The so-called shootout between Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi for the last seat on the 2013 grid continues to be one of the major talking points in the Barcelona paddock, with Sutil enjoying an impressive return to the cockpit after a year on the sidelines.
Frenchman Bianchi is scheduled to drive the new Force India on Friday, but the weather forecast is for rain all day.
After a season on the bench, German Sutil impressed the Silverstone based team on Thursday with a time quicker than his potential 2013 teammate, Paul di Resta.
“It’s obvious that I’m still quick and that’s very important,” he told reporters. “It was a good day and nice to be back in a Formula One car once again. Hopefully I’ll get the drive … what can I say?”
Jakob Andreasen, Force India chief race engineer summed up the day, “It has been a long time since Adrian last worked with the team, but he did an excellent job of getting used to the car and was on the pace straight away.”
“His feedback was good and it was interesting to hear the thoughts of a driver who has not been in a Formula One car for a while. He was very detailed with his comments and provided some good direction for us,” added Andreason.
The 30-year-old, however, acknowledged that it’s not a straight fight, as were Williams’ ‘shootouts’ between Jenson Button and Bruno Junquiera in 2000, or Nick Heidfeld and Antonio Pizzonia in 2005.
“There’s a little bit of business behind it,” said Sutil, alluding to his links with Mercedes and Bianchi’s to Ferrari, regarding Force India’s eventual choice of V6 engine supplier.
He admitted to F1’s official website: “My relationship with Mercedes has always been good and hopefully they are heavily interested in having me in the car this season.”
Deputy team boss Bob Fernley said on Thursday that the team’s shareholders will make their decision probably at the weekend.
Sutil smiled: “They’ve been saying for a month that it happens in the next week. Let’s see who is on the grid in Melbourne.” (GMM)