Adrian Sutil's seat in Formula 1 with Force India is safe, insists the German's manager – despite growing speculation in recent weeks that he could be set to be replaced by either Paul di Resta or Pedro de la Rosa in 2009.
Though he had stressed until recently that both Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella would more than likely remain on-board at the Silverstone-based squad next season, managing director and chairman Dr Vijay Mallya has since admitted that he would now be 'hard-pressed to ignore' the advice of McLaren-Mercedes in terms of drivers, following the team's newly-announced engine supply and technical tie-up with the Woking-based outfit [see separate story – click here
That comment has led to increased whisperings that either long-time Mercedes-Benz protégé and DTM Vice-Champion Paul di Resta – who has made clear his desire to be on the F1 grid in 2009 – or McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa could be placed at Force India as part of the deal. Should such rumours indeed prove to be true, the likely fall guy, it has been suggested, would be Sutil.
The 25-year-old was out-qualified ten times to eight by experienced team-mate Fisichella over the balance of the 2008 campaign in the top flight, and saw the chequered flag on just seven occasions. The best of those finishes was 13th position in Belgium, though he had been on-course for a superb fourth place in Monaco until he was unceremoniously removed from contention by the out-of-control Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen with barely a handful of laps left to run.
Contrary to the speculation that his F1 days may be numbered, however, is the fact that Sutil visited the Force India factory at the end of last week to have a 2009 seat fitting, and will test for two of the three days in Barcelona this week. His manager is adamant his position is not under any kind of threat.
“There is no reason for us to believe that Adrian's place is anything other than safe,” Manfred Zimmermann told motorsport-total.com
, explaining that Sutil not only has a valid contract for 2009, but that Mallya has also re-iterated his security at the team '100 per cent'.