Force India says it’s not about money as they consider Bianchi and Sutil

Jules Bianchi with Adrian Sutil

Jules Bianchi with Adrian Sutil

Germany’s Adrian Sutil and Frenchman Jules Bianchi are frontrunners for Force India’s second Formula One race seat for the 2013 F1 World Championship but the decision is about more than just the highest bidder, the team said when they launched their new car last week.

Bob Fernley speaks to media during the Force India VJM06 launch

Bob Fernley speaks to media during the Force India VJM06 launch

Deputy principal Bob Fernley said that the team’s shareholders would take a long-term decision with 2014 and beyond in mind.Next year sees V6 turbocharged power units replace the existing V8 engine, as well as other significant rule changes.

A decision on what is the only remaining vacant seat with an established points-scoring team, was likely before the start of the second pre-season test in Barcelona on 19 February.

“In 2014 we are into a completely different era and we need to have drivers that we feel are going to be capable of developing the car through,” Fernley told reporters at the launch of the new VJM06 car.

“We need performance but we also need the development ability. And it’s about bringing the right person in to do all of that and getting the long-term stability.”

Force India have Britain’s Paul Di Resta as one of their drivers but have to fill the second seat vacated by Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg, who is now at Sauber.

The assumption, in tough financial times with teams tending to appoint drivers who can bring much-needed sponsorship millions with them, is that Force India is looking for someone with backing.

Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM04. Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, Friday 9 September 2011.

Adrian Sutil at Monza during the 2011 season with Force India

Fernley said that this was not a given but was more of a media assumption.

“The decision we will make will be for the benefit of the team. And it doesn’t necessarily follow that that is a financial requirement. In fact it’s highly unlikely that it will be,” he declared.

The experienced Sutil drove for the team, through its various incarnations, from 2007 to 2011 while Bianchi was the test and reserve last season and is also a member of Ferrari‘s Young Driver Academy.

Other experienced drivers with some sponsorship behind them and still looking for a seat include Russian Vitaly Petrov and Brazilian Bruno Senna.

Ferrari said this month that they wanted to find Bianchi a role in Formula One and that has been interpreted as a hint that he could be part of a package with the Italian engines replacing Mercedes at Force India for 2014.

However, Ferrari said at their car launch at Friday that Bianchi could be their reserve driver this season with the matter “under discussion”.

Fernley agreed that the media would inevitably “put two and two together”, and said Bianchi was “a very significant candidate” but his Ferrari connection wasn’t the key to it.

08.02.2012 Jerez, Spain, Jules Bianchi (FRA), Sahara Force India Formula One Team - Formula 1 Testing, day 1 - Formula 1 World Championship -, EMail: - copy of publication required for printed pictures. Every used picture is fee-liable © Copyright: Charniaux /

Jules Bianchi testing for Force India at Jerez in 2012

“It’s part of the decision-making process,” he said. “It would be too simplistic just to say [the drive] is linked to an engine, because it’s not the case at all. We’ve always had these mythical stories about Paul coming linked to Mercedes and it’s total nonsense.”

Di Resta won the DTM (German touring car) title with Mercedes, has had close ties to the German car manufacturer during his career with some speculation that his breakthrough into the team was linked to the Mercedes engine deal.

The Scot will do most of the testing of the new car in Jerez next week, with the focus on systems and making sure that everything is working.

Fernley doubted that there would be any problems in getting the second driver up to speed before the start of the season in Australia on March 17, with simulators playing a much bigger part in preparation than track work nowadays.

“It’s nice to have the track time but the track time is only quality if we’ve got the conditions to go with it,” he said.

“Paul is a major part of what we do. He gives us stability, his technical feedback is excellent and that’s why it’s quite important that we optimise Jerez with Paul.”

Force India finished seventh overall last year and Fernley said the aim in 2013 would be to step up from being a team “knocking on the door” of the podium places to actually converting the chances. (Reuters)

Subbed by AJN.

  • james hayden

    my opinion is that adrian sutil is the best guy for job he is quicker than deresta and i think deresta has not lived up to the hype around him before he joined the team nico was a top driver but hes gone and im shore if they take adrian back he might struggle at first as cars not built round him but im shore a few races in and fitness coming together he will out shine deresta lets see if im right

  • Jet Set

    The duel between Sutil and Di Resta was pretty close at Force India, with Di Resta performing faster quite a few times, despite being a complete F1 rookie, while Sutil had F1 experience of several years, in comparison.

    So how could Sutil be an improvement…?

  • fawx

    I would still prefer bianchi over sutil anytime.

  • Jet Set

    Bianchi is a complete newbie and neither has the performance nor the developmental ability and experience.

    Bruno Senna has shown he can sometimes drive above-average, but not much more.

    Petrov was pretty much only able to keep up the pace with his teammate in the second half of last season, as he benefited from his technical problems…

    So why are they even considering one out of this mediocre pack if it was not about money at all, like they say?

  • j

    @jet set i don think petrov and senna are even in the picture,its the race between the former driver with experience and the former reserve driver with financial back up

  • Jet Set

    j, but there are other drivers with experience and better results like Koba and Kova ;-),
    they are pretty much widely regarded as being quicker than Sutil …

    And what somewhat puzzles me is that Kobayashi had, what? 9 million in backing, and already weeks ago, he said there’s no place for him?

    I’d take Heikki over Kamui and both in a heartbeat over anyone available IMHO…

    btw, not only Bianchi is “backed by bucks”, hasn’t Sutil got a company behind him, Medion or something which is willing to pay for him,too…

  • Amadeus

    The best candidate is definetly Adrian Sutil. After one year of frustration, his motivation could make the difference. DiResta was overhyped all the time, i think his PR team is the real deal, because he was outscored by his both teammates (Sutil and Hulkenberg). In the second half of the 2011 season Sutil was brilliant and at the end of the year, he provided the best place in Force India’s history – 9 (best from the rest). So, until now Sutil, in the best candidate. I hope that his old sponsors won’t let him down…..

  • j

    @jetset these guys might be having tons of data on all these drivers including kamui and heikki who either are not really good enough as we think or else they got really poor managers to bag a seat fr their somewer that medion no longer backs adrian although its logo is displayed in adrians official website anyway the company was sold off by their german owners to chinese last year.