Barcelona will this week host a head-to-head ‘shootout’ for the final race seat on the 2013 grid.
Just like Williams weighed up Jenson Button versus Bruno Junqueira in 2000, and Nick Heidfeld versus Antonio Pizzonia in 2005, this time it will be Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi fighting for a single place at Force India.
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. 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. 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.