Force India might be ruing the departures of several of its key staff to (potential) rival outfits Sauber and Lotus, with the loss of recently-promoted Technical Director James Key proving hardest to swallow.
The squad is currently locked in a tight battle with Williams for sixth in the Constructors’ Championship, and the financial rewards for the winning outfit are huge under the Concorde Agreement in Formula 1: to the tune of $5 million in additional revenue from Formula One Management.
The team found itself a regular top-ten qualifying prospect at the start of the season, but its performance has gradually slipped, where it recently qualified outside the top-ten in Italy (a track where a front-row start was managed in 2009) and was slowest of all the runners in Q2 in Singapore last weekend.
A solid drive from Sutil earned him a points’ finish in Marina Bay, but such is the desperation between Williams and Force India that each protested the others’ results, which then led to post-race penalties for Sutil and Williams’ Nico Hülkenberg.
Sutil told Auto Motor und Sport that the loss of James Key (pictured right) to Sauber has been a contributing factor in the loss of performance at Force India and the upswing in Sauber’s fortunes, and this could perhaps fuel further rumours that Sutil may try to seek employment elsewhere in 2011.
“"I actually thought there would be no problem [with his leaving],” Sutil said. “I have confidence in the people who have taken over.
“His successor Mark Smith is doing a good job, but I’m sorry to say that we have lost ground. It’s no longer easy for us to get into the top ten in qualifying,” Sutil added.
“You only see how good a person really is when he is no longer there.”