Updated: Wednesday, 3rd June 2020 @ 3:06pm

F1 Opinion: Seatless Sutil paying the price for off track allegations

F1 Opinion: Seatless Sutil paying the price for off track allegations

By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent 

Adrian Sutil had arguably his best season yet in Formula 1 last year, leading the Force India team to a highly competitive sixth place in the constructors’ standings. 

Yet Sutil – who finished ninth in the drivers’ championship, only behind the drivers from the ‘Big Four’ of Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes – has no drive for 2012.

And with the only unfilled seat remaining at the troubled Hispania team at the back of the grid, it looks almost certain the German will not take part in F1 this year.

Despite scoring 42 of his team’s 67 points, Sutil has been replaced by compatriot Nico Hulkenberg at Force India after he impressed in his position as reserve for 2011. 

Hulkenberg partners the highly rated Scot Paul Di Resta but in truth the team will most likely struggle to match their 2011 performance with Toro Rosso, Williams and Sauber eager to regain ground on the former Jordan outfit in a congested midfield. 

So why does Sutil have no drive this year?  

The answer can be traced as far back as April last year in an incident in a Shanghai nightclub following the Chinese Grand Prix.  Renault executive Eric Lux accused Sutil of physical assault and has filed a claim of grievous bodily harm in addition to this. 

Sutil apologised without detailing the incident other than to say he 'unintentionally hurt another person' but Lux has pressed ahead with the case and the driver now faces trial on Monday 30 January. 

Despite there being no decision made either way it seems team principals up and down the pit lane have swerved the German, who was touted as a future world champion at one time. 

The sad reality is this was the only sensible decision to be made from the powers that be – potential convicted criminals as employees do not make PR friendly headlines and could deter sponsors, so vital to the sport in this day and age. 

If anyone needs further proof of a driver being avoided due to negative headlines, look at Nelson Piquet Jr. 

He infamously crashed on purpose in Singapore in one of the darkest days in F1’s history to allow then teammate Fernando Alonso to take advantage of the subsequent safety car and win the race.

The Brazilian has not driven in Formula 1 since losing his seat at Renault mid-season, which led to him spilling the beans on the team’s dark secret.  

Prosecutors are reportedly looking for a suspended sentence for Sutil, who is said to be looking forward to the case so he can put his side of the story across. 

He has a high profile supporter in his close friend Lewis Hamilton, who has said he will give evidence as a defence witness as he was in the same Shanghai nightclub after his race win.    

Commitments with McLaren however will stop the 2008 World Champion appearing in court on Monday with the team's 2012 car being launched later next week. 

Whatever happens, it’s sad that F1 will lose an immensely talented driver for at least a season over something completely unrelated to the sport or his performance.