With Sauber set to partner Nico Hülkenberg with Esteban Gutiérrez, the German’s Force India seat is up for grabs and a queue of eager Formula 1 drivers are desperate to remain or return to the sport. Team owner Vijay Mallya’s economic empire is crumbling, hinting at an uncertain future for the team. But with the potential to score points, many F1 drivers are lining up to survive- but who will be the best fit for Force India? And who would you pick?
1. Jules Bianchi. The Frenchman combined a successful season of Formula Renault 3.5 with eight Friday sessions for Force India. He’s definitely quick and has some experience from testing Ferrari and Force India cars, which is crucial considering the lack of testing opportunities for rookies. It’s also worth noting that Bianchi’s personal sponsor, Brazilian car parts company Aethra, is now a noticeable sponsor for Sahara Force India.
2. Adrian Sutil. The ex-Force India ace relinquished his seat to countryman Nico Hülkenberg following the scandalous fracas with Eric Lux in a Shanghai nightclub. But with Hülkenberg out, the experienced Sutil could find himself back in the cockpit of a Force India. Despite missing a year of action, Sutil still caries hefty sponsorship from Medion and Capri-Sun.
3. Sebastien Buemi. The Red Bull reserve was hoping for a Sauber seat, but he is no longer in the running. Buemi, like Sutil, has also skipped out on 2012, but has kept busy with endurance racing. With Antonio Felix da Costa, Carlos Sainz Jr., and Daniil Kvyat rising through the ranks, Buemi’s Red Bull job could be at stake. However, his consistency and speed could hand him a Force India contract.
4. Luiz Razia. Like Bianchi, Razia finished runner-up in a premier feeder series and has plenty of F1 testing experience. Throughout his career, Razia’s tested a Virgin, Caterham (née Lotus), Force India, and will soon test the STR7. The Bahian has also amassed sponsorship, which could make him an attractive option for Force India.
5. Charles Pic. Rumours had pointed the Frenchman in the direction of Caterham, but he is still on the market. With Max Chilton tipped to take his spot alongside Glock, Pic is searching for a seat. With his large amount of cash (from the family business) and status as the best rookie to challenge Glock, Pic could fit in at Force India.
6. Kamui Kobayashi. The Sauber refugee carries no money, but has reached the podium.
7. Bruno Senna. On the other hand, Bruno Senna does carry substantial sponsorship.
8. Giedo van der Garde. The Dutchman’s McGregor backing has kept him on the market for a couple of years now, but an average GP2 record may prevent teams from signing him.