LONDON, Feb 28, 2013 (AFP) - Force India have chosen Adrian Sutil as one of their main drivers for the new Formula One season, signalling a return for the German after a 12-month absence, the British-based team confirmed Thursday.
Sutil and Scotland's Paul di Resta will now be the team's drivers for the 2013 Grand Prix season, as they were in 2011.
Confirmation of the driver line-up came after Sutil saw off competition for the second Force India berth from reserve driver Jules Bianchi, with the French rookie's agent telling AFP in Paris on Wednesday his client had lost out.
Sutil, 30, drove for Spyker, as the team was then known, and Force India from 2007 to 2011. He competed in 90 grands prix and achieved a best place of fourth fourth at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza in 2009.
But he lost his Force India drive last season after a conviction for assaulting the co-owner of the Lotus team, Eric Lux, in a Shanghai bar
following the 2011 Chinese GP.
"I'm delighted to be back in Formula One, especially with a team I know so well," Sutil said in a statement on the Force India website.
"I'm very happy and I want to thank Sahara Force India for giving me a second chance. Having been away from the sport, I'm even more determined to achieve my goals in Formula One.
"Things went really well at the Barcelona test last week and it almost feels as though I've never been away.
"Now my focus is on making the most of the final test session this week, working with the team in the simulator and getting myself in the best possible shape for Melbourne," added Sutil ahead of the Australian GP, next month's opening race of the new season.
Force India team principal Vijay Mallya said it had been tough to opt for Sutil over Bianchi.
"It was a close call, but ultimately we felt that Adrian's experience and historic links to the team gave him the edge, and will provide us with the best possible chance of realising our ambitions for the coming season," Indian liquor baron Mallya explained.
"If he can rediscover the exceptional form he showed in the second half of 2011, I'm confident that we can pick up where we left off at the end of 2012.
"As for Jules Bianchi, he has impressed us enormously with his speed and work ethic, and I'm hopeful we can continue working with him this year to help him develop into a future Grand Prix driver."
Germany's Nico Hulkenberg, who drove alongside di Resta last season, has since left for F1 rivals Sauber.
Last season Force India, who are based at the nerve centre of British Formula One at the Silverstone circuit in central England, finished seventh in the constructors' world championship.
However, concerns have since been expressed about the team's continued ability to remain competitive given co-owner Mallya's financial problems.
Shares in Mallya's debt-laden Kingfisher Airlines plunged earlier this month after banks said they would start recalling loans worth $1.5 billion.
However, Mallya was expected to recoup funds from the $2 billion sale of a majority stake in India's United Spirits but the deal must still clear regulatory hurdles.
Deputy team principal Bob Fernley, speaking on February 14, insisted Force India were insulated from the rest of Mallya's business empire.
"There is a disconnect between what happens in Vijay's business and what Vijay is doing on the F1 team," Fernley said.