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Force India F1 likely to keep same driver line-up after all..?

16 December 2010

Following all of the uncertainty surrounding its driver line-up for F1 2011 – as the only one of the more established teams yet to confirm the occupant of either of its two cockpits – it seems Force India could end up with no change at all.

Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi competed for the Silverstone-based squad in 2010, but the former has made no secret of his discussions with other teams and the latter is believed to be out-of-favour following a scrappy and inconsistent campaign during which he tallied fewer than half the points that his team-mate did and struggled particularly in qualifying, all-too-often leaving him with a mountain to climb on race day.

The other two candidates in the reckoning for a FIF1 seat next year are test and reserve driver Paul di Resta and Williams refugee Nico Hülkenberg. However, Crash.net understands that the Scot – who has been mooted as all-but a shoo-in for the majority of the season – has underwhelmed team members with his pace and feedback during practice sessions and consistently fallen short of the benchmarks laid down by Sutil and Liuzzi.

The recently-crowned 2010 DTM Champion is being pushed by his manager Anthony Hamilton – father of McLaren-Mercedes star Lewis – and has the support of Force India's deputy team principal Robert Fernley, but Brazilian Grand Prix pole-sitter Hülkenberg is regarded as a more proven quantity.

Against that, though, neither is able to bring any great financial backing to the team – an increasingly important commodity in modern-day F1 – and nor, ostensibly, can Sutil, whose erstwhile revenue streams have dried up somewhat. Chairman and team principal Dr. Vijay Mallya, moreover, did not take kindly to the German's eagerness to examine his alternative options for 2011 – whilst the prospect of an all-Teutonic line-up next year would arguably not be a great one for potential sponsors.

Liuzzi, by contrast, might have underperformed in F1 2010 and therefore on paper be the most likely to lose out, but the Italian is the only one of the four contenders with a contract in-place for next season – a contract that would require a substantial pay-off with money that Force India does not have. That means cutting the Italian loose may not be as simple as it seems, and to further strengthen his position, unlike his three rivals, the 29-year-old is able to swell the team's coffers.

So don't be surprised if, after all of the fuss and speculation over the past few months, FIF1 rocks up to the curtain-raising 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir next March with the same two drivers once again. In F1 of all sports, stranger things have happened.


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