If I am Jules Bianchi, I am one pissed off reserve driver today. I have worked well with my Sahara Force India team all year last year, and tested well with them this off season and still I get snubbed. To be honest I would be an ex-reserve driver at this point. This after finding out that Adrian Sutil who has not driven a racing car but once over the last year and a half has been signed to the second race seat at my team. This is a real step back for the team in my opinion and really is a shame for a team looking for that next step forward.
The argument has been made that Sutil is the evil the team knows. He was solid during his time at the team from 2007-2011, but fell out of favor and was released after the 2011 campaign. He has also had some off track drama with the incident that ended with Eric Lux (executive to Lotus-Renault) getting stitches in his throat. Something about a champagne glass and a wild night out with Lewis Hamilton? Force India says that incident had nothing to do with him being released. So you would assume that he was released because he wasn’t getting the job done right? Right?
Some would say that Sutil will perform a solid job for the team and score points on a regular basis. They say that putting a young upstart driver like Bianchi in the car is too risky and doesn’t leave much to gain in a time when you are looking for steady finishes. I agree that during the 2010 and 2011 campaigns, Sutil performed well in terms of limiting DNFs. The fact is though; you are putting a guy in the car that has tested once in a year and a half period over your reserve driver who has been racing and looks ready for that next step. I think Sutil will suffer a number of DNFs because of the time off and that will take away from the argument that he is a solid finisher.
I think in order for Force India to take that next step, they need to put a guy in the car that is very quick like Bianchi. You need a guy who is going to push Di Resta and drive him to perform better. Surly Sutil does not offer this. Even at his peak, he hardly finished ahead of Di Resta and Paul was racing his rookie season! I obviously don’t run a Formula 1 team, but I think I would have really gone the other direction on this choice. I would have selected Bianchi based on his youth, great speed at the first test, and the fact he has been your reserve driver. There are plenty of young talented drivers and he is one of them. The real problem here is how long it ended up taking Force India to make this decision. You finally pick your guy with one test left before Australia. I think that Force India is going to really be disappointed with their results this season. They will need to look no further than this moment to figure out where it all went wrong.