Adrian Sutil claims to have learned the error of his ways and insists he is worthy of his second chance with Force India.
After weeks of speculation regarding the second-seat vacancy with the Silverstone-based marque, Sutil was given the nod yesterday, 15 months after he was axed by the team.
Force India were adamant Sutil’s departure had nothing to do with an impending court case at the time, as the 30-year-old faced charges of causing grievous bodily harm. Sutil was later convicted of assaulting Lotus executive Eric Lux with a champagne glass in a Shanghai nightclub after the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix. A German court handed Sutil an 18-month suspended sentence along with a fine of ¤200,000 (£167,000).
After a year on the sidelines, following an initial five-season stint in F1, Sutil again partners Paul di Resta after what team principal Vijay Mallya described as “a close call” between the German and Jules Bianchi in the fight for the last remaining seat in F1. Speaking at the final pre-season test at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, Sutil said: “Everyone can make mistakes in life. If you never make mistakes you will never grow. I don’t think there is a single person here who never made a mistake. My one was maybe a different one and was very public. There are others probably even worse, but no-one talks about them.
“Whenever someone does something wrong I always give them the opportunity to show they are still a good person. I will give them a second chance. I see it being very similar here.
“Of course it is a tough business, but no-one is perfect and that is why life is an adventure.”
Sutil has also confirmed the complete breakdown in his friendship with Lewis Hamilton, who was at the club on the night of the Lux incident, but chose not to testify in court.
Sutil added: “I’m not in contact with him any more so we have no relationship at the moment. I’ve not seen him, I’ve not spoken to him. For sure I will meet up with him, but I don’t know what will happen.”
With 90 grands prix behind him – 73 with Force India and 17 for the team’s former incarnation as Spyker – Sutil feels this is an opportunity to prove a point on track. “Having been away from the sport, I’m even more determined to achieve my goals in Formula 1,” said Sutil, whose best finish came with a fourth at the 2009 Italian Grand Prix. “We are still a small team, but I am sure we can have a very good season. My targets are very high. I am not here to race for fifth or sixth position. I want to go on the podium. I want to win in the future and be one of the best drivers in the world in F1.”
Explaining the reason for rehiring Sutil, Mallya said: “We felt Adrian’s experience and historic links to the team gave him the edge. If he can rediscover the exceptional form he showed in the second half of 2011, I’m confident we can pick up where we left off at the end of 2012.”
However, the team’s reserve role remains up in the air, with question marks over the snubbed Bianchi who formerly occupied the post. Mallya added: “As for Jules, he has impressed us enormously with his speed and work ethic, and I’m hopeful we can continue working with him this year to help him develop into a future grand prix driver.”
Meanwhile, Red Bull driver Mark Webber set the pace on the first day of the final F1 preseason testing session, ahead of Hamilton of Mercedes.
After Ferrari’s Felipe Massa stopped on the track with less than half an hour to go, Webber out-dueled Hamilton with both clocking flying laps just before the session ended. Jean-Enric Vergne of Toro Rosso recorded the third fastest lap, in front of Valtteri Bottas of Williams and Esteban Gutierrez of Sauber. Testing goes on until Sunday, before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on 17 March.