Force India face a difficult decision over their driver line-up for 2011.
In Adrian Sutil, Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg they have three credible candidates for two race seats.
Should they plump for performance over consistency? Experience over potential? Compare the drivers and cast your vote below.
Sutil enjoyed better form in the second half of 2011 than the first, being one of several drivers who raised their game as they became more familiar with the Pirelli tyres.
His season got off to a shaky start as he was often out-qualified by di Resta. He turned that around in the final races and ended up edging his team mate 10-9 over the course of the year.
Sutil is being compared against two drivers who have had only one season in Formula 1 so it’s worth reminding ourselves of his form in his debut season. Driving for the short-lived Spyker team in 2007, points were seldom on offer but eighth place in the rain-soaked Japanese Grand Prix put him on the board.
He compared well against Christijan Albers, who was dropped halfway through the year and Sakon Yamamoto, who spent the final seven races with the team.
The team became Force India the following year and Sutil has remained with them ever since. Only Felipe Massa has been with his present team longer than Sutil.
They are well-placed to judge his strengths and weaknesses and decided whether the experience of Sutil is worth trading against the potential of his two team mates.
Paul di Resta
Di Resta impressed in his first season of F1, not least by completing more laps than any other driver.
Di Resta wasn’t just dependable. He was also quick, taking sixth on the grid for his home race at Silverstone – Force India’s best qualifying result of the year – and was especially impressive on the streets of Singapore, bringing the car home in sixth place.
It’s no secret that the ultimate measures of performance were tilted in Sutil’s favour at the end of the season: he out-scored di Resta 42 points to 27, finished ahead ten times versus six, and spent 562 laps ahead of his team mate compared to 479 for di Resta.
But this is hardly an emphatic margin of superiority for a five-year veteran of the sport versus a first-timer. Particularly when Force India’s late-season strategy of splitting strategies between their drivers is taken into account – a policy that ensured the team collected vital points for the constructors championship but, as with di Resta in India, could leave one of their drivers vulnerable.
It was no reflection on Hulkenberg’s ability that he failed to keep his place at Williams in 2011. The scarcity of sponsors’ logos on the FW33, aside from the PDVSA stickers arriving courtesy of Pastor Maldonado, tells you all you need to know about what happened there.
Hulkenberg’s 2010 record is dismissed by the unenlightened as ‘one fluky pole position’. This is nonsense – not least because his season-defining performance at a damp Interlagos produced not one but two lap times which the likes of Sebastian Vettel were unable to better for pole position.
As the season progress he was increasingly on a par with Barrichello in the races too, and scored points in six of the last ten races.
Small wonder Force India snapped him up as he slipped through Williams’ fingers, and have taken every reasonable opportunity to give him mileage in practice next year.
Who should drive for Force India in 2012?
Who do you think should drive for Force India next year? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.
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Images ?é?® Force India F1 Team, Williams/LAT