F1: Force India offer Sutil test driver position

PARIS (AFP) - German driver Adrian Sutil neared a return to a Formula One drive on Monday after he was confirmed as a test driver for the Force India team this week in Barcelona.

The 30-year-old - who was dropped by Force India for the 2012 season after a conviction for grievous bodily harm - will drive their new model VJM06 in Thursday's test session.

However, he still has to stave off competition for the second driver's seat - alongside Scottish driver Paul di Resta who has remained with the team - from Frenchman Jules Bianchi, who will test the car on Friday.

The 23-year-old - who has yet to race in a Grand Prix but is sponsored by Ferrari - was their reserve driver last year and was third fastest in testing in Jerez at the beginning of the month.

Sutil was handed last February an 18-month suspended sentence and 200,000 euros (S$331,200) fine after a brawl at a Shanghai nightclub in April 2011.

The incident occured as Sutil celebrated in a night club after Lewis Hamilton's victory at the Chinese Grand Prix and Eric Lux, co-owner of the Lotus Renault team, was stabbed in the neck with a champagne glass.

After he was convicted, the German - who drove for Force India from 2008-2011 - branded former friend Hamilton 'a coward' for not appearing in court to give evidence.

He has also driven for the Spyker team, appearing in 90 Grand Prix with his best result being fourth place at the Italian Grand Prix in 2009.

The season proper begins with the Australian Grand Prix on March 17 in Melbourne.