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Di Resta and Hulkenberg fight for Force India seat

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Sarah Holt | 10:15 UK time, Sunday, 12 December 2010

As the winter nights have shortened so too have the prospects of finding a Formula 1 drive for two of the sport's brightest prospects.

Nico Hulkenberg - rated as the best rookie of 2010 - and Paul di Resta - Britain's third driver in Formula 1 alongside Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button - find themselves fighting for a drive.

At the end of the season, Williams released Hulkenberg in favour of cash-rich GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado.

Hulkenberg's sudden unemployment has complicated matters for Di Resta as the German is now closing in on the Force India seat the Scot has been warming all season as the team's reserve.

To add to the dilemma, Force India's incumbent drivers, Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Luizzi, still have ties to the team with Italian Liuzzi contracted for 2011 and German Sutil sitting on a one-year option to continue.

Formula 1 insiders believe the hearts and minds of Force India are with Di Resta and the team want to give him one of the two seats that are listed as 'TBA' on the official entry list.

After joining the Silverstone-based team as a reserve for 2010, the Scot drove capably in eight first practice sessions on grand prix weekends.

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The auburn-haired Di Resta, a laidback and likeable addition to the paddock, quietly impressed the team with his technical feedback and commitment.

At the same time, the 24-year-old proved he was a winner by clinching the German Touring Car championship (DTM) for Mercedes on his weekends away from F1.

His manager Anthony Hamilton - father of McLaren driver Lewis - says: "There hasn't been one bit of negative information from the team about Paul.

"He has done a great job, the team love him. He's a champion and a leader. Nothing has changed; he is still a contender for a race seat. We are very positive."

Hulkenberg, however, is also an intriguing prospect for any F1 team.

The 23-year-old stole the headlines in the midst of the dramatic championship battle by snatching a blistering pole at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Yes, Hulkenberg had benefited from some tactical groundwork by team-mate Rubens Barrichello on his previous qualifying lap but the German's feat was still far beyond that of any of the other four F1 newcomers.

Humorous and straight-talking, Hulkenberg came into F1 on the back of a glittering junior career - where he won titles in karting, Formula BMW, Formula Three and the 2009 GP2 Series - and is now a highly-rated F1 prospect

Both Hulkenberg and Di Resta are gifted drivers - but in F1 money often talks louder than talent.

Despite being impressed by Hulkenberg's "exceptional" skills, Sir Frank Williams let him go in favour of Maldonado simply because he could bring in a reputed 10m euros - largely from Venezuela's state oil company - at a time when the Williams team had lost several key business partners.

When it comes to securing their own future, the problem for both Hulkenberg and Di Resta is that they don't bring any cash to the table.

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Hulkenberg himself says: "It has become much, much harder to open doors if your application does not come with a serious sponsor package and you really only rely on your talent as the sole 'sales argument'."

The complex situation at Force India means the team need to find the cash to buy Liuzzi out of his existing contract - so contributions from a replacement would be welcome.

And of all those in the frame only Sutil, who is understood to have bought around 2m euros to the team in 2010, has the immediate funds to strike that deal.

Force India's engine partner Mercedes-Benz could also influence the team's decision.

What if its own-brand Mercedes Grand Prix team wanted to scout out potential replacements for Michael Schumacher or Nico Rosberg by paying to place a driver in another team?

Di Resta is already well-connected and well-liked by Mercedes, especially after his DTM win, but Hulkenberg, as a rising German star, could be a perfect future fit for the Silver Arrows.

For now, Di Resta and Hulkenberg are playing the waiting game.

Hulkenberg's management company, whose founder Willi Weber also plotted Schumacher's career, opened talks at the final race in Abu Dhabi and said they had expected Force India to have made their decision by now.

Di Resta is sitting down with the team this week to discuss his future role.

Although nine cockpits are still to be filled on the 2011 grid, options elsewhere remain squeezed.

Hulkenberg's team have already approached Toro Rosso and Renault but found no room at the inn.

Toro Rosso will stick with Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi, with newly-signed third driver Daniel Ricciardo waiting in the wings. The renamed Lotus Renault team are widely expected to retain Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov alongside star driver Robert Kubica.

Timo Glock has confirmed he is staying at Marussia Virgin, with Brazilian Lucas di Grassi and Belgian Jerome D'Ambrosio - both of whom come with sponsorship - the favourites to join him. Back-of-the-grid Hispania first need to find someone to build their 2011 car before confirming drivers.

Di Resta already has a contract to continue as Force India's third driver in 2011, while Hulkenberg has been linked to the same role at Mercedes and Ferrari.

In the fickle world of Formula 1, it is never a bad idea to have a Plan B.

Comments

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  • 1. At 11:50am on 12 Dec 2010, craig-woollard wrote:

    You still can't forget Renault (I refuse to call them Lotus), I don't see why Petrov has done enough to stay in the team, both Sutil and Hulkenberg would make much better teammates for Kubica

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  • 2. At 12:38pm on 12 Dec 2010, adrenilenepotato wrote:

    di resta should have a shot because he works hard and has been commited,hulkenberg brought a reputation that he was as good as hamilton,with all the lower level success that hamilton had,but at the end of the day hulkenberg is good but he isnt a patch on hamilton and that hurt him as the expectation was over built

    with anthony on his side di resta should go far,good luck paul and hope you make it 3 brits on the grid

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  • 3. At 1:00pm on 12 Dec 2010, cambelt-kid wrote:

    di resta for me too, i'd say he's done a lot of the hard work for the two drivers at force india, wht not let him have a shot, he's proven his metal in dtm and post's some competitive times in free practise sessions. hulkenberg for renault and di resta for force india.
    A third driver position for either is below them now.

    good luck to both for 2011 onwards

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  • 4. At 1:15pm on 12 Dec 2010, Ozilinho wrote:

    Di Resta should be given the seat, at the end of the day Hulkenburg had a huge reputation and faced off against an old journeyman and was beaten over the season. Di Resta won the DTM, already has a contract with Force India and has beaten Vettel as teamates. I think he can be very good.

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  • 5. At 1:22pm on 12 Dec 2010, porle57 wrote:

    It's sad when money plays such an important part in securing a drive in F1. Nico Hulkenberg showed some real flashes of what he is capable of in his first season in a good, but not the best of Williams cars and would have benefited from another year alongside the experienced Barrichello. While I do not doubt the talent of Pastor Maldonado, I do feel all parties would have benfited from the continuity of another year with the same line-up particularly as Rubens reckons on next year's Williams being a much better prospect. As regards Paul di Resta, he definitely deserves a shot at a full time racing seat and Force India would be ideal replacing Luizzi. Di Resta has had some good outings in the Friday sessions this year that, together with his showing in DTM, shows that he is ready to step up to the race seat at F.India.

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  • 6. At 1:30pm on 12 Dec 2010, ma11en wrote:

    Hi Sarah,

    sorry to be picky but the nights will continue to get longer for the next 9 days.

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  • 7. At 2:07pm on 12 Dec 2010, JayRobo wrote:

    Supporting my fellow scot Di resta. I rather see-ing him in Force India with Hulkenberg maybe in a lower team like Marussia Virgin or Hispania.

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  • 8. At 2:23pm on 12 Dec 2010, Splash_Of_Colour wrote:

    As a Scot I am hoping that Paul di Resta gets the Force India drive. He really deserves a chance to show what he can do in F1 and he did well for Mercedes by winning the DTM. Hulkenberg has already had a chance and for the most part he has been found wanting. I would still like to see him in F1 but in a lower team.

    Good luck Paul

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  • 9. At 4:10pm on 12 Dec 2010, Charley Penguin wrote:

    If Di Resta doesn't find a drive in F1 in 2011 then I don't think he'll be there (in F1) for 2012. As for Hulkenburg I reckon he could end up as Mercedes reserve driver, Force India don't know Nico- So Paul must be higher on the list of potiential drivers than Nico. If I was V.J Malla I wouldn't re-sign Liuzzi I think he was quite disapointing this year, Di Resta is a better option...

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  • 10. At 4:53pm on 12 Dec 2010, MGUK82 wrote:

    On the one hand it would be good to have three Brits in F1 again but Hulkeburg is to me a proven talent and I was gutted for him when he got booted by Willams. He deserves a half decent seat - maybe Lotus/Renault as I reckon he's better than Petrov.

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  • 11. At 5:03pm on 12 Dec 2010, Potmotr wrote:

    I think di Resta deserves a shot, but whether he's going to get it is another matter.

    I got the impression that Force India had felt they'd seen enough of him in the car by the end of the season.

    He seemed to get fewer and fewer opportunities to get in the car, and you have a ask why.

    As Sarah's article points out, he brings no cash.

    Also, he's hardly Mr Dynamic when it comes to dealing with the media. He seems quite dour and quiet in interviews. Means nothing on the track, but surely a consideration.

    On the other hand Hulkenberg absolutely deserves a second season. He showed real promise this year.

    Should be not get a Force India seat I think the Mercedes test driver option would be the best career path for him.

    Alonso and Massa both missed a season after their rookie year, and came back stronger for it.

    p.s: The article misses one of Hulkenberg's titles - he won A1GP for Germany almost singlehandedly in the 2006/07 season.

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  • 12. At 5:03pm on 12 Dec 2010, Jakeyyy wrote:

    Vijay Mallya has said himself he will sign the two fastest drivers he can. Surely, that should mean Di Resta and Hulkenberg should get the seats. Di Resta is quick, showed excellent pace in the FP sessions and drove for Merc in DTM. As for Hulkenberg, I think he has the potential to be in the top class of drivers. I do rate him.

    Sutil is far better than Liuzzi, but I don't think he is as good as Hulkenberg or Di Resta. He's a good driver, but he's just not as quick as some of the other guys out there. And Liuzzi? He had his chance in 2005 with Red Bull and wasn't even as good as Klien, who was nothing more than a good midfield runner. Mallya needs to snap up the best drivers he can sooner rather than later.

    I also think that Virgin and Hispania are not good enough for Hulkenberg, so naturally I disagree with #8. Virgin need to give it a couple more years, and Hispania apparently don't have a car yet.

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  • 13. At 5:04pm on 12 Dec 2010, Jakeyyy wrote:

    #7, sorry.

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  • 14. At 5:15pm on 12 Dec 2010, Potmotr wrote:

    If Mallya was after the best driver on the market he'd snap up Nick Heidfeld.

    Still quick, has some of the best racecraft in the business and would be cheap.

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  • 15. At 6:10pm on 12 Dec 2010, CarlisleF1 wrote:

    surely becoming the 3rd driver at mercedes would be the best option for hulkenberg, if schumacher retires (again) at the end of the season he will find himself likely to be in a very competetive drive. By then he will have got used to the team and driving the car. This career path worked very well for alonso in 2002 at renault and then for massa at ferrari in 2003. i hope force india give di resta a chance next season

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  • 16. At 6:12pm on 12 Dec 2010, hackerjack wrote:

    I still think the best deal all round would be:

    Petrov signs a two year deal with Renault and is then immediately loaned out to Virgin. Potentially they could share the sponsorship money that Petrov brings and Marussia would get a home driver. Petrov could then return to Renault for 2012 if Kubica does as expected leave for pastures new. Actually being in a team where he would be ona more level playing field would suit him as well. I think he will fair far better with Glock as a partner instead of being overawed by Kubica.

    Hulkenberg then signs on at Renault, a better driver than Petrov at present. If offered a 1 year deal with the team holding the option of a second they then have two drivers in place even if Kubica leaves.

    Di Resta then comes in at Force India, Liuzzi is demoted to test driver or offered a deal to part ways.

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  • 17. At 6:25pm on 12 Dec 2010, Roger Allott wrote:

    di Resta and Hulk are certainly deserving of a drive in a second tier team next season, but so are Sutil and Heidfeld. Sadly, it seems that Petrov and Luizi will be hogging two of those seats, which isn't justified in my opinion.

    Rubens carrying on at Williams is the big stumbler - he's a good F1 driver but he's had his best drives and it would be better for the sport if he were to retire and let his place go to a driver fighting for a future. Williams should have decided to use him as a reserve driver and ambassador, in a similar way that Red Bull managed Coulthard's retirement.

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  • 18. At 9:04pm on 12 Dec 2010, Pleng wrote:

    @Potmotr

    The reason Di Resta didn't get to drive later on in the season was Force India trying to beat Williams in the constructors championship, and feeling their drivers needed all the practice time possible.

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  • 19. At 9:09pm on 12 Dec 2010, russfan wrote:

    Paul has proven better than Vettel in the same car(f3 euro series champ).
    He has won the Dtm where other F1 drivers have struggled in the series depite all their talent and experience as drivers.
    Hakinen,Alesi,Schumacher,Frentzen,Mcnish and now DC. Mika a Double world F1 champ.DC highest British F1 points scorer to date.
    He has swapped between testing on fridays and winning the Dtm with great skill.
    The guy is a class act and a F1 Champion in waiting....If he gets a break!

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  • 20. At 08:27am on 13 Dec 2010, Vivelo wrote:

    Post #17. Not sure how you can say Rubens should retire, he had a good season and beat the Hulk hands down and its openly known that he gave info to the Hulk to improve for that pole. Plus the paddock would be a lot less exciting without him around and he's speed is still there....just ask the Stig.

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  • 21. At 09:24am on 13 Dec 2010, gazf1 wrote:

    If it were up to me i would actually pick both hulkenberg and di resta..i believe both are much brighter prospects and nico has already shown speed and talent during the last campaign.

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  • 22. At 1:21pm on 13 Dec 2010, Bestyboy wrote:

    @No 16 - thats a great idea, one which would suit all parties involved and keep the fans happy by having the right drivers in place with teams that suit their current capabilities - who wants to bet thats the last thing that happens ?

    I personally would love to see the end of "pay drivers" like Maldonado and Petrov - whose respective teams have made no bones about their respective appeal being directly linked to financial merits first.

    Di Resta and Hulkenberg are at risk of joining the long list of drivers who should have been in F1 but never made it because of losing out to drivers with bigger bank balances - a sad but accurate statement of the stat of Formula One - money talks first and foremost and always has. I'd love to see both of these guys get a drive next year (even at test / reserve driver level) simply because they offer too much ability to let pass, can you imagine where this sport would be if we had let drivers like Senna, Schumacher and Villenueve (Gilles that is) go simply to put other drivers with more money in their seats? I'm not comparing Hulkenberg and Di Resta to those guys but it makes my point. Someone somewhere should be looking at guys like Algersuari, Petrov, Maldonado et al to see if theyre actually fit to be involved at the pinnacle of the sport, should we not have some sort of qualifying system where drivers have to win a certain percentage of championships or races they enter to be considered good enough?

    Please Mercedes, Please pay Force India or someone to take Di Resta and Hulkenberg for a couple of years, you'll have a ready made driver pairing when Schumacher decides he's had enough and Rosberg moves on - Hang on, wouldnt that make Hulkenberg and Di Resta a "pay driver" too?? - interesting point that .......

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  • 23. At 1:57pm on 13 Dec 2010, El Bobs wrote:

    Totally disagree that Rubens should retire, his performances in the last two seasons prove otherwise. I would love to see 3 brits in f1 but hulkenberg has proved he can drive at the top level and di resta has not, if faced with the prospect of one driver with experience and one without I think it’s obvious who to go with. Liuzzi should go, that’s a no brainer, but the problem is if talking about experience then heidfeld is a top driver and he should be considered too.

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  • 24. At 3:13pm on 13 Dec 2010, steveo123 wrote:

    it would be great to see di resta on the grid next year. we need to have a british driver that isnt at mclaren again.

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  • 25. At 4:18pm on 13 Dec 2010, Michty Me wrote:

    Racehorses (with a limited career-span) can be owned by syndicates, who invest small sums with little prospect of a return but given periodic chances to mingle with other [full] owners.

    Maybe some enterprising driver should 'sell' his future career in a similar way - inviting subscribers to fund his career (relatively small fee per person), but on the basis that a proportion of winnings go back to the investors - and thereby gain access to the F1 trough.

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  • 26. At 2:00pm on 14 Dec 2010, Pleng wrote:

    Mitchy me that's a FANTASTIC idea.... Let's do it!

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  • 27. At 2:20pm on 14 Dec 2010, sunsurfer wrote:

    Gerard Lopez of of what is now Lotus-Renault (formerly just Renault) says they are expecting wins in 2011. Yes that is certainly possible with Kubica but if they are serious about being a winning team why are they sticking with Petrov? It is important to have two good drivers - they can't have one and a half drivers. Of the drivers on the market I think they should take Hulkenberg or Heidfeld as mostly proven or Di Resta as someone with a history of beating the current world champion in equal cars.

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  • 28. At 09:44am on 15 Dec 2010, chrismthorpeleeds wrote:

    are we forgetting about the best rookie of the year Karun Chandhok? Im sure force india made a little hint that a indian owned team with an indian driver could bring big revinue, and lets face it hulkenberg was amazing in brazil, and i have no dought that Di resta would do a good job, but chandhok in a shockingly bad car was brilliant. it would be a massive shame if he wasnt on the grid in 2011!

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  • 29. At 8:49pm on 27 Dec 2010, Steve Tillet wrote:

    Everyone thinks Vettel is some sort of wonder driver now he has been in the best car against an average team mate. As has already been said Paul beat Vettel when they were team mates in the same car. If that is not a reason for him to get a shot then I don't know what is. The teams seem to hang on to drivers that will always be a number two instead of taking on someone new. Testing new things is something that F1 does all the time but when it comes to the most important bit of kit, the driver, they hang on to a driver that will never win a championship in a million years. This does not make sense and it is amazing how many of the teams make this mistake.

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