Formula One drivers thrive on adrenaline rush, which pushes them to the limit. But what happens when an F1 driver, after spending a considerable time on the circuit, spends a year in the wilderness, away from the glitz and glamour of the sport?
There was no better person than Adrian Sutil to answer that question on Friday. "I was absolutely away from racing. I had time to relax, do other things, lead a normal life…spend time with my family and girlfriend, think about my career and analyse it," said the Force India driver who is making a comeback this season, starting with the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne next weekend.
Sutil has a strong connection with the Force India team. The German, who entered the F1 circuit in 2006, has spent his entire career with the same constructor (formerly Spyker and Midlands). He will be teaming up again with Paul Di Resta, in a paddock filled with familiar faces. "It's a second chance…a new beginning. Force India was the only option for me; it was the last seat available. I was waiting for a long time and finally the announcement came," he said.
But it has not been easy for Sutil to claw back. "Small teams are struggling a lot. Wherever you go, they ask for sponsorships. So, I knew it was going to be difficult," he said.
Ray of hope
Although he was replaced by Nico Hulkenberg for the 2012 season, Sutil had a ray of hope to make a comeback midway through the season. "I was always prepared for openings, in case a driver had under-performed…" He also constantly kept in touch with the Force India folks. "Previous connections helped. I also tried to help them and visited the team at Silverstone," he said.
Sutil put aside the infamous incident in 2011 where he hurt the CEO of Genii Capital, Eric Lux, at Shanghai. The incident also led to an acrimonious relationship with Lewis Hamilton, who did not testify on behalf of the German. "It was lesson, I learnt a lot of things. I have no hard feelings," he said, opting to sort things with Hamilton privately.
He has a clear intention: To set sights on victory. "I am not in F1 just to race, but to be the world champion. And, if you never fall, you will never be a world champ."