Force India have denied that the decision not to re-sign Adrian Sutil was because of his court case, saying it was performance based...
Force India have denied that the decision not to re-sign Adrian Sutil was because of his court case, saying it was performance based.
Despite putting in a solid showing in the latter half of last year's Championship, Force India opted not to extend Sutil's stay.
Instead, they dropped the German in favour of test driver Nico Hulkenberg, who will partner Paul di Resta this season.
The team's decision, though, came in the wake of the announcement that Sutil would be tried in a German court for causing bodily harm during an incident in a Shanghai nightclub last April.
Sutil has subsequently been found guilty and was handed an 18-month suspended sentence.
"It was a very difficult decision," said Force India's deputy team principal Bob Fernley.
"Adrian did have an exceptional season, he is an extremely talented driver, and as importantly an extremely nice person who fitted in well with the team.
"But we had to look at where we felt our long-term strengths lay. Adrian had been with us for a number of years, and we genuinely believed the future with us was with Paul and Nico.
"We looked at it very carefully. It wasn't something we rushed into, but we had very clear ideas as to where we wanted to build the team for the future.
"It was a close decision, and we felt it was time for Adrian to gain experience outside of Force India.
"We also looked at the whole package, in terms of his raw speed, what he was doing for the team in terms of feedback, knowledge and everything else, and we felt Nico edged it."
It remains to be seen whether Sutil, who will not be in Formula One this season, will have a future in the sport.
"I'm disappointed for Adrian because I don't think he deserves it, he doesn't have a bad thought or bone in his body. It wasn't typical of him at all," said Fernley.
"What I am not sure of, and we've not been able to take it in yet, is what the impact will be on his racing career.
"I don't think it will affect him totally, but sponsors and everybody else might have some different views.
"From our point of view it wouldn't have affected us. Vijay and (primary team sponsors) Sahara are strong enough to be able to say what we want is talent, he made a mistake, he's been judged, and we'll go on.
"However, I don't know how other teams will look at it, and I also don't know the legal implications, such as 'can he go into China?'
"They are things we would have to understand if he was with us."