LONDON Adrian Sutil sealed his Formula One comeback on Thursday with Force India announcing they had given the 30-year-old German racer a second chance as team mate to Britain's Paul Di Resta this season.
The Silverstone-based team said in a long-awaited statement that they had re-signed the driver dropped at the end of 2011 to make way for compatriot Nico Hulkenberg, who has since moved on to Sauber.
The season starts in Australia on March 17 and Sutil's appointment fills the last remaining vacancy on the starting grid.
"I'm delighted to be back in Formula One, especially with a team I know so well," Sutil said in a statement issued by the team. "I'm very happy and I want to thank Sahara Force India for giving me a second chance.
"Having been away from the sport, I'm even more determined to achieve my goals in Formula One. Things went really well at the Barcelona test last week and it almost feels as though I've never been away."
The announcement came as no surprise after Nicolas Todt, manager to Sutil's rival for the seat Jules Bianchi, told Reuters on Wednesday he had been told by the team that the Frenchman had lost out.
Second chances are rare in Formula One but money has always talked and it was no secret that commercial considerations played a part in Sutil's return.
The German seemed last year to have a mountain to climb to get back into the sport after being given an 18-month suspended jail sentence and fined 200,000 eurosfor grievous bodily harm following a Shanghai nightclub brawl in 2011.
Eric Lux, the then-chief executive of Renault F1 (now Lotus) team owners Genii Capital, needed stitches for a neck wound caused by a champagne glass in that fracas.
If an unadventurous choice for some, Sutil will be a known quantity for the mid-grid team - despite last week's Barcelona test being his first time in a Formula One car in more than a year - after racing for them from 2007 to 2011.
He and Di Resta were also team mates in 2011, when Sutil scored more points and finished ninth overall. The German's best result was fourth in the 2009 Italian Grand Prix, where he started on the front row.
"The decision over our driver line-up has not been an easy one and we have given it great consideration over the last few months," said team co-owner Vijay Mallya.
"It was a close call, but ultimately we felt that Adrian's experience and historic links to the team gave him the edge, and will provide us with the best possible chance of realising our ambitions for the coming season.
"If he can rediscover the exceptional form he showed in the second half of 2011, I'm confident that we can pick up where we left off at the end of 2012," added the Indian drinks tycoon.
Mallya said Bianchi, who is a Ferrari academy driver as well as being last year's Force India reserve, had impressed the team and they hoped to continue working with him to help him to get a future race seat. (Editing by Clare Fallon)
Trending On Reuters
Atletico Madrid reached the Champions League final on away goals on Tuesday after a 2-1 defeat at Bayern Munich, in which both sides missed a penalty, with the exhilarating tie finishing 2-2 on aggregate. Full Article | Related Story