SEPANG, Malaysia, March 22, 2013 (AFP/Talek Harris) - Adrian Sutil said he hoped his problems were in the past after he recovered from a year in the Formula One wilderness following an assault conviction to lead a race for the first time.
Sutil, 30, was dropped by Force India after he received a suspended sentence and 200,000-euro ($260,000) fine in January last year for assaulting Lotus executive Eric Lux with a champagne glass in a Shanghai nightclub.
The April 2011 incident, which left Lux with a nine-centimetre (3.5-inch) gash in his neck and needing 24 stitches, threatened to end the career of the young German.
But on his return to the sport at last week's Australian Grand Prix, Sutil bounced back in style by becoming the surprise leader for 14 laps, before eventually finishing seventh.
Ahead of Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix, Sutil, now reunited with Force India, said that he had never stopped believing that he could mount a successful comeback.
"I always stayed positive. I had my downside in my career and hopefully that was it," he said at Malaysia's Sepang racetrack. "I learned a lot last year. It was important.
"Of course you don't know if there's going to be a comeback but you have to believe in it -- never stop believing until you reach your goal. That was my approach and I'm happy that I made the step back into Formula One.
"Of course I set my mind for success. I didn't expect it to happen in the first race, that I'd be leading 14 laps of the Melbourne grand prix... So it was a really, really nice comeback. It just felt right."
Sutil said he shunned offers to join other racing series during his year away, taking a complete break from motorsport. Instead, he spent time with friends and family, took drives in the countryside and read books on art and culture.
"This was something negative. It's just a situation you don't want to be in. But even when you're in there, there's a lot of things you can learn," he said.
"You just have to understand you have to realise the situation and not only take the negatives out of it.
"I'm a very positive person and whatever happens, it happens for a reason and even in the worst thing that happens in life there are always good things that you can pick out. And if you can understand how to do that, I think it makes you stronger.
"You need to be able to solve problems in life. If you're not good at it you will not succeed, you will not reach your goals. Life is not a perfect world, it's up and down, it's an adventure."
Sutil faced further anxious times when Force India weighed up whether to give French reserve driver Jules Bianchi their vacant spot alongside Scotland's Paul di Resta.
The German was only given the nod late last month -- but he has seized his second chance with both hands.
He said Force India were now capable of challenging for a podium spot -- a feat they have only achieved once before, in 2009 -- but such thoughts were far from his mind when he led in Australia.
"I was just enjoying my drive. I was trying to focus. I didn't really think about a podium or something," Sutil said.
"I was driving as fast as I could, no emotions and no thinking because if you think about those kind of things you do mistakes. It's just nice to see the number 'P1' on the big board. You want to see it as long as possible."