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