Adrian Sutil was satisfied with his performance after making his F1 return
German driver on the pace testing for Force India
By Mike Wise in Barcelona. Last Updated: February 28, 2013 3:26pm
Adrian Sutil said he was satisfied with his performance on Thursday after returning to the cockpit of a Formula 1 car for the first time in well over a year.
The German tested for Force India, having last raced for them at the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix. The intervening period has, of course, seen the 30-year-old making the wrong sorts of headlines - Sutil being convicted early last year on a charge of aggravated assault.
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"After one and a half years out of the car, it's different when you step back in there. But I was actually up to a certain pace quite quickly," said Sutil, who ended the day eighth fastest overall after completing 78 laps in total.
"More or less a good day. I got a few laps and it's good to be back in a Formula 1 car."
Sutil hands over the VJM06 to Jules Bianchi - the other driver in the running to be Paul di Resta's team-mate - on Friday.
With rain forecast, the Frenchman faces a hopeless task if this week's running is indeed the 'showdown' that has been billed in part of the media. But Sutil doesn't see it that way.
"I don't think so," he said. "They know me for five or six years now and they know how my performance is. A lot of drivers show that when you're not driving for a year and come back, you can do that quite easily.
Sutil returns to the track
"If you're out a longer time, two or three years, it gets more difficult. But one year is not a problem and it was obvious today that I'm still quick and that's very important. Hopefully I'll get the drive...what can I say?"
Sutil readily admitted that talent is only part of the equation. He brings sponsorship with him while Bianchi is backed by Ferrari, thus offering the scope for a switch to their engines in 2014.
"There's one more competitor in there and it's not all about driving; there's a little bit of business behind it," he said.
"If you think about it, it has to be about something else, otherwise they would have announced the driver in January in plenty of time before the first test. They know that is not optimal for the preparation for Melbourne but I think (team boss) Vijay (Mallya)'s behind it and he tries to make the decision as quick as possible.
"I don't know why it's such a waiting period at the moment. Some say it's probably an engine deal for 2014, maybe there's an offer from Ferrari - I don't really know."
Convicted in January 2012 of assaulting Eric Lux, CEO of Genii Capital (owners of the Lotus F1 team), in a Shanghai nightclub after the previous year's Chinese Grand Prix, Sutil was handed an 18-month suspended prison sentence and fined €200,000.
There have been question marks about whether his criminal record might bar entry to certain countries on the F1 calendar but Sutil said he would be free to travel.
"Travelling is not a problem, it's all sorted. So it's really about their [the team's] decision. Today they've seen I'm able to drive the car still," he said.
Sutil admitted that the late invitation to test had necessarily limited his preparations. But with less than four weeks to go now before the first race of the season, he was confident he would be in better shape if the call comes to race.
"Tomorrow I may have a little bit of pain or so but it's okay," the 30-year-old added. "I prepared myself of course but the call for the test was quite late so better preparation would have helped.
"But I was working on my physical condition in the last couple of months. You never know: during the last season I was always expecting someone maybe dropping out and I would get the drive. I've got quite a lot of time for training but it's always different to go in a car."