Adrian Sutil has staked his claim to a prolonged stay in Formula 1 by insisting that he'd 'be fast in a McLaren'.
There is considerable speculation swirling around the paddock at present regarding the safety of the German's seat at Force India in 2009, following the team's recent tie-up with McLaren-Mercedes for engine supply, KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) technology and other technical support from next season.
Moreover, McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa took to the track for the Silverstone-based squad during the first major group test of the winter in Barcelona this week, and long-time Mercedes-Benz protégé and DTM Vice-Champion Paul di Resta has made no secret of his desire to be on the grid next year. Sutil, though, insisted he was unperturbed by de la Rosa's appearance in the cockpit at the Circuit de Catalunya.
“I've got everything wrapped up,” he told German website Motorsports-Magazine.com
. “The very first day he (de la Rosa) was here, he was able to tell us where the shortcomings were.
“We drove the same programme and I was faster than Pedro by 1.2 seconds. I'm used to the car and I quite like it when it gets twitchy. If I were driving a McLaren it might be a different story, but even so, I would still be fast.”
In a separate interview with Sport Bild
newspaper, Sutil added that 'there is no reason' to talk to any other teams 'at the moment', insisting: “The team has told me quite clearly that they are counting on me. Anyway, I have a valid contract for 2009.”
That echoes the conviction of the 25-year-old's manager Manfred Zimmerman, who contends that Force India F1 managing director and chairman Dr Vijay Mallya has consistently repeated that his driver is '100 per cent' safe for next year [see separate story – click here
], even if the Indian has also acknowledged that he would be 'hard-pressed to ignore' advice from McLaren in terms of drivers in light of the new partnership [see separate story – click here
In contrast to FIF1's erstwhile relationship with Ferrari, there will be far more McLaren input into the 2009 VJM-03, and Sutil is clearly relishing getting behind the wheel of the car for the first time in late February.
“We've now got a working relationship with a factory,” he enthused. “We're not just importing engines.”