Second chance Sutil
Photo: LAT PhotographicOriginally posted at MichaelLamonato.com First, I have to say how great a relief it is Force India has finally named a second driver. Speculation might feed the press mill, but it weakens the team’s preparation.Second, I have to express my disappointment Adrian Sutil is that second driver.Adrian Sutil, if you’re a little foggy, rose modestly, though not undeservedly, through the ranks of junior formulae to begin an exceedingly average Formula One career. Granted, a significant portion of the blame for his lacklustre appearances rests with his deeply uncompetitive cars at the time. But while he was praised for his ability to beat team-mates, his performances were, overall, inconsistent.Everything changed in 2010 when an improved VJM03 (coupled with the FIA awarding points all the way to tenth, instead of eighth) gave the German a sniff at success. His consistency over the next two years backed up his claims that he might make a decent Formula One racer of himself after all.But stop there. Cue China, 2011. You’re in a private nightclub in Shanghai. Lewis Hamilton is celebrating his thrilling victory at the Chinese Grand Prix. You’re surrounded by a select group of Formula One’s biggest names. Then, through the party haze, you hear some glass shatter, some blood is spilt, and suddenly people are quietly but purposefully ushering themselves away from the scene.Adrian Sutil has glassed Renault owner Eric Lux in the neck, and set in motion a series of events that should have seen his Formula One career fall to pieces as surely as his champagne flute of choice.For a while, that looked to be the case. Nico Hülkenberg took his Force India drive by the end of the year, despite his improved form. Sutil was without a seat, and looked unlikely to find another – especially when he was finally found guilty of grievous bodily harm at the end of January 2012.The German had no choice but to watch from the grandstands last season. No team needed him – or even wanted him. Or so we thought.Hülkenberg’s unexpected promotion to Sauber left Force India with a vacant seat, and it seemed a little apprehensive to throw Jules Bianchi into the fray after just one year as a reserve driver. But then most of the other (well financed) options were similarly inexperienced. A dilemma had presented itself.A knock on the door. It’s Adrian Sutil.He’s a known quantity, with a long history with Force India and its predecessors. He has cash. And he’s available. He was snapped up.I’m all for second chances. If Formula One was totally unforgiving, Romain Grosjean would never have had a chance to prove himself after his disastrous 2009 campaign. We’d never have had Brawn GP. And Formula One would never have returned to America after Indianapolis in 2005.But allow me to completely contradict myself and say I don’t think Sutil deserves his second chance. I accept he made a (huge) mistake, and that he’s sorry – but it isn’t enough.His ability in a Formula One car was only ever thereabouts. He had his chance, and produced merely lukewarm results. The next generation of talent is waiting in the wings. Why choose Sutil?I know that money makes the world go ‘round – Formula One probably more so than any sport – but to choose an old driver with a criminal record (bundled with some extra cash) over a fresh up-and-comer itching to make his own mark on the sport is simply unjust.Admittedly, if Adrian Sutil were as good as Sebastian Vettel I’d probably welcome him back – which makes it ironic I intended to argue the moral high ground when I started writing. But Sutil, so far as he’s demonstrated, is nothing special – and when talent alone can’t keep you in Formula One, you have to work particularly hard to hold on to your seat. Sutil didn’t. He lost his nerve. He blew it.To be clear, this idea doesn’t excuse crime in exchange for talent – certainly not – but challenges whether Formula One needs Adrian Sutil.Perhaps I’m being too harsh – but as I see it, his presence is tarnishing the team and Formula One, and preventing new talent from its well-deserved shot at the pinnacle of motorsport. As far as I’m concerned, we’d be better off without him.