4 Reasons Why Force India Should Bring Back Adrian Sutil
If you had informed me a couple of months ago that former Formula 1 racer turned tainted villain Adrian Sutil would be in with a very realistic shot at a return to the sport, I'd have done a Dizzee Rascal and called you bonkers.
That now infamous incident with Genii Capital CEO Eric Lux, which cost Sutil a hefty fine and an eighteen month suspended prison sentence, ensured Sutil's reputation was beyond damaged.
It seemed it would even cut short any sort of career the emerging German driver wanted to have or that pundits could envisage coming into fruition.
Force India went on record to state that his exit from the team at the end of the 2011 season was not a direct response to Sutil's physical attack on Lux. Yet, you can't help but feel that any rival team who may have been tempted to take on Sutil were instantly put off by the idea of controversy coming into their garage.
Sutil has spent a year away from the sport. By his own admission he has taken the time to relax and get his life back in order. He now considers himself fortunate and excited at the prospect of his former team contemplating a return for him to the sport. Sutil has confirmed that he is clear to travel to all Grand Prix.
His competition lies in Force India's third driver, Jules Bianchi, a French former GP2 racer who has also won titles in Formula 3 and Formula Renault. So as the start of the 2013 season draws closer, why should Sutil gain the second seat at Force India?
One of the Top Drivers of 2011: Sutil's Speed on Track
Force India have hinted that a decision over the teammate to Paul Di Resta will come down to talent rather than financial backing.
The team wants to gain finance by having a driver who will earn it for them, and not by one that just gives it by the bucket load.
This leads to Sutil's former career in Formula 1. At first a slow starter in the sport, Adrian Sutil gained momentum and finished the 2011 season in style to gain a first top 10 finish in the World Championship standings.
Midway through the 2011 season many critics regarded the German as a driver who showed occasional flashes of brilliance, but someone who lacked the consistency required to secure a drive at a top team.
Nine point finishes across the season went some way to disprove that theory. This was mostly down to a solid and impressive run of results that saw Sutil finish best of the rest, after the top four teams of Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, and McLaren.
You would think that only one season out of the sport would produce minimal reduction in this pace and form, and as such Sutil could force himself straight back into a similar position.
Competition for Di Resta
2011 was a big season for Sutil. He had been the stronger driver at Force India for a couple of seasons and had moved the team in the right direction in their constructors standings ambitions.
When Paul Di Resta came into the team he instantly had Sutil's back up. The Scottish driver pushed him closely for much of the 2011 season. This owed much to the immediate pace of Di Resta, which made him one of the strongest rookies in recent years.
Many, as a result, wondered if this would signal a gradual decline in Sutil's career. Yet, the German's flurry of points towards the end of 2011 showed many that Di Resta had to gain experience before becoming a constant competitor.
To some, including myself, it did seem odd that Force India would relinquish the services of their stronger driver.
2012 proved an interesting season for Di Resta. At times he matched or bettered the performance of his new teammate, Nico Hulkenberg. But it was Hulkenberg who garnered more headlines with multiple high placed points finishes and a better position in the drivers' standings.
At times over the past couple of seasons Di Resta has seemed inspired by the level of performance his teammate displayed.
For this reason, it would make more sense for Force India to plump with someone who has a history of pushing the Scot to improve his consistency.
Sutil has done this before, and he can do it again. If Force India are serious in their opinion that talent triumphs over financial backing, then a proven talent like Sutil is the option they should go for.
Force India Aim for Fifth
In 2009 Force India had Fisichella and Sutil at the helm. Whilst Fisichella finished higher in the standings than Sutil, it was the German driver who performed more consistently over the course of the season. As a team, they ended 2009 in ninth position.
Their progression from back of the pack runners to midfield challengers began during 2009, but it was solidified in the following two seasons. The majority of the team's points came from Sutil, and this elevated them to seventh and sixth placed finishes in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
Lotus and Kimi Raikkonen's re-emergence pushed Force India back down to seventh in 2012, despite some impressive performances from Hulkenberg and Di Resta.
For 2013, Vijay Mallya and his team have targeted fifth. To do this they need two consistent drivers. What better way to ensure this than to acquire the services of two proven points scorers.
Di Resta will now be in his third season in the sport, and is continuing to develop. Sutil has a point to prove after his personal turmoils of the last two years. Together they can push the likes of Sauber and Lotus further, in their attempt to claim the desired top five spot.
A Comeback That Can Work
Kimi Raikkonen taught us one thing last year; a former and credible star can come back and produce results.
Where Michael Schumacher failed, Kimi excelled.
A Grand Prix win in his comeback season ensured that various critics opposed to returning drivers can not always be right in their assumption that such a comeback will flop.
Sutil has only had a season out of the sport. His reputation suffered a massive blow when he ended without a seat for 2012. Nick Heidfeld suffered a similar fate when he was left without a drive at the end of the 2009 season. This year it is the turn of Kamui Kobayashi to emerge as the odd one out. Sutil is arguably a stronger prospect than both of these drivers.
There will be those as well who will be against a return from a driver who has a criminal conviction. Yet this is a sport that welcomed Michael Schumacher back after his multiple controversies. Who cannot forget that rainy Grand Prix in Spa where Schumacher was gunning for a bout of fisticuffs with David Coulthard, not to mention his various attempts at forcing rivals off track in order to gain titles.
Sutil has a reputation to rebuild, and one that he can do so with a return to Force India.
He appears more likely be a Kimi Raikkonen than a Luca Badoer or Michael Schumacher. If he were to acquire the second seat at Force India he would be 30 when the sport heads to Melbourne.
Sutil has many years left in him yet. He just needs the chance to prove why Formula 1 needs him in the sport.
It is worth noting that Force India have whittled down the number of potential replacements for Nico Hulkenberg.
Early candidates included former Toro Rosso rejects Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi. Bruno Senna and Kamui Kobayashi were the other names brandished around in rumour columns after both drivers were left without a seat for 2013.
But it is only Bianchi and Sutil who Force India have ended up considering for the drive. Currently, a betting man would put their money strongly on the side of Bianchi. His year spent as the third driver will mean he is already a reliable fixture at Vijay Mallya's team.
Force India have shown before that they will take the chance on potential rather than results, as seen by their decision to let Sutil go at the end of 2011, despite him being a proven talent.
Yet their intent on gaining a top five finish, as well as their continued interest in Sutil, even after his exit from the sport and GBH conviction, are promising signs for a German driver who wants to prove that he has a place in the sport.
As the new season draws closer the decision will be imminent, and hopefully for Force India, whichever driver they choose will be able to edge the team closer to their desired goal of a top five finish.