February 24th, 2013 (F1plus/Rosie Baillie).- The majority of teams confirmed their drivers at the end of last year or before Winter Testing began, however Force India have chosen to attend testing with two drivers still vying for one spot.
Last week saw Force India test driver Jules Bianchi and 2011 Force India driver Adrian Sutil take it in turns testing this year’s challenger, the VJM06. Despite stating that it wasn’t a shoot out, Team Principal Bob Fernley commented that the information taken from last week’s testing would be used to help the team make a decision this weekend. Perhaps someone should explain the definition of shoot out to Force India.
Why are they leaving it this late?
Quite simply, they’re being careful and making sure they choose the driver that’s the best fit, however it appears it isn’t quite as simple as ensuring the driver is great out on track.
Ex-Williams driver Bruno Senna recently said that he was in talks with Force India, but it all fell apart for him as ‘they apparently have other priorities at the moment’.
Speculation is that the team are in financial trouble as Kingfisher Airlines, who are a sponsor of the team and are chaired by Vijay Mallya are in serious financial trouble and have had their fleet grounded. Therefore it makes sense that the team aren’t just looking for a brilliant driver, they’re looking for a brilliant driver with enough sponsorship behind him to make up for the lack of sponsorship from Kingfisher Airlines.
Force India may also be looking ahead and preparing for 2014 when the rules and regulations are set to change. With Bianchi’s link to Ferrari through the Young Driver Program and Sutil’s link to Mercedes, Force India may be taking into account who they’d quite like to supply their engines in 2014.
Is it going to do them any harm?
In short; no, probably not.
Force India’s decision to leave it this late has created a fair amount of buzz amongst fans and has generated a few articles and blog post about them, like this one, so it’s hardly done the team any damage. As the saying goes, any publicity is good publicity, so if anything it’s created more interest in the team.
With both Bianchi and Sutil desperate for that last spot they will have both been driving well during testing, so the data from both drivers will be useful for the team and it won’t do them any harm to get information from three different driving styles either.
Whoever doesn’t get the drive will probably continue to work with the team throughout the year anyway as a test driver and will contribute to the development of the car, so the team really isn’t losing out at all.
Is it fair to keep drivers waiting this long?
It certainly doesn’t seem very fair. Both Sutil and Bianchi will have been training and preparing themselves over the past few months for the possibility that they’ll be driving in Formula 1 this year, and one of them won’t be. It does seem a little cruel to drag it out this long.
What do you think about Force India leaving it this long to announce their second driver?