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Engine allegiences could settle Force India search

The identity of Force India's second driver for 2013 could be settled by more than just sponsorship.

The latest speculation surrounding the last remaining vacancy on the 2013 F1 grid suggests that Jules Bianchi may miss out regardless of his performance in this week's Barcelona group test.

The Frenchman wowed onlookers at Jerez by posting the third fastest time of the week as he rejoined the Force India squad to help shakedown its new VJM06, but is having to share seat time not only with the already-confirmed Paul di Resta, but also former team favourite Adrian Sutil this time around.

Sutil sat out 2012 after being passed over in favour of Nico Hulkenberg but, with his fellow countryman now ensconced at Sauber and the GBH accusations of 2011 now behind him, is hoping to reclaim the seat alongside di Resta in what his management has described as a 'last chance' to return to the F1 fraternity.

Claims regarding the hopefuls' respective financial strength vary, with Bianchi, on one hand, allegedly having nothing but good wishes from Ferrari, to out-gunning Sutil in terms of sponsorship on the other. However, despite the Barcelona test being billed as a 'shoot-out’ between the pair, other factors may weigh in – and could see Sutil installed as a one-year stop-gap depending on the engine deal Force India strikes for 2014.

This year's campaign is the last to be fought with V8 powerplants, with a 'greener' turbocharged V6 set to be introduced for 2014. The cost of the new engines are set to increase the amount of money that teams need to find, but Force India is in the situation where, with its two contenders, it has a foot in both the Mercedes and Ferrari camps.

Much has been made about Bianchi's bid to partner di Resta being aided by a possible switch of allegiance from Force India, but Sutil's reappearance is now thought to have been boosted by his links to Mercedes, which has been a technical partner to the Silverstone team for some time. Although the German engine is understood to be the more expensive option for 2014, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport believes that the Stuttgart concern could throw in a gearbox deal, which might also make Sutil a better bet long term.

Meanwhile, French magazine AutoPlus quotes commentator Jean-Louis Moncet as believing that, without significant sponsorship, Bianchi is likely to miss out this season, although the 23-year old 'is certain to drive with Force India in 2014'.

“With more than an eye on budgets for 2013, Sutil or [Narain] Karthikeyan have a better chance, unless Ferrari contributes financially,” he added.

Karthikeyan was added to the list of possible partners to di Resta between the Jerez and Barcelona tests, having apparently increased the amount of backing he can bring from India. Despite its ownership, Force India has been reluctant to take drivers from the sub-continent, claiming there were more talented options on the market, although that opinion could change given the current economic climate.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
23.11.2012- Free Practice 1, Narain Karthikeyan (IND) HRT Formula 1 Team F112
Paul di Resta (GBR) Sahara Force India VJM06.
11.05.2012- Adrian Sutil (GER)
Jules Bianchi (FRA), test driver, Scuderia Ferrari  11.09.2012. Formula One Young Drivers Test, Day 1, Magny-Cours, France.
Alex Wurz (AUT) and Kimi Raikkonen (FIN), Scuderia Ferrari 
Maurizio Arrivabene (ITA), Team Principal, Scuderia Ferrari 
Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF16-H.
27.08.2016. Qualifying
Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid.
27.08.2016. Qualifying
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari SF16-H.
27.08.2016. Qualifying
Sergio Perez (MEX) Sahara Force India F1 VJM09.
27.08.2016. Qualifying
Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sahara Force India F1 VJM09.
27.08.2016. Qualifying
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid.
27.08.2016. Qualifying
27.08.2016 - Free Practice 3, Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H
27.08.2016 - Free Practice 3, Sergio Perez (MEX) Sahara Force India F1 VJM09
27.08.2016 - Free Practice 3, Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
27.08.2016 - Free Practice 3, Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H
27.08.2016 - Free Practice 3, Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sahara Force India F1 VJM09
27.08.2016 - Free Practice 3, Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sahara Force India F1 VJM09

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Droog - Unregistered

February 20, 2013 8:39 PM

Karthikeyan, seriously?? Jeez, maybe if I win the lottery, I too can become an F1 Driver. Apparently all it takes is cash. Maybe I'm completely wrong and maybe the bloke has real talent, but it was most effectively disguised in his last series of outings in the sport, even if he was driving a dog of a car, Pedro "outshone" him consistently..

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