Luckless in both Bahrain and Australia, Adrian Sutil was due a change of fortunes in this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix – but the young German very much made his own luck in Sepang as he impressively kept a faster Lewis Hamilton at bay throughout the closing stages to clinch an excellent and well-deserved fifth place.
A first corner collision with Renault rival Robert Kubica in Sakhir and an engine failure Down Under in Melbourne had prevented Sutil from scoring in the opening two grands prix of the F1 2010 campaign, despite top ten grid positions for both.
In the heat of Kuala Lumpur, however, nothing would stand in his way, as from a superb fourth on the grid the Starnberg native raced solidly inside the leading half dozen throughout. Later on, he went on to faultlessly stave off the advances of 2008 world champion and erstwhile F3 Euroseries team-mate Hamilton's visibly quicker McLaren-Mercedes – a feat all manner of other drivers had tried and failed to achieve – before ultimately taking the chequered flag a mere 7.5 seconds adrift of podium-finisher Nico Rosberg for Mercedes Grand Prix.
Sutil's best result since he came home fourth in the 2009 Italian Grand Prix at Monza last September, the ten points also hauled the 27-year-old up into the top ten in the drivers' standings – and now he is bidding to stay there.
“The race was exciting and fifth place in the end was a great achievement,” he acknowledged. “I was hoping for a good race, as we were so close in the first two races but then had a little bit of back luck that stopped us scoring. It was a good overall performance from the team.
“It was always very close with Lewis just behind in the closing stages, but I knew that if I didn't make any mistakes I wouldn't have any problems, so I was just trying to concentrate. I had to push, of course, but it was under control. I think we can now carry this forward to China; we are still a good top ten competitor and we need to continue like this – Q3 and a few points each race would be great at this stage in the season.”
Team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi – who conversely scored in both Bahrain and Australia – was for his part forced out of contention on lap twelve with a suspected throttle problem after the Italian began to lose power. That came after the F1 returnee had made a promising start and indulged in an early tussle with Williams rival Nico Hülkenberg, who went on to claim the final point in tenth.
“I had had a good start from tenth, was in seventh place and had good pace, although I was stuck behind Hülkenberg in the Williams,” reported the 28-year-old. “I was struggling to pass even though I was quicker, but we were optimistic for a good race.
“Unfortunately, I had a problem with the throttle after about twelve laps. We didn't understand exactly what it was, but overall we lost drive and that was the end of it. It's disappointing for me but I'm pleased that Adrian could score a lot of points, as that helps us in the constructors' championship.”
Indeed it has done, with Force India now sitting pretty in a very solid sixth spot in the title chase, and the Silverstone-based squad's strong start to the season has left team principal and chairman Dr. Vijay Mallya palpably 'delighted'.
“Adrian had a strong race, keeping a cool head under pressure when a charging Lewis Hamilton was right on his tail,” praised the Kingfisher Airlines billionaire. “Once again, we've proved the pace of our car and our ability to really mix it in the midfield. It was disappointing not to have two cars in the points, but it is overall very positive that we can race hard and score points entirely on merit.”