Bob Fernley says Adrian Sutil's experience won him the second seat at Force India
Deputy Team Principal thinks German will help them achieve their goals
By William Esler. Last Updated: March 6, 2013 4:54pm
Force India's Deputy Team Principal Bob Fernley says it was a difficult decision to pick Adrian Sutil over Jules Bianchi, but that the German's experience swayed it in his favour.
The Silverstone-based team were the last to announce their driver line-up, with the 30-year-old only being confirmed at the third and final pre-season test.
Both drivers were given a chance to impress with a day in the car at the second test, but having started 90 races - compared to Bianchi who is yet to contest a race - Fernley says the team felt that the additional knowledge would be help them achieve their goals in 2013.
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"I think last week Adrian came and did a test for us here which was exemplary - that is not any disrespect to Jules because it was a very, very hard a close decision between the two of them," Fernley told Sky Sports F1.
"We just felt Adrian has that bit more experience which will help us do what we need to do this year.
"If you saw the way that Adrian has carried himself since the test last week, I think he has learnt a lot from being out for a year. Adrian always has been very fast, but we had to make a decision for 2012 whether to run Nico (Hulkenberg) or Adrian and we went for Nico, but I think he deserved a second chance and that is what we are giving him.
"It is as if he had never been away. Last week he just jumped in the car and within 20 laps he was up to speed and was very relaxed and not finding anything too difficult. I am not worried about his qualifying but I think his race-craft could be rusty. We had the same with Nico last year after his year out, so we may have to accept that for the first two or three races he will be trying to get back into it."
Fernley hinted that had they opted for Bianchi, 2014 could have seen a return to Ferrari power. The fact that they haven't suggests Force India will look to continue a partnership with Mercedes that started in 2009.
"I think when we are doing all the negotiations for 2014, we are trying to get the best technical and financial package and for sure Ferrari would have been very helpful in working with us had we gone for Jules," he said.
"But we have to make decisions that are best for the team and the shareholders."
As for the team's goals in 2013, Fernley feels they head into the season in better shape than in previous years and is hoping they can take their first podium finish since Giancarlo Fisichella achieved the feat at Spa in 2009.
"I think the difference between this year and others will be that when we get to Melbourne the car will be performing at its optimum," he said.
"In 2011 and 2012 we were actually behind and didn't really get going until after Barcelona.
"We are hopeful we can start as we finished off last year - we finished in the points at the last nine races in 2012. More importantly, when those podium opportunities come along this year we have to take them."