When Nico Hulkenberg announced he was leaving Force India for Sauber last year, team mate Paul di Resta called it a “sideways move”.
Di Resta might have reconsidered that view earlier this year as deadline after deadline passed during the off-season without his team mate being announced.
Force India’s prevarication over their driver line-up was not because they were conducting a lengthy evaluation of the relative merits of Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi. This was about money.
The team have been at pains to distance themselves from the widely publicised problems in owner Vijay Mallya’s business empire. But the dots between Mallya’s struggling airline, his declining personal wealth and the team he bankrolls at considerable cost have to join up somewhere.
For now, the team look to be in a reasonably strong position. The new car, an evolution of the machine which led 30 laps of the last Grand Prix, was rolled out at Silverstone and has given the team little trouble in testing.
The basics of the package are solid and though their driver line-up may lack sparkle it has the benefit of experience.
Having ended the season with a competitive car the team should be in the hunt for points from round one. But their dithering over drivers can only have disrupted their pre-season preparations and does not inspire confidence in their long-term prospects.
Car 14: Paul di Resta
Di Resta had a solid debut campaign in 2011 but the shine came off a bit when he went up against Hulkenberg last year.
However his problems towards the end of the season were partly due to a defect in his chassis incurred when he crashed during practice in Japan. It went unfixed for several races, which coincided with Hulkenberg’s purple patch.
Reunited with his team mate of two years ago, Di Resta needs a conclusive points victory over Sutil If he’s too stand a chance of attracting the attention he desires from the top teams.
Car 15: Adrian Sutil
Sutil is not unworthy of an F1 seat, though previous seasons of middling results mixed with the occasional high point suggest we’ve already seen the best of him. One of those high points was undoubtedly his last race, which yielded a sixth place in Brazil.
The team have made progress since then and a year out of the cockpit seems to have given Sutil the benefit of perspective. His rivalry with Di Resta promises to be one of the year’s most interesting intra-team contests.
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