Sutil gets ‘man of the match’ for his comeback in Melbourne 18 March, 2013 Adrian Sutil during the drivers parade in Melbourne Force India’s Adrian Sutil showed he had lost little of his race craft after a year out of Formula One by finishing seventh in the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday and engaging in an enthralling battle with former close friend Lewis Hamilton. Sutil was dropped by Force India at the end of 2011 in the wake of a night-club brawl in Shanghai that led to an 18-month suspended jail sentence and 200,000 euro ($261,300) fine for the German for grievous bodily harm. Eric Lux, the then-chief executive of Renault F1 (now Lotus) team owners Genii Capital, needed stitches for a neck wound caused by a champagne glass in that fracas. The incident caused a fall-out between Sutil and Hamilton, who had won the Chinese Grand Prix for McLaren and was celebrating at the night-club. Adrian Sutil mixed it with the best throughout the Australian GP Sutil branded Hamilton a “coward” in German media for declining to appear as a witness in his trial and the pair have yet to mend fences. The background added spice to their skirmish at Albert Park, where Sutil emerged a surprise leader in the latter part of the race when higher-profile rivals slipped back as they changed rapidly degrading tyres. “Leading a Grand Prix, it’s a great feeling,” Sutil, who took over Nico Hulkenberg after the German left for Sauber, told television reporters. “First race (and just) three weeks (since) when I know I’m back in Formula One, I just had three test days in Barcelona and it couldn’t be a better start really. It showed that everything is possible and you have to believe in it.” Paul di Resta leads Adrian Sutil Although driving a slower Mercedes-powered car, Sutil fended off Hamilton’s works Mercedes as the Briton made a number of passing attempts before returning to the pit to change his tyres on lap 43. Sutil’s minor triumph was quickly extinguished, however, as Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen overtook him moments later and stormed to victory on only two changes of tyres. Sutil changed to a third set of tyres a few laps later but his bold challenge ended when his fast-degrading super soft tyres slowed his car in the final laps. His British team mate Paul di Resta also had a solid start to the season with an eighth-placed finish. “I feel a bit robbed of a seventh place given the way our strategy panned out and where I was in the final stages,” Di Resta said. “But seventh and eighth for the team is quite good.” Adrian Sutil back where he belongs Force India, still chasing a maiden win, slipped back to seventh in last year’s constructors championship after managing sixth in 2011, and hope to be the ‘best of the rest’ outside the five leading teams. Bob Fernley, deputy team principal, poured cold water on any top-five ambitions for the Silverstone-based team, co-owned by drinks tycoon Vijay Mallya. “No, I don’t think so,” Fernley said. “McLaren are struggling a little bit at the moment but they will come back strong. “What we’ve got to do is take advantage of the opportunity while they are struggling and hopefully it will give us a cushion for maybe the sixth place which is what we have got to get back again.” Related NewsForce India: We are pleased to see both cars make the finishForce India: We will need to plan for all possible conditionsForce India: The first two sessions of the 2014 season have gone pretty much to plan for usPerez: Force India is very hungry and I hope we can achieve some great things this yearHulkenberg: I feel comfortable, but I think this feeling will grow stronger during the seasonMallya: I think we can arrive in Melbourne feeling happy about the work we’ve done over the winterPerez: I have a comfortable feeling that we are in good shape for AustraliaForce India: A great team performance to start our seasonForce India: We’re feeling pretty positive with our qualifyingForce India: The cars are working well seeing scarlet Yep very impressive drive, just think in a couple years he’ll be in a Ferrari, Perez will be in a McLaren that’s still rebuilding and Hamilton will still be at Merc. could be exciting. Apex Assassin Any real F1 fan remembers glimmers of Sutil’s talent, but I don’t think anyone was expecting that performance! I personally hope they and Merc fight each other all year, as this whole situation seems to have done nothing but improve Sutil on and off the track. I can see this blooming into a great rivalry, esp with Sutil’s very public “he’s not my friend” comments about Lewis. Too bad the tyres limit the cars and drivers so damned much! conservancy@MHR … nobody saw this coming. From out-of-nowhere, Adrain Sutil carving up the grid, like a hot knife through butter, to the lead, Luca di Montezemolo fell speechless. First time since Alain Prost, Ron Dennis’s jaw dropped, to the floor. Adrian Sutil just got Helmut Marko’s full attention — asj.