Is Adrian Sutil set to make an improbable return to the F1 stage?

With two seats left on the grid for 2013, the complete make up of this seasons grid has still yet to be confirmed. Both Force India and Caterham still have a seat at their teams and it appears as though each team is deciding between two drivers.

One driver who is in the mix for the Force India seat, Adrian Sutil, could come back to the sport that he so prematurely left in 2011 and perhaps looked likely that he would never return to again.

But why wasn’t Sutil kept for 2012 and should he be brought back into the sport once again?

Sutil made his debut in Formula One in 2007 for the then Spyker team. In an impressive season, he dominated all three of his team-mates and drove a stunning race in Belgium that saw him the talk of the paddock, despite only finishing 14th. He would go on to score the only point in the history of the Dutch team with an eighth place in the rain affected Japanese Grand Prix.

As the team changed its name and colours to Force India in 2008, Sutil remained with them, despite being on the horizon as a possible driver at both Williams and McLaren.

Another strong season followed, including a stunning drive in Monaco that would’ve seen him finish fourth had he not been hit from reigning World Champion Kimi Raikkonen with six laps remaining.

He remained with the team for the next three years, but at the end of 2011 he was dumped in favour of fellow German Nico Hulkenberg, and it looked like Sutil wouldn’t return to the sport.

But as Hulkenberg left for Sauber at the end of 2012 and with no announcement on who would be his replacement, many were surprised to hear Sutil’s name being touted as a possible fill-in for the man who originally usurped him.

This too came alongside a tumultuous year for Adrian off the track in 2011, which he was convicted of assault occasioning grievous bodily harm after a night club incident in China with Genii Capital CEO Eric Lux in which he cut him with a champagne glass. Many raised question as to if this would affect his chances of an F1 drive in the future.

No doubt Sutil has talent. With just under 100 races to his name, he has been a consistent scorer with a total of 95 points and a brilliant fastest lap at the 2009 Italian Grand Prix, a race in which he very nearly claimed his maiden podium finish.

Consistently outracing his team-mates, he dominated fancied Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi in 2010 and again outpaced upcoming Scot Paul di Resta during the 2011 season.

But with no other real options for Sutil in 2012 and not wanting to take the route of fellow German Timo Glock in making up the numbers in one of the smaller teams, he decided to take a year away and focus on making a comeback in 2013. And it might just pay off.

His main rival for the second Force India seat is French Ferrari Academy member Jules Bianchi. Given Force India are seeking a potential return to Ferrari engines they last used in 2008 as the sport changes to new engine regulations in 2014, he is seen as the front runner for the seat.

But is Sutil really a bad choice? Consistent, fast and never really given a proper chance in the sport, he could be the perfect replacement for Hulkenberg who drove a brilliant 2012. Teams are of course always looking to the future, and Bianchi is six years younger.

However, Sutil is only 30, and easily has another six or seven years minimum left in him. He brings a level of experience into the team that they haven’t had since he was dumped in 2011, and taking a year away from the sport might have done enough to refresh him in a year in which there are limited rule changes to really get the grips of.

With Force India set to launch their car on February 1st, it remains to be seen who they will announce as Paul di Resta’s team-mate. But there is every chance that we could see a fifth German on the grid by the time the lights go out in Melbourne, and I for one hope that Adrian will be there.

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.