Adrian Sutil moved a step closer to returning to the Formula 1 grid after he visited the Force India factory for a seat-fitting on Thursday.
A spokesman for the only team still to finalise their 2013 driver line-up said the 30-year-old was at the Silverstone factory ahead of the second pre-season test in Spain starting on 19 February.
“At this stage the test driving schedule for the Barcelona test is not finalised, but there is a possibility Adrian could be involved,” he said.
“The driving schedule will be communicated on Monday.”
Britain’s Paul Di Resta is confirmed as one of the race drivers but there are several candidates hoping to join the Scot at a mid-level team with hopes of scoring regular points and challenging for podium finishes.
Force India finished seventh of 12 teams last year
Sutil knows the ropes, having spent his entire Formula One career with the team in its various guises as Midland, Spyker and then Force India from 2006 to 2011.
The German left at the end of 2011 in controversial circumstances after he had been involved in a Shanghai nightclub brawl, for which he was handed an 18-month suspended sentence and fined 200,000 euros ($268,700)for grievous bodily harm by a German court.
Team principal Vijay Mallya said last October that Sutil remained an option and the driver brushed aside concern about his conviction barring him from travel to countries with visa restrictions on those with criminal records.
“We checked all the countries and there is no problem for me to travel,” he said in December. “All my problems last winter are solved, I’m ready for a new beginning.”
Frenchman Jules Bianchi, the team’s reserve driver and a member of the Ferrari academy, tested with the team in Jerez last week and is also a frontrunner for the seat.
Force India deputy principal Bob Fernley said at the launch of the new VJM06 car this month that a decision on the second seat was likely before the Barcelona test and would be taken with a long-term view.
“We need performance but we also need the development ability,” he said. “It’s about bringing in the right person to do all of that and getting the long-term stability.”
The season starts in Australia on 17 March. (Reuters)