Sutil shines in Australia for Force India
17 March 2013
With Adrian Sutil's return to the Force India team coming so late in the season - almost at the very end of pre-season testing at the start of March - few were expecting him to get back to peak performance straight away. But in the first race of the 2013 F1 season, the German driver was leading the Grand Prix in Australia.
"What a fantastic race and a great feeling," said Sutil after the race, which saw him lead Grand Prix on two separate occasions for a total of 11 laps thanks to a unique tyre strategy.
"Adrian's return to racing has been fantastic and it's clear he has lost none of his speed or racecraft," said Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley. "He was on a different strategy to most of the front-runners, but made it work beautifully and showed strong pace throughout the Grand Prix."
"I started on the medium tyres, a different strategy to most of the cars ahead of me, and I think this was the right decision," Sutil explained. "The pace was quick and the car felt very good on the medium tyres so I was able to keep up with the guys in front of me, who I knew were going to pit early.
"It was not long until I was leading the race – my first time leading in F1!" he added with a big smile. "After my second pit stop I was back in the lead once again, so I knew that it was possible to come away with a great result."
However, the strategy the team had handed him left him needing to run the supersoft options for the last stint, and the option tyres had proven to have a very short usable life to them - as Sutil now had to experience for himself, to his cost From fifth place after his pit stop on lap 46, he ended up losing two places by the time he crossed the finish line 12 laps later and at one stage looked in danger of dropping out of the top ten altogether because of tyre degradation.
"My final stint on the supersofts was much more difficult because the tyres started graining and I lost a few places," he explained. "I was thinking I might need to pit again, but fortunately the tyres came back to me for the final few laps so I could save the seventh place."
That put him just ahead of his team mate, Paul di Resta, who finished the day in a less eye-catching but still commendable eighth place at the line, three seconds behind Sutil.
"Seventh and eighth for the team is a great result and a great way to kick off the season," said the Scot. "We've shown we have a car that is kind on its tyres and that helped us today by making less stops than some of our rivals.
"I feel I had a car that could have finished seventh, but I was stuck behind some of the three-stoppers at the start of my second stint, and that cost me quite a lot of track position," di Resta added. "There are a lot of positives to take from the race, as well as some things that we can improve to make the car stronger, but we're in a good position heading to Malaysia."
Bob Fernley commended di Resta for being a team player when he could have opted to be more cut-throat toward Sutil near the end: "He probably could have passed Adrian in the closing laps, but he held station to ensure we brought home the strong team result."
Fernley went on to hail the "great team performance" in Melbourne, saying that the ten points that the two drivers had won between them confirmed the pace that the squad had shown all weekend.
"We said over the winter that we needed a strong start to the year, so hopefully we can build on this next week in Malaysia," he added.