Yet to be filled Force India seat still the hot topic in Barcelona

Who will fill the second Force India VJM06 cockpit in 2013?
Who will fill the second Force India VJM06 cockpit in 2013?

Barcelona is set to host a head-to-head shootout for the final available Formula 1 race seat on the 2013 grid, with Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi fighting for a single place at Force India.

This is not a new scenario to F1, as Williams weighed up Jenson Button versus Bruno Junqueira in 2000, and Nick Heidfeld versus Antonio Pizzonia in 2005.

In 2013, however, the situation is a little different, given that driver sponsorship and their links to manufacturers will also play a role in the ultimate identity of Paul di Resta’s teammate.

Jules Bianchi with Adrian Sutil
Jules Bianchi with Adrian Sutil

The well-connected French commentator Jean-Louis Moncet said he is “worried” about Bianchi ahead of the shootout, because the Ferrari-linked 23-year-old has “no budget”.

In Auto Plus, Moncet quoted a source as saying: “Jules is certain to drive with Force India in 2014.

“But for 2013, with more than an eye on budgets, Sutil or (Narain) Karthikeyan have a better chance, unless Ferrari contributes financially for Jules.”

Actually, Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport claims Bianchi does actually have a budget – EUR 4 million – and a higher one than that offered by Sutil’s backers.

Dr. Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India Formula One Team Owner. Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Qualifying, Saturday 27 October 2012.
Decision time for Vijay Mallya

He also has the Ferrari link, but German correspondent Michael Schmidt claims another factor in play could be Sutil’s link with Mercedes; the German manufacturer that currently supplies Force India’s engines.

In short, the talks about Force India’s turbo V6 supplier for 2014 and beyond will be key.

Schmidt claims Mercedes is charging about EUR 21 million for its V6, while Ferrari is asking only 17 million.

But a rumour in the Barcelona paddock on Tuesday is that Mercedes could be throwing in a gearbox deal as well, which could play in German Sutil’s favour. (GMM)