Adrian Sutil showed no signs of rustiness on his official return to Formula One in Melbourne on Friday as he finished both practice sessions inside the top ten.
“It was a very good day and I feel satisfied. The baseline set-up was not too far away from what we needed and the car felt very similar to the way it performed in Barcelona at the final test.
“I had a good feeling all day and enjoyed working with my engineers, who I already know very well.”
The German driver was dropped by Force India at the end of the 2011 season following an incident in a Chinese nightclub which resulted in Sutil being charged with GBH. However, after Nico Hulkenberg left the team to join Sauber for 2013, Sutil was given a second chance in the sport.
Many pundits questioned the move as some drivers have struggled following time out from F1 (most notably Michael Schumacher). Sutil not only out-paced teammate Paul di Resta in practice, but he also finished inside the top ten in what were two very close sessions. The Force India driver underlined the importance of getting used to the new tires in time for the race on Sunday.
“The track is obviously evolving and improving, but we got a good feel for the tires. The main focus tonight is to work on improving the balance on the super-softs.”
Sutil’s pace in practice was indeed competitive, and if he can continue this form on Saturday and Sunday he could quickly establish himself as the number one driver at Force India despite his year out.
MotorSportsTalk continues its review of the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with a look at Ryan Briscoe. Despite not having a ride to start the year, Briscoe ended strongly courtesy of a series of strong runs at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Ryan Briscoe, No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
- 2014: 11th Place, Best Finish 4th, Best Start 4th, 1 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 12.8 Avg. Start, 10.6 Avg. Finish
- 2015: 18th Place (8 starts), Best Finish 5th, Best Start 2nd, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 10 Laps Led, 17.8 Avg. Start, 12.0 Avg. Finish
For those who slag on Briscoe as being undeserving of top level equipment, his 2015 second half provided a friendly reminder of his overall ability level in what might be less than the best machinery.
Briscoe was thrust into the No. 5 car under trying circumstances to begin with, getting all of an hour’s worth practice replacing the injured James Hinchcliffe ahead of the Indianapolis 500. But subsequent drives on the ovals there, Texas, Fontana, Milwaukee and Iowa – even if the results were less than ideal – showcased a driver determined to show to the paddock he still had it, and then some. His defense against Juan Pablo Montoya in Sonoma was nothing short of brilliant, and courtesy of double points he actually finished ahead of full-season driver Stefano Coletti.
The Australian immediately gelled with the SPM team, engineer Allen McDonald and race strategist Robert Gue. He continues to prove he’s an asset, as he has enjoyed multiple opportunities to extend his career in various arenas of motorsport in both open-wheel and sports cars, the latter of which he won at both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Corvette Racing this year.
Following an early retirement for Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton has closed even more on his third Formula 1 World Championship.
View it above in the race recap from the 2015 Russian Grand Prix.