The second Force India seat

A year ago next Monday Force India announced its driver line-up for 2012, and said goodbye to Adrian Sutil, who had been with the team for the four previous seasons. Sutil was facing criminal charges at the time after attacking Eric Lux, who is a partner in Genii Capital, the owner of the Lotus F1 Team, in a Chinese night club in April 2011. He was found guilty by a German court of causing bodily harm by stabbing him in the neck with a champagne glass and he was given an 18-month suspended sentence and a fine of $260,000. The prosecution asked for a more severe penalty, arguing that a professional sportsman is a role model and should not act in the way in which Sutil acted. While it seems that team boss Vijay Mallya has no qualms about employing Sutil again, there is a question about whether or not the German driver will be allowed to visit all the countries involved in the Formula 1 World Championship. There have been suggestions that he would run into trouble with visas in China, Canada, the United States and Australia, where entry may be refused for those who have been sentenced to more than 12 months in prison, whether served or not. It is possible that the team might decide to use Sutil and then put test and development driver Jules Bianchi at the races when Sutil cannot compete and it is really down to the team to decide whether this will give them more Championship points or not, as this is really the only criterion, given that the team does not have any real sponsors who might complain.

The others who are believed to have been talking to the team include Bruno Senna, Kamui Kobayashi, Hekki Kovalainen and various GP2 graduates.

It will be interesting to see what the team decides to do.

83 thoughts on “The second Force India seat

  1. Sutil had calmed down from his early days and was becoming a solid driver but I can’t imagine he is so much better than those other options to make him worth the potential hassle or harm to image of him being refused entry anywhere.

  2. Jeepers, I knew Sutil had the attack conviction but had missed the specifics. A glass to the neck goes a bit too far I think. I had liked what Sutil had done with Force India in the past, but now I’m not so sure he should be hired back. Too bad for all involved.

    1. Of all the things I expected I might see on Joe’s blog today, my late Grandfather’s name jumping out at me wouldn’t not have been high on the list! Not often I encounter another Herring at all, I must say. Have a good day, Bill.

  3. In my opinion it would be good to see Force India give someone new a crack. Sutil seems competent enough but has had more than a fair crack at F1. The team should find a way of running Antonio Felix da Costa to blood him in for Red Bull Racing. As recently articulated by Will Buxton, da Costa is by far and away the most outstanding driver of 2012 in *any* category. He should be in F1, he’s more than ready.

      1. What would it take for the team to re-sign Kovalainen? Seems like there’s little reward for three years hard toil at the back.

    1. @Offordef That’s actually a two part tweet. The first part states “Happy to get back in training… It’s always good to give body and mind some rest, i am fully charged and ready to push!!! Hope to have” so with added second part “Hope to have good news soon guys! So keep on following close…”

      Doesn’t sound like much of a confirmation to me.

  4. I’m inclined to think that it’s a dangerous PR game, putting Sutil in a race seat. “If” there are issues with immigration in all of those countries (it appears to be uncertain) then every time Jules Bianchi gets in the car the commentary team will practically be forced to say “Bianchi is here because Sutil isn’t allowed into the country due to his criminal record”.

    It’s not the sort of thing I’d expect many sponsors to be happy to have repeated over and over whenever their logos are on screen.

  5. Isin’t suspended sentence different from actually being sentenced to prison?
    The “served or not”, applies to those who were sentenced for 12 month or more, but let off early for good behaviour, blah blah…

  6. On the topic of FI, Joe, what’s your opinion on Paul di Resta? Do you see him getting a contract beyond this season if he again gets beaten by a good, not great, team mate?

        1. Thanks for the link, that’s very interesting, and I see how it works for actors.

          But, er, do you think Sutil could claim F1 as a branch of athletics (or any of the other allowed categories?) And if so, would his personal achievements meet the merit criteria here? (‘I have to make up the numbers so the grid is full’ isn’t really good enough).

          I’m no lawyer, but on a casual reading I’d have thought it would be a -big- stretch to get Sutil in on this. Can anyone actually competent & knowledgeable about the process set me right?

        2. Section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of the United States denies entry to persons convicted of crimes if:

          (II) the maximum penalty possible for the crime of which the alien was convicted (or which the alien admits having committed or of which the acts that the alien admits having committed constituted the essential elements) did not exceed imprisonment for one year and, if the alien was convicted of such crime, the alien was not sentenced to a term of imprisonment in excess of 6 months (regardless of the extent to which the sentence was ultimately executed).

          I don’t think Sutil will get into the US, regardless of O visas.

  7. I’m assuming there is no big hurry to name a 2nd driver, but out of curiosity, when would the deadline be, or is there one?

  8. i really hope Kobayashi gets it because it’s good to have an Asian on the grid. i think he’s proven his F1 worth. They already say that Japan is losing interest in F1, imagine what would happen if there is no Japanese driver or team either.

  9. Always have a good giggle when I see reference to Australia’s refusal to let in any criminals. Well, when I say giggle, I actually LOL.

  10. I don’t care for the man or think him being in F1 adds anything to the sport but I don’t understand how he could be convicted for a crime in Germany which happened in China.

    What legal principal is this?

    By the same rational why don’t we convict him in England, South Africa and the south poll, or how about China?

    Besides that though if Force India want a quick driver with money I don’t think there choices are limited. Is the constant talk of Sutil something to do with Mercedes?

      1. I’ll dig up the link later, but if you read how Conrad Black ended up with crackpot thrupennies for lawyers, you may start to see that a man accused has two obstacles, starting with his own defence team. Maybe one for another time, but note that when he got a fair team, all but four minor charges were overturned.

    1. If a German national commits a crime punishable under German jurisdiction, he can be held accountable by German courts regardless the actual location of the crime.

    2. At the risk of being accused of being a typical Brit, always banging on about the war . . . its because of the war. Once civility had been restored to Germany post-1945, they deemed it necessary to pass a law by which German citizens could be held accountable by the German courts for crimes committed outside Germany. I’m sure they weren’t thinking about squiffy racing drivers in Chinese nightclubs at the time, but the law still stands, and I believe was applied to Sutil’s case.

    3. He’s a German citizen, and Germany’s penal code allows for the prosecution of German nationals for crimes committed anywhere in the world.

  11. My feeling about F1 drivers is that there should be a rule something like, if you haven’t finished on the podium after six years of competing you’re out of F1… one please! I think we might then see some more real racing and drivers not ‘phoning it in’. The trouble of course is that drivers in this sanitized modern F1 are scared sh**less of being reprimanded for even ‘racing incidents’.

    1. I don’t think drivers of midfield and back of field teams are ‘phoning it in’ they are just financially incapable of beating the top mega rich teams other than through flukes of weather or technical failures.

  12. Joe wrote: “… it is really down to the team to decide whether this will give them more Championship points or not, as this is really the only criterion, given that the team does not have any real sponsors who might complain.”

    True for now, but might Sutil’s employment reduce the chance of the team getting a serious sponsor? Visa problems affect more than just ability to attend races.

  13. I don’t really understand why Adrian could be the best prospect for ForceIndia. I thought Medion had canceled their program to support Sutil, so it’s not about money. So it should be about his driving skills, but we have Kobayashi or Kovalainen, who have proved their skills and have no problems with visa to any GP. Or Petrov who’s not even considered as a contender to have ForceIndia seat but has money and performs well this season.

  14. Given Mallya’s personal standing in some areas of the business world, I’m not sure Sutil’s presence would be that detrimental to finding sponsors. On Sutil himself, I think he was competent but no more and that any number of the mooted Hulkenberg replacements are at least as good but without the baggage. I guess either Kovalainen or Kobayashi would get my vote, if I had one!

    I also remember young Scheckter Jr’s F1 aspirations (with Jaguar) being thwarted when a financial transaction resulted in the completely consentual deployment of a friendly weapon, so it’s hard to have too much sympathy.

  15. Joe

    My money is on Jules Bianchi getting the second Force India seat full stop. FI will likely be reverting back to Ferrari power in 2014 and this deal will involve them running Bianchi in exchange for discounted new turbo charged Ferrari engines.

  16. I really hope sutil gets the seat back, he was fantastic while at force India. Very fast in qualifying and scored a lot of points. As a force India fan it be an exciting line up…

    Fingers cross

  17. I think senna should get one more chance (despite the likelihood of missing many more free practice runs to the FI test driver). He must bring more sponsorship than the others mentioned anyway.

  18. Joe are you willing to guess who is most likely to be selected? Although you seem to point towards Sutil of course if I’m not wrong?

          1. You said VJ will make a choice as if that it is his and his alone to make. Whilst one would presume he remains a strong influence his power base isn’t as strong as it once was for obvious reasons.
            I suspect there may well be other factors come into play now it is Sahara Force India?

  19. Sutil does not know the Pirelli tires. VJ would be crazy to hire him, given the talent available. The only reason he would put him in a race seat is to “stick it” to Eric Lux. At this level of sport and politics egos have more influence than logic, at times.

  20. Sutil’s incident was always very strange to me.

    However it happened – accident, scuffle that escalated, etc the outcome was clear.

    But what I never understood was the victims reaction. His position was that he was seriously attacked – and yet by all accounts the team doctor looked after him, he didn’t go to the police in the country and he waited to press action in Germany.

    If he was so grievously injured why net make a complaint to the local police and let them deal with it?

    I remain convinced that there is more to this than was ever told. I have heard a number of rumours from F1 team people who were at China but not at the event so I shall save the heresay.

  21. Senna seems a good fit as someone who is quite consistent and will collect decent points…a bit like Di Resta. FI will be wanting to get back above Sauber this year so I think an experienced driver like Senna would make sense.

    Would love to see Luis Razia or James Calado thrown in but suspect Biacnchi is ahead of them in the pecking order.

  22. If the film exists perhaps it is on youtube or similar, I would like to see it as I doubt he actually ‘attacked’ the man as such. To glass someone or punch them without severe provocation is unlikely. I am not defending Sutil but my suspicion is that the recipient was saying stuff of a very offensive nature. Some people can give a load of mouth back and then walk away, others hit first and think later. Either way any sport is about results and I think Sutil delivers them. What’s interesting is that neither the Genii guy nor Sutil have been involved in anything nasty since. Guess that they both learned to shut up. Footballers seem to get away with much more.

    1. Sutil’s known as a nice guy – but apparently has been known to be rather ‘tired and emotional’ on occasions. That may affect his reactions during the said incident.

      However AS & PDR is deja vu all over again and IMHO a real retrograde step as the team should be looking to replace both with fresh talent who can deliver. AS can deliver but isn’t fresh and PDR isn’t either.

  23. Joe, you know as well as I that assault is as simple as me touching you without your permission. People get convicted for such stuff that technically was a crime but by any normal standards would be dismissed. Like the earlier comment I find it very odd that Mr Genii waited until later to report things. Anyway I wish AS luck in the future.

    1. There is a video, that convinced a court that Adrian Sutil was not just “touching” Lux. And I have seen the scars. Scary!

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