nothing to do with the then-lingering court case regarding his unsavoury incident in a Chinese nightclub. But perhaps with 3 into 2 not working out, the impending court case played a large factor.
For Jules Bianchi, it remains to be seen what 2013 holds. He is still a young racing driver, although he has three seasons worth of experience in GP2 and FR3.5 and has come close to winning the title. He also has comparatively extensive F1 experience after running for Ferrari and Force India across the last few years. Rumours continue to link him to Razia’s uncertain Marussia seat, particularly with the Banbury-based team openly searching for a new engine supplier. Even if he fails to land a seat in 2013, the Frenchman will still be in the hunt for 2014 ride as Ferrari’s continued faith in Bianchi won’t go unnoticed.
Sutil’s return sees him pair up again with 2011 team-mate Paul di Resta. The Scot was a rookie in 2011 while Sutil competed in his fifth season in the sport. The duo were evenly matched in qualifying, although Sutil edged out di Resta in the championship. Nevertheless, it was di Resta who caught the eye and was ultimately retained while Sutil spent a year on the sidelines. The German will have something to prove.