Assessing Force India's Remaining Driver Options for the 2014 Season
The announcement that Nico Hulkenberg will return to drive for Force India for the 2014 season surprised nobody.
With Lotus confirming Pastor Maldonado alongside Romain Grosjean, Hulkenberg was a certainty to return to his old team. However, his move has raised another question.
Who will be Hulkenberg’s teammate for the 2014 season?
With either Paul di Resta or Adrian Sutil now certain to leave, team boss Vijay Mallya is set to confirm the full driver line-up imminently.
Here are the likely options available to him.
Paul Di Resta
Once hailed by manager Anthony Hamilton as a future world champion, per The Independent, Paul di Resta now appears on the verge of life without Formula One.
The 2014 season was by no means a disaster, with di Resta finishing in the points in almost half the races and comfortably outscoring teammate Adrian Sutil.
Following an impressive sixth place finish in Abu Dhabi, di Resta told Sky Sports that he felt he had done enough to merit another season with the team.
However, the Scot has also had his differences with the team.
In Canada, he labelled his team’s performances as “not acceptable” in an interview with BBC Sport after a gearbox software issue hampered his qualifying.
What appears more likely now is that di Resta will move to Indycar, possibly taking cousin Dario Franchitti’s race seat at Chip Ganassi. It’s an option that di Resta told Autosport he would consider.
I wouldn't rule out anything. I've openly said I would discuss it with Dario. At this point, I'm still in the running for the seat here [at Force India], at least I would certainly like to think I am. There are obviously a few other options with interest.
It says a lot about Vijay Mallya’s loyalty to his drivers that he decided to re-hire Adrian Sutil for the 2014 season after the German spent a year out of the sport after having been convicted of causing grievous bodily harm.
Sutil assaulted Lotus executive Eric Lux in a Shanghai nightclub in 2011, but Mallya decided to give him a second chance rather than stick with Nico Hulkenberg or call up reserve driver Jules Bianchi.
It is a decision Mallya may well have regretted as Sutil has proven lacklustre this season, mustering only 29 points compared to di Resta’s tally of 48, while both Hulkenberg and Bianchi shone with their respective teams.
It would be a surprise if Mallya gave Sutil a third crack of the whip.
The most likely driver to partner Nico Hulkenberg at Force India for 2014 now appears to be Mexican Sergio Perez.
McLaren surprised many when they decided to drop Perez for unknown quantity Kevin Magnussen, despite the Dane being on their young driver programme and winning the Formula Renault 3.5 Series.
Perez enjoyed a strong finish to the season, mustering 26 points from the last four races.
It now appears certain that Perez will join Force India with McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh revealing on Autosport that he is happy Perez will be moving to the team.
I am very happy. He is a young man, he has been incredibly dignified, and he is very much liked in this team. He is a thoroughly likeable guy and I've told him to prove us wrong! That is his job now.