Adrian Sutil returns to F1 and Force India as Paul di Resta's team-mate for 2013
German veteran chosen ahead of Jules Bianchi for final seat
Last Updated: 01/03/13 6:19pm
Force India have reappointed Adrian Sutil as team-mate for Paul di Resta, with the German filling the last remaining driver vacancy for the upcoming 2013 season.
The German spent last season on the sidelines, but will return to the team which he drove for in various guises between 2007 and 2011.
After an absence measured at exactly 452 days, Sutil made his comeback behind the wheel of a F1 car at last week's Barcelona test when he immediately impressed in the VJM06.
The 30-year-old's impending return to a race seat at the Silverstone-based team had proved the worst kept secret in the sport over recent days, and speaking for the first time following the confirmation, the driver expressed his gratitude towards the team for what he himself termed "a second chance".
"I'm delighted to be back in Formula 1, especially with a team I know so well," Sutil said.
"I'm very happy and I want to thank Sahara Force India for giving me a second chance. Having been away from the sport, I'm even more determined to achieve my goals in Formula 1."
Having returned to an F1 cockpit on Day Three of last week's Barcelona test, Sutil says he felt he had been able to pick up where he left off in 2011.
"Things went really well at the Barcelona test last week and it almost feels as though I've never been away," he added.
"Driving the car felt so natural and I was able to get back in the groove quickly and find the limit. Now my focus is on making the most of the final test session this week, working with the team in the simulator and getting myself in the best possible shape for Melbourne."
Sutil had been in direct competition for the seat with the Ferrari-backed Jules Bianchi and Force India co-owner Vijay Mallya admitted it had been a "close call" between the two of them.
And although overlooked for the race seat, Mallya expressed hope that Bianchi would stay on as their third driver.
"The decision over our driver line-up has not been an easy one and we have given it great consideration over the last few months," Mallya explained.
"It was a close call, but ultimately we felt that Adrian's experience and historic links to the team gave him the edge, and will provide us with the best possible chance of realising our ambitions for the coming season. If he can rediscover the exceptional form he showed in the second half of 2011, I'm confident that we can pick up where we left off at the end of 2012.
"As for Jules Bianchi, he has impressed us enormously with his speed and work ethic, and I'm hopeful we can continue working with him this year to help him develop into a future Grand Prix driver."
The new F1 season begins on March 17 in Melbourne, Australia. Statisticians may be interested to know that, with Sutil's appointment conclusively closing the 2013 door on the likes of Heikki Kovalainen and Bruno Senna, only 16 of the 24 drivers who participated in the season-opening Australian GP a year ago will be on the grid for next month's curtain raiser.
The 2013 Grid in full
Red Bull: Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
Ferrari: Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.
McLaren: Jenson Button and Sergio Perez.
Lotus: Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.
Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Sauber: Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez.
Williams: Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas.
Force India: Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil.
Toro Rosso: Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Caterham: Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde.
Marussia: Luiz Razia and Jules Bianchi.