Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
After weeks of waiting, Force India today finally announced their 2012 driver line-up. The lucky winners were Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg, who will be behind the steering wheel of the white-orange Force India cars next year.
Hulkenberg was promoted from test driver to regular driver, the talented German had to wait long for a positive decision and the 24-year old was happy with the news. “I’m obviously delighted to be staying with Sahara Force India and to be given the chance to race next year. It wasn’t easy to watch from the sidelines this season, but I did my best to help the team and show what I was capable of,” said Hulkenberg.
Di Resta, officially crowned as Rookie of the Year 2011, was happy to extend his contract with the Indian team. “I’m really looking forward to my second season of Formula One and continuing to grow and develop with Sahara Force India. I’ve said all along that I love being part of this team: they are ambitious, hungry for success and we work well together,” the Scot commented.
Force India team owner and Team Principal Vijay Mallya was proud to finally announce his 2012 drivers. “I am delighted to present our line-up for the 2012 season. In Paul and Nico we have two extremely talented drivers with tremendous potential,” Mallya said.
He praised di Resta for his 2011 performance, “I think Paul caught the eye of everybody in the pit lane during his rookie season. His speed, maturity and race craft confirmed that we were right to believe in him and we look forward to working with him again next year.”
About Hulkenberg Mallya commented, “As for Nico, we identified him as a rising star at the end of 2010 and chose to evaluate him during the course of this season. Despite having only limited time in the car, he convinced us that he deserved a race seat for 2012.”
So, what do both drivers expect ahead of the 2012 season? Di Resta is confident he and his team can continue their recent strong performance, “I’m really excited about 2012 and there is a real sense of belief that we can continue to push the top teams and take another step forward,” di Resta said, adding, “I’d also like to thank the team for all their hard work this year and for all the support they’ve given me. I’ll take some time out over the next few weeks to recharge my batteries and hopefully come back even stronger in 2012.”
German Hulkenberg was equally enthusiastic, “I’m extremely motivated for 2012 and would like to thank everyone for believing in me and giving me this chance,” he stated.
“I’m keen to get down to work over the winter to develop our new car and help the team build on this year’s achievements. The first test in Jerez can’t come soon enough.”
25-year old di Resta, who won the 2006 Formula Three Euroseries and the 2010 German Touringcar Masters (DTM), has now a full season or 19 races under his belt, and has during his first year in Formula One scored 27 Championship points.
Hulkenberg also has 19 Grands Prix under his belt, and in fact just before he was ousted by Williams scored his maiden Formula One pole position during the 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix. He has an even more impressive C.V; he won the Formula BMW ADAC series in 2005, won the 2006-07 A1 GP Championship, the Formula Three Euroseries in 2008 and the GP2 championship in 2009.
The 2012 driver line-up means German Adrian Sutil will now have to look for new employment for the 2012 season, and Mallya thanked him for his efforts, “Our new line-up means we say ‘goodbye’ to Adrian Sutil, who has been with the team since we entered the sport. He has been an integral part of our success over the past four seasons and we wish him well for the future.”
It will be difficult for Sutil to find a race seat for the 2012 campaign, as after earlier this week Toro Rosso also confirmed Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo for 2012, there are really only two seats left, one at HRT and one at Williams.
Sutil is an experienced driver, with 90 Grands Prix under his belt and he has scored 90 World Championship points during his Formula One career. It is rumored the 28-year old driver could soon join the Williams team, but now ex-Toro Rosso drivers Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi are without a doubt also interested in the last Williams seat, which means Sutil and his sponsors will have to fight to get the drive with Williams.
Another possibility could be Team Lotus, next year operating under the name Caterham F1, as there have been reports Jarno Trulli’s seat at the Anglo/Malaysian team is anything but secure.