MUMBAI, March 8 (Reuters) - A year out of Formula One has increased Adrian Sutil’s desire to be a world champion and made him mentally stronger, the Force India driver said on Friday.
Sutil sealed his Formula One comeback last week with the Silverstone-based team giving the German racer a second chance as team mate to Britain’s Paul Di Resta this season.
Last year, the 30-year-old’s hopes of getting back into the sport looked remote after he was given an 18-month suspended jail sentence and fined 200,000 euros ($262,200) for grievous bodily harm following a Shanghai nightclub brawl in 2011.
Sutil, whose best result was fourth place in the 2009 Italian Grand Prix, said he was relieved to finally have a racing seat but at the same time the break had helped him to reflect on his career.
“I was watching it on TV. I tried to take a step back from the sport,” he told a small group of reporters. “By the middle of the season I felt so much stronger and found my, let’s say, new goal in life...to be a world champion.
“I am not in Formula One to just race. I would rather stay at home. The car is very important but you have to set your mind.
“I am here to race against the world’s best and if anyone is there not to win then it is not the right place for him.”
The break also allowed him to lead a normal life and do things he would not normally have found time for.
“I had time to think about my career. We will see if I am a better driver but mentally, I would say yes,” he said. “I have seen a life without Formula One and a life with it. In this professional sport you never actually have the time to learn.
“I wouldn’t have chosen a year off but it was probably for the good. Once I was back in the car, the engineers were very impressed.
“It showed I didn’t lose any speed but probably I gained a bit mentally.”
Sutil was dropped by the team in 2011 following the incident in which Eric Lux, then chief executive of Renault F1 (now Lotus) owners Genii Capital, needed stitches for a neck wound caused by a champagne glass.
The driver said he had no inhibitions about going back to China in April and was confident that he would be allowed to race anywhere in the world.
“Everything happens for a reason I would say. You can’t change it, it just happens in life,” Sutil said. “You have to just learn from it, you have to understand that downside is another side. It just makes you stronger.
“I have to go there. It’s not that I don’t like the country because something bad happened there. It could have happened anywhere else.
“I think it was a lesson and in a way I have learnt a lot of things from that. So it is not only a bad thing.”
Force India slipped to seventh last season in the constructors’ championship but Di Resta hoped that with Sutil’s return the duo could help the team to reach sixth spot, where they finished in 2011.
“Adrian’s got a lot of experience in Formula One and it’s nice to have him back,” he said.
“But essentially it is a competition on the track and I want to come out on top of him in the championship. We will surely be pushing each other which is good for the team.” (Editing by Clare Fallon)