Day Six: Force India

On the sixth day of Christmas, Ben Sweeney gave to me… Force India

Drivers: Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil
Championship Standings: 5th
Highest Finish: 4th (Di Resta, Bahrain)

Force India lost Nico Hulkenberg to Sauber and delayed announcing his replacement which gave them a monopoly on the drivers looking for a seat. Narrowing the list down to Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi, they ran both men at the pre-season tests and finally chose Sutil as their second driver. Bianchi accepted an offer at Marussia.

The team got off to a good start to their 2013 campaign when Sutil finished seventh and Di Resta finished eighth in the curtain-opening Australian Grand Prix. Force India had always targeted fifth place in the Championship but this was beginning to look like the year when that was achievable. However, the team suffered a double DNF in Malaysia due to a problem with their wheelnut design. Di Rest a was the first to pit and endured an extremely long stop before the team pulled him into the garage to retire him, while Sutil came in later to the same fate.

After their disappointment in Sepang, the team weren’t too unhappy with eighth in Shanghai for Di Resta while Sutil was the innocent victim of a race-start battering – first making slight contact with Di Resta and then rear-ended by Gutierrez at high-speed which ended his race. Sutil made contact with Vergne in Bahrain and finished the race in thirteenth while di Resta finished just shy of the podium, in fourth to record the team’s best result to date this season. Sutil repeated his thirteenth in Catalunya while Di Resta finished seventh.

Di Resta had a very disappointing qualifying session in Monaco to qualify in seventeenth while Sutil lined up eighth on the grid. Both cars had a strong race performance and Sutil finished fifth with Di Resta ninth. They repeated their Qualifying results in Canada with Di Resta seventeenth and Sutil eighth, and once again Di Resta battled up the field to a points finish. He finished seventh while Sutil dropped to tenth. Di Resta’s joy at Qualifying fifth for his home Grand Prix was soon taken from him when stewards ruled that his car was underweight and he was sent to the back of the grid. For the third race in a row he battled from the back and into the points, finishing ninth to Sutil’s seventh.

Both Force India’s dropped out of Qualifying during Q2 for the German Grand Prix and they failed to make it into the points during the race – Di Resta finished eleventh and Sutil finished thirteenth at his home round. The team was also given a €5,000 for the unsafe release of Di Resta into the path of Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne. Another poor Qualifying session in Hungary left Di Resta eighteenth and Sutil eleventh on the grid. It was another double DNF for the team who suffered hydraulics issues on the cars, losing Sutil early in the race and Di Resta in the closing stages.

Coming back from the summer break, both Force Indias clashed with Williams’ Pastor Maldonado. Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez overtook both Sutil and Maldonado. Sutil tried to follow the Mexican past the Venezuelan but hit Maldonado’s front wing. Maldonado darted for the pits and t-boned Paul di Resta who had taken a wide line into the final corner to avoid the chaos. As a result, Di Resta retired on the spot while Sutil continued on to ninth.

Di Resta was no more fortunate at the next Grand Prix in Monza. The Scotsman misjudged his braking zone into the fifth corner and rear-ended Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, again retiring on the spot. Sutil retired in the later stages of the race with a brakes failure. Sutil made it into the points in Singapore when he took tenth, while Di Resta had his fourth consecutive DNF after he crashed into the track-lining barriers.

In Korea, Perez pushed di Resta off the track in the early stages of the race, but while stewards were investigating the incident, he spun out of the race – his fifth consecutive retirement. In the other Force India, Sutil spun his Force India in a straight line into T3, spearing Mark Webber’s Red Bull which then burst into flames. The damage from the incident caused Sutil to eventually pull into the pits and retire the car.

Sutil incurred a five-place grid penalty at the next race in Japan for changing his gearbox on Friday. He started in 22nd and moved up to 14th during the race. Di Resta survived the race and finished eleventh. The duo made it into the points at the Buddh International Circuit when di Resta finished eighth with Sutil behind him in ninth. Di Resta improved again for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, at one stage running second en route to sixth. Sutil lacked his team-mates pace but still finished in the points – tenth in the classification.

Sutil had a peculiar incident with Maldonado on the back-straight of the first lap. Trying to overtake the Venezuelan, he passed him and moved across too soon, spinning his VJM-07 into a violent impact against the track-side barriers. He was okay, but his car wasn’t and he retired on the spot. Di Resta finished well down the order in fifteenth. And so to Brazil where di Resta lined up twelfth ahead of Sutil in sixteenth. Neither men had particularly stand-out races and di Resta finished eleventh. Sutil was thirteenth.

The second half of the season proved to be an enormous disappointment to the team and their fans, particularly after the early season which saw them hold a considerable lead over McLaren. Once again the team have finished the season podium-less. It was recently confirmed that Nico Hulkenberg would return to Force India, meaning at least one of Force India’s 2013 line-up wont be at the team next year. The estimated guess is that Paul di Resta will wave goodbye to the sport and either take up a seat in IndyCar or return to DTM. As for Sutil, he could be left battling for a seat at Sauber or Marussia should Force India replace him with the likes of James Calado.

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