x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Racing in Formula One was not Adrian Sutil's only option

Graham Caygill talks to the Force India driver and finds out that the German's career could have taken a far different path to the world of music.

Adrian Sutil has performed well for Force India this season, but his F1 future is uncertain.
Adrian Sutil has performed well for Force India this season, but his F1 future is uncertain.

For a man competing in one of the most technologically advanced competitions in the world, Adrian Sutil could be perceived as being something of a contradiction.

Formula One uses the latest electronic and engineering devices to propel cars around tracks across the globe at high speeds as part of a era where news is spread instantly through cyberspace.

The internet allows people to be in contact with others immediately and worldwide. But Sutil, the Force India driver, is something of a traditionalist when it comes to communicating. In explaining his passion for collecting classic fountain pens, the German said that he prefers writing with a pen in his hand to sitting behind a laptop and typing.

"You always write with computers and don't use letters so much anymore, but I like the old style," he said. "I like the traditional way of writing."

Sutil is not the only driver in F1 who likes collecting things. Rubens Barrichello is a renowned enthusiast of racing helmets worn by other drivers and has a wide selection. Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa have all voiced an interest in watches.

Collecting pens is not a hobby one typically would associate with the adrenalin-filled world of F1, but it is something that Sutil finds enjoyable.

"I collect mostly the Mont Blanc pens, the special editions," he said. "And I just like it for some reason. Some people collect watches but I love pens."

His favourite is one called the Taj Mahal, which he picked up in Malaysia after a race, and that takes pride of place at his home.

Pens are not the only items that Sutil collects.

Like many drivers, he is beginning to build up an array of sports cars at his home. But he also likes buying model replicas of cars to admire while in his home.

"Collecting smaller cars is a little easier" than buying real cars, he said. "You can buy quite a lot. The smaller cars I collect from scale 1:18 to 1:8."

Of the models, he added: "The main focus is on Ferraris, historical ones, but I also like a few Mercedes and there is a Lamborghini in there."

He went on to joke: "Everywhere I look there are only cars" when he describes what a tour of his house would look like.

There is no danger of his hobby being confused with his work. Sutil, 28, has a clear split in his mind between the two.

"It is different," he said of trying to connect F1 to collecting cars. "This is racing, what I do, but I don't collect Formula One cars. I just collect different cars. I do not have any model F1 cars."

Sutil has been on the Formula One grid since 2007 and tomorrow's Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be the 89th race of his F1 career.

For the majority of the 24 drivers competing in Abu Dhabi, F1 and racing were always their dream; they had no acceptable back-up plan.

But Sutil, a comparitively late starter in racing, in karts as a teenager, could have seen his life turn out very different if he had followed his original passion -music.

With his Uruguayan father Jorge a professional violinist and his German mother Monika a pianist, it is no surprise to learn that music was part of his life from an early age. He began learning the piano and became so good that he was performing on a concert stage at the age of 12.

His talent behind the wheel, though, took precedence and ended plans for a professional career as a concert pianist. But the playing the piano is still something he enjoys doing when he has time away from the track.

"Sometimes I still play the piano, but the time is limited," he said. "I try to play it and enjoy it, of course. All my family are musicians, of course, so it is still part of my life.

"I have a few pieces that I can still play very good. For normal people it will appear very professional. I still have a standard, but of course I am not training every day, which you need to do to have a real high standard."

Sutil is clearly a man with more than one string to his bow, and it is his skills and interests outside of F1 that help keep him level-headed when the pressure is on.

Much is at stake for him, at present; he has no contract secured for 2012 despite a solid season that sees him sitting in 11th place in the championship, on 30 points.

He, like his British teammate Paul di Resta, is awaiting a decision from Vijay Mallya, the Force India team principal, on who will have a race seat with the team next year, with speculation high that Nico Hulkenberg, the team's third driver, will be promoted. That would mean Sutil or di Resta is going to lose their spot.

The uncertainty has not affected him, he said, and he has no plans on changing his approach here in Abu Dhabi, or in two weeks' time in Brazil, to try to gain favour from Mallya.

"I always push as much as possible," he said. "I live my life today, not tomorrow. I do not think about the future.

"I am not planning anything. I want to do a good race here and go home happy. As long as I can do that I will have a good feeling, and whatever comes out I cannot change it."

gcaygill@thenational.ae