Having briefly expressed disappointment with his apparent interest in leaving the team that gave him his F1 break, Force India is once again singing the praises of Adrian Sutil, all but confirming that the German will be leading its charge in 2011.
Sutil allowed the option to extend his FIF1 contract to lapse towards the end of last season, enticed by potential openings in the line-ups at both Mercedes and Renault but, with all meaningful doors now closed thanks to the re-signing of Michael Schumacher and Vitaly Petrov at Brackley and Enstone respectively, the German is back at Silverstone preparing to be announced as Force India number one for another season.
He is likely to be partnered by new DTM champion Paul di Resta, with 2010 team-mate Tonio Liuzzi the odd man out despite having a year to run on his deal, and both team owner Vijay Mallya and COO Otmar Szafnauer have been quick to emphasise the regard in which they hold the former F3 Euroseries runner-up.
“In terms of driving, he sits directly behind Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel and Kubica among the category of the top drivers in F1,” the experienced Szafnauer told Auto Motor und Sport
, despite Sutil having never stood on a grand prix podium and with just one front row start and fastest lap to his name in the four years since he graduated from the role as test driver at Midland F1 to race for the Spyker team that replaced it.
“He has grown with the team and contributed to our improvements,” Mallya reflected, “He is also developing personally and I expect this upwards trend to continue.”
Sutil, meanwhile, hasn't exactly given up on moving on from Force India should the right opportunity present itself, with the chance to reunite with his former F3 team-mate top of his list.
"I would love to again be in a team with Lewis," he confirmed, having partnered the Briton at ASM in what he claims was the most important year of his career, "I knew I was better than my results, but only in the final round at Hockenheim [following a move from Kolles to ASM], did I have the chance to prove it. This was absolutely the turning point in my career, the only reason I am now in F1."