NUERBURGRING, Germany (Reuters) - Formula One driver Adrian Sutil is very much his own man.
Unlike many others, the German believes he could one day win the world title with modest, if improving, Force India. He also thinks his year away from the sport after a conviction for grievous bodily harm has actually made him stronger.
Adding to his image as a outsider, the 30-year-old is one of three drivers who is not a member of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association which has threatened a boycott of this Sunday’s German Grand Prix if the Silverstone tyre blowouts are repeated.
But Sutil does not need to be in a union to hold opinions.
“Yes I would think about (a boycott),” he told reporters on Friday.
”I don’t need to be a GPDA member to decide if I drive or not, that’s my decision that I‘m here in Formula One, no one is pushing me to that. I decide if I drive qualifying tomorrow or not. It’s simple.
“I was in GPDA a few years, I was out of it, maybe I’ll come in again. I think it’s a good thing though.”
Another rebel in the F1 paddock is Kimi Raikkonen and the Finn has said he will drive his Lotus “whatever happens” on Sunday.
Pirelli has, though, brought new tyres to the Nuerburgring using synthetic fibre Kevlar rather than the inner steel of Silverstone. Guidance has also been issued to teams about the correct usage of the tyres and pressures required.
Experts do not expect any tyre issues in Germany after the first two practice sessions passed without incident and the same pundits would be even more surprised if Sutil’s bold prediction of a future world title came true.
The German is fiercely ambitious, though, as seen in his answers to questions posed by members of Thomson Reuters' new Global Sports Forum (to join click here)
“I think we can expect everything, I‘m working hard for a podium, this is my goal. It’s maybe more difficult than I expected, it’s almost 100 grands prixs and I haven’t been on the podium, always close,” he said.
”I don’t want to wait forever. I want to win races and be world champion, it doesn’t matter what car I‘m in. It’s all about performance but at the moment the team is fifth in the constructors’ but there are not too many teams infront of us.
“Who says that Force India will never be champion? Even Red Bull made it and Red Bull are not a manufacturer.”
Sutil was fourth quickest in first practice in front of his home fans having been an impressive third in the closing stages at Silverstone last Sunday and poised for his first podium before late overtaking left him seventh.
His comeback is remarkable given an 18-month suspended jail sentence and 200,000 euros fine 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.
Sutil’s friendship with 2008 world champion Lewis hamilton was also badly damaged after the Briton failed to appear as a witness on his behalf at the court case in Munich last year.
The setbacks are now seen as positives.
“I hope I‘m a better driver, if you are getting worse over the years you do something wrong. I think when you have the experience and you are still young, it’s the perfect combination,” he said.
“Thirty? I don’t think you are an old driver, you are right in the middle. I had a year off, quite positive I think and maybe it makes me a bit stronger.”
Editing by John Mehaffey