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Time for Adrian Sutil’s luck to change

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Adrian Sutil’s return to Sahara Force India got off to a great start when he led and finished seventh in Australia, but since then he’s suffered from an appalling run of bad luck, which has kept him out of the points.

In fact the lack of hard results has disguised some remarkable performances from Adrian, especially in the last two races, which are worthy of further investigation.

After the pit stop dramas in Malaysia and assault from Esteban Gutierrez in China Adrian qualified sixth in Bahrain, just 0.011s behind Paul Di Resta. He was confident of a strong race, but early on the first lap he was tagged from behind by Felipe Massa, and sustained a puncture. A long journey back to the pits meant that he lost a lot of time, and by the time he’d changed his tyres, he was a long way behind in last place.

Indeed when he crossed the line at the end of lap 2, immediately after the stop, he was some 81s off second place Sebastian Vettel, who was about to pass Nico Rosberg for the lead.

Some 54 laps later Vettel took the flag as race winner – and by that stage Adrian was 76.7s behind the Red Bull. In other words after that unscheduled first lap stop he completed the remainder of the race 4.3s quicker than Vettel – clear evidence that without the early puncture, he would surely have been challenging for a podium position.

Further proof of Adrian’s pace was that he set the second fastest lap. He was only beaten by a trademark late sprint by Vettel, who as ever was determined to add to his career tally! The margin was only 0.109s, while Adrian’s best was set 11 laps earlier, with a corresponding amount of extra fuel on board.

Heading into the race in Barcelona Adrian was hoping to put his recent bad luck behind him. He was compromised in qualifying when he came out for his final run in Q2 and Jean-Eric Vergne was waved out further down the pitlane. Unable to back off to find space, because another car was coming from behind, he ultimately had to settle for 13th on the grid.

He did at least save some tyres, and quickly made up for qualifying with a strong first lap which saw him surge into eighth place, a position he held until pitting on lap eight.

Alas Adrian’s 2013 bad luck struck again and he was delayed when the right rear wheelnut become cross-threaded, and he was even forced to switch off his engine due to overheating concerns. By the time he accelerated out of the pits he had lost a frustrating 55s relative to a normal pit stop, and for the second race in a row he found himself in last place.

Once again he began lapping quickly, and this time in effect he ran the fourth fastest race pace. He also set the third fastest lap, behind Esteban Gutierrez and Felipe Massa, both of whom set their times after relatively late final stops. Adrian’s best was set much earlier, on lap 38, after his second stop. Fuel corrected it would have been the fastest of the race.

As they say F1 is ‘if’ spelled backwards, but nevertheless Adrian can take some comfort from the pace he has shown, even if the results – an unlucky 13th in both Bahrain and Spain – do not reflect that. Meanwhile everyone at Sahara Force India is very much behind him.

“I felt really sorry for him, because he had the fourth quickest race pace. He would finished fourth or fifth,” says deputy Team Principal Robert Fernley. “Unfortunately it’s one of those things. When was the last time Sahara Force India had a crossed threaded wheel nut? These things just seem to happen at the moment.”

Fernley is adamant that things will come right soon: “He’s just got to be strong and get through it, and it will all come back in the right way. As I said to Adrian, ‘That’s why we employ you, because you’ve got the mental strength to deal with it.’”

Next stop is Monaco. Let’s hope the home of the world’s most famous casino plays Adrian a good hand…

Source: Forceindiaf1


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