Force India signs Sutil, aims to keep Bianchi

Force India on Thursday completed the 2013 grid by announcing it has signed Adrian Sutil.

The Silverstone based team had weighed up reuniting with German Sutil, its long-time German driver, or promote the Ferrari-linked 2012 reserve Jules Bianchi.

“It was a close call, but ultimately we felt that Adrian’s experience and historic links to the team gave him the edge,” said team boss Vijay Mallya.

Sutil, 30, drove for the team between 2007 and 2011, sitting out last season in the wake of the Eric Lux assault affair.

Mallya added: “As for Jules Bianchi, he has impressed us enormously with his speed and work ethic, and I’m hopeful we can continue working with him this year to help him develop into a future grand prix driver.”

Source:GMM

Sutil & Bianchi shape up for Barcelona Force India ‘shootout’

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.

Source:GMM

Contender Bianchi to test Force India at Jerez

Jules Bianchi has emerged as the hot favourite to complete the 2013 grid.

The team’s reserve driver last year, he has been called up to test the new Force India at Jerez this week.

As Paul di Resta recently launched the VJM06 alone at Silverstone, team officials confirmed that Frenchman Bianchi, 23, is a leading candidate to be the Scot’s teammate.

And, referring to Ferrari’s development ‘academy’ driver, that team’s boss Stefano Domenicali said earlier this month: “We are currently trying to find him a role in formula one and when we have some news, we will let you know.”

Force India has confirmed reports Bianchi will drive the VJM06 at Jerez on Friday.

“Jules will be able to provide the team’s engineers with further comparison feedback between last year’s car and the VJM06,” said the Silverstone based team.

Source:GMM

Bianchi still ‘waiting’ on Force India decision

Jules Bianchi is still in the running to become Paul di Resta’s teammate at Force India in 2013.

At the weekend, Scottish driver di Resta admitted he is “surprised” the Silverstone based team is taking so long to make its decision.

Reportedly, 2012 reserve driver and Frenchman Bianchi is a leading candidate.

And according to French commentator Jean-Louis Moncet, the 23-year-old’s chances have just stepped up a notch. In his Auto Plus column, Moncet wrote that Force India will switch from Mercedes to Ferrari power in 2014, with Sauber having now signed a Mercedes engine deal.

Part of Force India’s Ferrari deal could be that the Nicolas Todt-managed and Ferrari-contracted Bianchi is placed in the race seat, with immediate effect.

“I am waiting,” Bianchi, who at the weekend won Felipe Massa’s karting event, told the French-language RMC Sport in Florianopolis. “It has been quite a hard winter this time because I haven’t known what I am doing (next). We have a chance, and it’s a good one. We’ll wait and see what Force India will decide.”

Also waiting on the final pieces of the 2013 grid to take shape is Bruno Senna, who has been linked with the other remaining race seat, at Caterham.

“For 2013, it is still unclear,” the Brazilian, also in Florianopolis, is quoted by Totalrace.

“We are in the game but it is not easy to know where I’ll end up even if I imagine that it will not take long for the pieces to fit together. I hope everything goes well,” added the former Williams driver. “We are looking at all the options, both inside and outside of Formula One.”

Asked if Force India is one of those options, Senna answered: “I am talking to the teams that still have seats free.”

Source:GMM

Bianchi has ‘real chance’ of Force India seat – manager

Jules Bianchi has a “real chance” of securing one of the two remaining race seats on the 2013 grid.

The 23-year-old Frenchman’s manager Nicolas Todt told RMC Sport that Bianchi is in the running for the vacant Force India drive alongside Paul di Resta. Bianchi, also supported by Ferrari’s driver development ‘academy’, was the Silverstone based team’s full time reserve driver this year.

“The decision is in the hands of two or three people at the Force India team,” Todt, the son of FIA president Jean Todt and also the manager of Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado, said.

“I think Jules has a real chance but nothing is done,” added Todt.

It has been reported the favourite for the drive is German Adrian Sutil, but Todt insisted: “There are many drivers knocking on the door at Force India.” He said he doubts Sutil is a shoe-in for the seat.

“I would be surprised, but as of today I do not think anyone has signed,” said Todt.

Force India has announced it will launch its 2013 car at Silverstone on 1 February, ahead of the winter test season in Spain.

Source:GMM

Bianchi tests Ferrari improvements for Alonso

Ferrari is still pushing hard to give Fernando Alonso a title-winning Ferrari for the final back-to-back head-to-head with Sebastian Vettel.

With Red Bull and Vettel’s qualifying problems allowing Alonso to claw back 3 points in Abu Dhabi, the Spaniard is still 10 points adrift with just Austin and Brazil to go. And with the red F2012 still not a match for the Adrian Newey-penned RB8, Alonso said after finishing second in Abu Dhabi: “We need to keep working and in Maranello they work day and night to bring new parts.”

Indeed, the Spanish sports daily Marca reports that, following two similar straightline aerodynamic outings recently, Ferrari has been back in action at the Idiada facility in Spain.

At the wheel of the car was Frenchman Jules Bianchi, who as well as being Force India’s test driver is also in Ferrari’s development ‘academy’. Marca said Bianchi was testing a new rear wing and diffuser, while other Spanish reports said the F2012 featured even more new parts than that.

“With Fernando, you don’t have to give him the best car,” Marc Gene, another Ferrari test driver, told El Confidencial. “You just have to give him one with which he can fight the best car, and he will do the rest. The team is working hard to give him the best car possible.”

Mark Webber, Vettel’s teammate but a better friend of Alonso’s, said recently that if it rains as the championship showdown looms, punters might be wise to put money on the Spaniard.

Gene said: “The forecast for the US and Brazil suggests that they could be wet races, and we know that the Ferrari has proved a very reliable car when water appears.”

The first title showdown will be at Austin’s brand new Circuit of the Americas this weekend.

A local meteorologist told the Austin American Statesman newspaper: “The best rain chances come Saturday evening into Sunday, but they are still very slight, about 20 per cent.”

Source:GMM

Contenders line up for 2013 Force India seat

The contenders are lining at the door to fill Force India’s vacancy for 2013.

With Nico Hulkenberg switching to Sauber, there are plenty of suitors for the seat alongside Paul di Resta. Spain’s Marca sports daily said Pirelli tester Jaime Alguersuari has been offered a drive by BMW to race in the DTM touring car series next year.

“But he is exhausting his options to get into a F1 car next year before considering the proposal,” read the report.

Another contender is Force India’s current reserve driver, Jules Bianchi, who practiced in the team’s 2012 car during Friday practice in Abu Dhabi.

“This was the first time that I was so close to him,” the Nicolas Todt-managed driver, referring to Hulkenberg in the sister car, said after Friday’s running. “It is positive and a good time to get a good result.

“I know there are many other drivers who want to be in the team, but I think they (Force India) are happy with me and we’ll see what they decide,” he is quoted by L’Equipe.

Also linked with the 2013 drive have been Adrian Sutil and Sebastien Buemi. With a bigger hatful of sponsors, however, is Bruno Senna, and according to Finland’s Turun Sanomat, Williams last week allowed the option on his current contract to lapse.

Yet another contender is Brazilian GP2 driver Luiz Razia, who is also sponsored.

“If I had no sponsors, I would pack my bags and go home now,” he told Radio Globo. “To debut on a good team like Force India would really accelerate the process of coming to a really good team in two or three years.”

Source:GMM

Sutil’s manager says Force India talks ‘not concrete’

Adrian Sutil’s manager has played down reports the German is first in line for a return to Force India in 2013.

With Nico Hulkenberg looking likely to switch to Sauber next year, Force India supremo Vijay Mallya admitted last weekend that long-time team driver Sutil is a candidate to replace the younger German.

Sutil, who has been on the sidelines this year following his assault conviction of 2011, is quoted by Switzerland’s 20min.ch as admitting there
are “definitely opportunities” for a return to Formula One in 2013. But his manager Manfred Zimmermann is for now playing down the Force India link.

“There are no concrete negotiations with Force India,” he told the German news agency DPA by telephone.

Zimmermann said Sutil, 29, has several options for 2013.

“I think we have legitimate hopes,” he said. “We hope the puzzle is over in the next 14 days.”

Indeed, another contender for Hulkenberg’s Force India seat must be the team’s reserve driver Jules Bianchi, who is backed by Ferrari and managed by Felipe Massa’s manager, Nicolas Todt.

“If a place becomes available,” the French rookie told RMC Sport, “there will be plenty of contenders.The main objective is Force India,” admitted Bianchi.

Source:GMM

Bianchi set to stay at Force India in 2013

Jules Bianchi has revealed he expects to stay with the Force India team in 2013.

Managed by Nicolas Todt, the Frenchman is a member of Ferrari’s driver development ‘academy’ and this season has been the reserve and Friday driver for Mercedes-powered Force India. Asked in Korea about his future, the 23-year-old told RMC Sport: “I am already in a good team with Force India, so the goal is to stay with them.

“I want to grow with the team and who knows (what will happen) if one of the two incumbents moves place,” he said in the Yeongam paddock. “There are several options but the most practical is Force India,” added Bianchi.

Force India racer Nico Hulkenberg is hotly tipped to switch to Sauber for 2013.

Source:GMM

Ferrari to test Bianchi, Rigon at Magny Cours

The days after Monza’s Italian grand prix could be crucial as Ferrari contemplates its driver lineup for 2013.

Italy’s Autosprint reports that the famous Maranello based squad is almost certainly planning to field development drivers Jules Bianchi and Davide Rigon at Magny Cours.

In mid September at Magny Cours, the former French grand prix venue, Ferrari as well as Mercedes and Force India will conduct their allowed days of ‘young driver’ testing. Frenchman Bianchi is also Force India’s reserve driver this year, meaning he will probably get to drive two different formula one cars at his home circuit. And Italian Rigon, 26, who badly injured his legs in a GP2 crash last year, extended his relationship with Ferrari for 2012 and has been doing simulator and straightline testing.

Autosprint acknowledged that Ferrari is yet to confirm its Magny Cours lineup.

Source:GMM