With just three weeks until the circus congregates in Australia for the 2013 opener, Force India is still yet to name Paul di Resta’s teammate.
To that end, Adrian Sutil – the team’s long-time German driver who sat out 2012 after his assault conviction – is testing the new VJM06 in Barcelona on Thursday. But also hot in the running is Jules Bianchi, the rookie Frenchman who was reserve driver last season and is strongly supported by Ferrari, and handled by Felipe Massa’s manager Nicolas Todt.
Indeed, some see Sutil versus Bianchi as less about a head-to-head talent ‘shootout’, and more a question of which one is better backed by a supplier of expensive turbo V6s. Ferrari looks set to lose its engine customer Toro Rosso to Renault in 2014, and so Force India – currently powered by Mercedes – would be a good replacement for the Maranello marque.
“First of all (with engine customers) we can test more engines and having no tests during the season we can collect a much wider database,” said engine boss Luca Marmorini. “In this sense it’s very good having customer teams.”
Ferrari driver ‘academy’ star Bianchi will drive the 2013 Force India on Friday, arming the Silverstone based team’s bosses with the information for a decision.
Asked on Thursday if that news will come next week, deputy team boss Bob Fernley said: “It would be good.
“We’ll try and get all the information we’ve been collecting to the shareholders this weekend and then it’s their decision,” he told British Sky television.
Fernley said Force India will treat Sutil and Bianchi fairly in Barcelona, and confirmed that “obviously one of them” will be di Resta’s teammate in 2013.