Adrian Sutil's chances of landing a seat on this year's F1 grid may already be receding in the face of opposition from the likes of Rubens Barrichello and Bruno Senna, but could be ended entirely by the outcome of a court appearance that has been hanging over him since last season's Chinese GP weekend.
Eight months on from an altercation in a Shanghai nightclub VIP room that left Genii Capital's Eric Lux nursing a neck wound, the German driver has been summoned to answer charges of grievous bodily harm. According to reports from his homeland, Sutil will stand trial at the end of the month and, if found guilty, could face anything up to a year behind bars.
The incident occurred in the wake of the Chinese Grand Prix when Sutil and some friends, including McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, were enjoying a night out in Shanghai to celebrate the Briton's race win, but reports on exactly what happened remain unclear.
Lux claims that he was injured by a champagne flute thrown by Sutil following a row over the Lotus Renault GP investor's girlfriend, resulting in 24 stitches in a wound that came close to severing a major artery in his neck. While Lux's lawyers insist that the incident could have resulted in their client's death, other reports suggest that the injury was the result of an accident in which Sutil went to throw a drink over Lux only for the glass to break while doing so. Sutil has already issued a public apology for the incident, and maintains that he never meant to inflict any injury. Hamilton could be called as a witness in the court case.
Should he be jailed, Sutil - who is thought to still be in the running for the remaining seat at Williams for 2012 - would join an unfortunate list of F1 stars facing imprisonment in the past few weeks, following JJ Lehto's recent incarceration and assault charges being filed against Jos Verstappen. Bertrand Gachot, meanwhile, remains that last F1 driver to be jailed during his career in the top flight, having been found guilty of assault on a London taxi driver. The Belgian's absence from the Jordan line-up, of course, gave a certain Michael Schumacher his F1 break....