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Second Force India seat not about money

ESPN Staff
February 1, 2013 « No concerns about missing first test - Alonso | Rossiter likely to drive at Jerez »
Jules Bianchi is "a significant candidate" for the vacant Force India seat © Sutton Images

Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley says the team is not prioritising money or technical links for its second driver seat.

Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi have been heavily linked with the seat alongside Paul di Resta this season, with Bianchi's Ferrari association potentially leading to an engine supply deal in 2014. However, while Fernley acknowledges that both drivers are candidates, he says there are more drivers in the frame and that a decision won't be made until after the first test.

"The decision that we will make will be for the benefit of the team and it doesn't necessarily follow that that's a financial requirement, in fact it's highly unlikely it will be," Fernley said. "What we're trying to look at is making sure that we've got our programs going forward where we want them to go, and over the next week or so we should be able to put all of that in to place. The shareholders are the key people in determining what they're looking for long-term.

"There's an element of where we want to go in 2014 but it's only one part of the whole equation. Yes, we're trying to balance everything but that's only one part of it; it would be too simplistic to just say that it's linked to an engine because that's not the case at all. We've always had these mythical stories about Paul coming linked to Mercedes and it's total nonsense - there's no link to Paul and Mercedes whatsoever. There's a strong link between Jules and Ferrari - of course - but it's not contingent."

Specifically asked about potential candidates, Fernley replied: "At least Jules and Adrian, absolutely … I think we shouldn't close any doors off."

Fernley admitted that the departure of Nico Hulkenberg came as a surprise to the team and left it unprepared to replace him.

"The people we're looking at are of very, very high standard, but I think if we go back a little bit we were not expecting Nico to go so it was a surprise to us. All we're doing is making sure we dot the Is and cross the Ts before we make that next step, and that we've got the right contracts in place to make sure we deliver what we want going forward.

"I think the element is we were not ready for Jules to take that step [in to a race seat]; we were looking at a longer period of time that we were looking at. So no, there isn't an element in terms of Jules' abilities - he's obviously a first-class racing driver - what's happened with the Nico departure is that it's just taken us out of our comfort zone in terms of where we were wanting to plan going forward … Jules is a significant candidate for what we're doing, as well as Adrian and a few others."