Adrian Sutil has revealed his disappointment at Sahara Force India's decision to focus on the 2014 F1 season rather than press on with a promising car last year.
The German returned to the fold after a season on the sidelines in 2012, and opened his campaign with a points finish in Australia. Although he then suffered two successive DNFs, team-mate Paul di Resta continued the scoring run as Force India made the most of Pirelli tyres which clearly suited its VJM06. Even before the FIA mandated a change of compound and construction following a spate of tyre failures during the British Grand Prix, however, the Silverstone-based team had already turned its attention to 2014, frustrating Sutil's hopes of pushing for his first F1 podium.
“I am a bit ashamed that Force India stopped development of the car so early in the season, because I think it could have been an exceptional season for the drivers and for the team,” he told Sky Sports
, “The change of tyres and cut of development in the car in April/May slowed us down too much and we couldn't perform as we did in the early races.
"We were sometimes really close to a podium in the first part of the season, which was a great success. At the end, it was more difficult, but we still had some good results, like in India and Abu Dhabi. So it was up and down. I am still quite happy with the season and we secured sixth in the championship which was a good reward."
Sutil's deal came late in the day, the German seeing off the challenge of 2012 reserve Jules Bianchi to reclaim his place alongside di Resta, and he accepts that that had some bearing on his performances.
“It is not easy to step in after one year with no driving at all and only being given two test days before the race, so I think I am quite happy,” he noted, "To be 100 per cent was a little bit difficult; to squeeze out the last bit in qualifying was a little bit difficult - but it was easier than I thought.
“I got back in the car very fresh and very relaxed and I think that balanced it out a little bit, but I would say my peak performance came in from Monaco onwards, when I felt good in the car and could show my performance."
Insisting that he never felt his career was over while he sat out 2012, Sutil used his time to explore alternatives to the only team he has ever known in the top flight – having been a part of the former Jordan operation in its Midland, Spyker and Force India guises. As a result, Sutil moves to Sauber for 2014, revealing that he began talking to the Swiss team during his time out, and will be the senior partner in a line-up that pairs him with second year driver Esteban Gutierrez.
“It is normally the combination that you want to have - you want to have a rookie driver or a young guy with an experienced driver who can teach the young driver a few things,” he reasoned, “I mean, I am not an old driver - I am only middle-aged in F1 at 30-years-old, and I am still young and keen for success - but I have my experience with six years already in F1, so I feel I am quite prepared and I can maybe give this experience to a younger driver as well a little bit.”