Adrian Sutil returned to Formula One with a bang, yet ultimately reaped only seventh place on a day when he led the Australian Grand Prix in style for Force India.
But he proved to any doubters that he deserved a second chance in the big league after the incident with the then Renault executive Eric Lux in a Chinese nightclub in April 2011 that left him out in the cold for the whole of the 2012 season.
Sutil was convicted of assaulting Lux with a champagne glass and given an 18-month suspended jail sentence and a €200,000 (£173,000) fine for grievous bodily harm.
But he was given his new break by Force India after an impressive showing during testing in Barcelona in March.
Insiders in the Silverstone-based team say that Sutil (pictured) has been more humble on his return. "He went to the test in a very relaxed mood because he had accepted that it was a shoot-out between him and Jules Bianchi," one said.
"During his time out from racing he has discovered that he can make money and enjoy life, so he was more relaxed and able to take the view that if things worked out, they did. And if they didn't, well, that was the way they were meant to go.
"He genuinely wants to pay the team back for giving him this second chance," another said. "That's shown in all his dealings so far, and his attitude to everyone here."
Sutil's performance yesterday was more convincing than anything that his fellow countryman Michael Schumacher produced in three years during his comeback, and better at the same stage than Kimi Raikkonen's in 2012.
His drive, together with that of team-mate Paul Di Resta's run to eighth, helped Force India earn 10 points and take equal fourth place in the constructors' world championship with Mercedes.
Deputy Team Principal Bob Fernley said: "Adrian's return to racing has been fantastic and it's clear he has lost none of his speed or racecraft.
"He was on a different strategy to most of the front-runners, but made it work beautifully and showed strong pace throughout the Grand Prix – even leading for 11 laps."
The 30-year-old drove superbly, without any sign of rustiness as he led from lap 39 to 42, until he dropped to fifth and was unable to resist attacks from Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber which dropped him to seventh place at the finish. "I had a fantastic race," Sutil, who took over Nico Hulkenberg after the German left for Sauber, said. "The pace was quick and the car felt very good so I was able to keep up with the guys in front of me, who I knew were going to pit early.
"It was my first time leading in Formula One. After my second pit stop I was back in the lead once again, so I knew that it was possible to come away with a great result.
"It is only three weeks since I knew I was back and I just had three test days – it couldn't be a better start. This result for the team is a perfect way to start the season and I want to say a big 'thank you' to the team once again."
Raikkonen is a throwback to simple days of Stirling Moss
the way I see it page 24
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