Adrian Sutil admits that he has been surprised by the speed at which he has re-acclimatised to F1 having been forced to take a year out of the sport.
The German returned to the cockpit towards the end of pre-season testing as he moved into contention for a seat at Force India, and eventually beat out Jules Bianchi for the right to partner Paul di Resta in 2013. Despite not having had as much time to prepare as the majority of his rivals, Sutil led the Australian Grand Prix, and appeared on course for a potential top five finish before being let down by his final set of tyres.
While his pace was never in question during his first stint in the top flight – a spell interrupted when Force India dropped him in favour of Nico Hulkenberg in 2012 – Sutil conceded that he had not expected to be running so well so early in the campaign.
“To be honest, I thought I would need some more time to get into the racing mode again as we have seen in the past that the so called 'comeback kids' do need a kind of 'heating up' phase,” he told the official F1 website, “But the team and the strong performance of the car made it very easy for me to immediately switch back on again and deliver such strong performances.”
Those performances prompted notoriously hard-nosed Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko to claim that the German had been the 'surprise of the season', but Sutil knows that there is more to come from both himself and the VJM06, particularly after a frustrating race in Malaysia, where Force India was forced to retire both of its cars from promising positions after problems with development wheel nuts.
“If you want to improve as a team, you have to go a high risk, and things like this happen…,” he reflected, “The team tested this nut a hundred times without any problems – and, in Melbourne, it worked super. Only in Malaysia did it become somewhat bedevilled”
“More important than anything else, however, is the fact that our car is fast. Now we have to keep that momentum - and I don't see any reason why we shouldn't. We have a strong package and we need to score as many points as possible as long as we are in this position. This weekend, and Bahrain next week, should be two more races where we can push and fight for good results and points. Everything beyond that, we will have to see.”