Force India is the only remaining desirable team with one of the race seats still unfilled. That seat was being hotly pursued by a number of out-of-drive candidates as well as some looking to make a return into the sport. Sebastian Buemi, Jamie Alguersuari and Adrian Sutil are three drivers that were left out of the grid in 2012.
Of the three, Buemi was said to be a serious possibility, while team head Vijay Mallya mentioned in an earlier interview that he would keenly consider Sutil for the seat. But, according to a recent report by Switzerland’s Blick newspaper, the 24-year-old has been informed he is out of the running. He’s now looking to cement his deal with Red Bull Racing with an extension to his official reserve driver role. According to the veteran correspondent Roger Benoit, ”Buemi will not comment at this time. First he needs to safeguard his future.. “
Buemi’s former team-mate, Jaime Alguersuari, who was dumped by Toro Rosso along with him at the end of 2011, was also in the running but is now being tipped to move to BMW’s DTM team. He spent 2012 as a Radio 5 Live F1 commentator & analyst. Its a bit odd as Alguersuari had been rather certain of a race seat for 2013 and suggested that a deal might already be in place. But this is Formula 1, after all, where seasons could go full cycle in a day!
That leaves only two drivers, Sutil and the team’s reserve driver (and Ferrari protégé) Jules Bianchi, in the running for the seat.
Sutil would look to make a comeback into the team he spent five years in and knows rather well. This could give him the upper hand in the current duel. The fact that he’s, more often than not, been blisteringly quick on the track and that he had a great 2011 season (only to be marred by a harsh conviction & subsequent boot from his job) could only help him further.
Bianchi’s chances are supposedly being bolstered by Ferrari who are thought to be in talks with Force India for an engine deal 2014 onwards when the new turbo formula kicks in. But there are people who believe he hasn’t impressed the team as much in the reserve role as his predecessor, Hulkenberg.
It might seem like a bit of a luxury problem for Force India, but, its a very key decision for their 2013 campaign as losing someone of the calibre of Hulkenberg to closest rivals Sauber has left almost everybody in the team rather disappointed.
I would expect a decision to be announced within the next week or two, hopefully well before the Silverstone outfit’s 2013 car launch on the 1st of February. Whoever it turns out to be, would need all the time available to gel with the team and prepare well for the winter testing in Jerez (unofficial dates are 5th-8th Feb) & then Barcelona which is barely 50 days away (19th-22nd Feb, 28th Feb-3rd Mar) .