Midseason Report: Grading Force India's Adrian Sutil
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Adrian Sutil is a controversial character to put it mildly. He spent a year away from the Formula 1 circus having been convicted of grievous bodily harm after a nightclub altercation with Lotus F1 shareholder Eric Lux. Sutil also recently told ESPN via GP Week that he had lost respect for Lewis Hamilton on a personal level.
But whatever you may think about the German as a person, he has proven on a couple of occasions in the first half of this season that he has lost none of his competitive sharpness behind the wheel. Team boss Vijay Mallya knows this only too well, and it’s why he re-hired Sutil on merit and not the finance he brings to the team.
Sutil showed no signs of ring rust in Australia and actually led the grand prix on his medium compound tyre as those in front of him shod their starting supersoft tyres. And his decision to start on the mediums paid off with a seventh-place finish. After all the troubles that had gone before, Sutil was naturally a happy man in his team’s post-race press release.
What a fantastic race and a great feeling. I started on the medium tyres, a different strategy to most of the cars ahead of me, and I think this was the right decision. The pace was quick and the car felt very good on the medium tyres so I was able to keep up with the guys in front of me, who I knew were going to pit early. It was not long until I was leading the race - my first time leading in Formula One. 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. 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.
Has Adrian Sutil vindicated Vijay Mallya's faith in him?
Buoyed by his Australian performance, Sutil qualified an encouraging seventh in Malaysia and was running well until an issue with the captive wheel nut system during the pit stops resulted in the retirements of both cars on safety grounds.
Next came a first real disappointment in China as rookie Esteban Gutierrez punted him up the rear and into retirement only five laps in, ending the team’s hopes of a double-points finish. And Bahrain again offered much, Sutil qualifying an impressive sixth before contact with Felipe Massa’s Ferrari into Turn 4 resulted in a puncture that compromised his race, teammate Paul di Resta’s fourth-place finish showing what could have been.
Spain was another race to forget as Sutil as another wheel-nut issue during his first pit stop cost him considerable time, but the German was much stronger than di Resta in Monaco, overtaking both Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso en route to a superb fifth from his grid slot of seventh. As with Australia, Sutil was not slow to hide his delight in his team’s press release.
Fifth place feels fantastic. It's just the result we needed and I'm very happy right now. The car felt very good and we made the most of the chances that came our way. I noticed that the hairpin was an area where there was a chance to overtake so I tried it with Jenson and it worked. Then I did the same with Fernando and it worked once again. So I think I showed that overtaking is possible in Monaco. The team did an excellent job all weekend and we definitely deserved this result today.
Another point followed in Canada before Sutil enjoyed another strong showing at Silverstone, qualifying sixth and steering clear of the dramas around him to finish seventh. It must have been somewhat of a disappointment, then, to have been so off the pace at his home race in Germany before retiring in Hungary with a hydraulics issue.
But it’s clear that Force India have a competitive car in 2013, and, but for a few unfortunate incidents for both Sutil and di Resta, more points would certainly have been bagged.
Adrian’s Midseason Marks
Race craft: 7/10
Summary: Unnecessary comments about Lewis Hamilton aside, I’ve been impressed with Sutil’s showing so far after some troubling times. I expect another close tussle with his teammate in the second half of the season.
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