Bob Fernley, the deputy team principal of Sahara Force India, insists that Adrian Sutil's incident in a Chinese nightclub had no bearing on the decision to replace the German for the 2012 F1 season.

Sutil, who was charged with grievous bodily harm earlier this week, was dropped by the team in favour of test driver Nico Hulkenberg despite helping Force India to secure its best ever finish in the constructors' championship.

At the time of that announcement, Sutil had still to appear in court to answer the charges linked to the incident with the Lotus team co-owner Eric Luxbut Fernley insisted the case hadn't been the factory that had seen the decision take to replace him.

"It was a very difficult decision," he was quoted by Sporting Life. "Adrian did have an exceptional season, he is an extremely talented driver, and as importantly an extremely nice person who fitted in well with the team.

"But we had to look at where we felt our long-term strengths lay. Adrian had been with us for a number of years, and we genuinely believed the future with us was with Paul (Di Resta) and Nico.

"We looked at it very carefully. It wasn't something we rushed into, but we had very clear ideas as to where we wanted to build the team for the future. It was a close decision, and we felt it was time for Adrian to gain experience outside of Force India.

"We also looked at the whole package, in terms of his raw speed, what he was doing for the team in terms of feedback, knowledge and everything else, and we felt Nico edged it."

Fernley, who insisted that the team had also always been keen to treat Sutil as innocent until proven guilty, admitted he was disappointed for his former driver that a court in Munich had delivered a guity verdict with Sutil fined ?168,000 and given a suspended sentence.

"I'm disappointed for Adrian because I don't think he deserves it, he doesn't have a bad thought or bone in his body. It wasn't typical of him at all," he said. "What I am not sure of, and we've not been able to take it in yet, is what the impact will be on his racing career.

"I don't think it will affect him totally, but sponsors and everybody else might have some different views. From our point of view it wouldn't have affected us. Vijay and Sahara are strong enough to be able to say what we want is talent, he made a mistake, he's been judged, and we'll go on.

"However, I don't know how other teams will look at it, and I also don't know the legal implications, such as 'can he go into China?' They are things we would have to understand if he was with us."


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