Di Resta out to prove winning potential
Paul di Resta has bumped up the British numbers racing in Formula 1 this year by finally signing for Force India.
The likeable 24-year-old Scot, whose promotion has been expected for some time, has plenty of reasons to feel confident about his first season in F1.
Over the course of 12 months as Force India reserve in 2010, Di Resta has already managed to galvanise the team's support.
His manager Anthony Hamilton, father of Lewis, revealed: "There hasn't been anything negative from the team. Paul has done a great job and they love him."
The team were so smitten by Di Resta that his seat does not depend on sponsorship - in stark contrast to 2011's other rookies, Pastor Maldonado of Williams, Virgin's Jerome D'Ambrosio and Sauber's Sergio Perez.
In fact, to partner Di Resta with German Adrian Sutil, Force India will have to pay a financial settlement to Sutil's 2010 team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi for breaking the firm contract the Italian had for this season.
Force India must be certain Di Resta has something worth paying for.
The son of racer-turned-businessman Louis di Resta and cousin of three-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti, Di Resta has described having racing "in his blood".
Di Resta recalled in a 2008 interview: "Sebastian was my team-mate in 2006. I definitely beat him on far more occasions than he ever beat me.
"I'm not saying that I'm a faster or better driver than him but you'd have to say there's at least parity between us.
"As for Lewis, when we had the same machinery we were equally good."
In terms of raw talent Di Resta may well be a match for two of F1's fastest men but it will be difficult for him to prove it when he rejoins them on track.
The laidback Scot's first task will be to adapt his racing mindset from DTM's slower 'tin-top' cars to F1's open, single-seater speed machines.
The difference between driving a touring car with 500bhp and an F1 car charged with 750bhp and tonnes of downforce can be compared to handling a family estate car and a supercar.
"It requires a different style to drive both [cars] on the limit; it's not easy," explains McLaren reserve and driver Gary Paffett, who was one of Di Resta's Mercedes team-mates in the DTM last year.
"But if you can win in DTM it puts you in a good position to do a good job in F1. Paul will do a good job - but how good?
"If you're used to winning you might have to get over the fact that you're not going to be beating the McLarens and Ferraris week in, week out or beating your team-mate 100% of the time. That's something you have to learn."
In eight first practice sessions over grand prix weekends for Force India last season, Di Resta was only able to out-pace either Sutil or Liuzzi, who alternated in the other car, once.
Improving that niggling statistic will be a target for the Scot when the season begins with free practice in Bahrain on 11 March.
Beyond that, barring a major surprise Di Resta will not have the machinery capable of reigniting his teenage rivalry with Hamilton and Vettel, Red Bull's reigning champion.
Force India finished seventh in the constructors' championship last season with Sutil collecting best-place finishes of fifth in Malaysia and Spa. In terms of pace, both drivers failed to qualify inside the top 10 in the final six races of 2010.
The development of Force India's 2011 car has had to absorb some unsettling changes at the team's Silverstone factory, with two technical directors, James Key and Mark Smith, as well as chief designer Lewis Butler leaving for rival teams in the space of a year.
Force India intend to fine-tune the new VJM04 car in the wind tunnel before introducing it at the second pre-season test in Jerez - a policy also adopted by McLaren, but not by Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Williams, who will all have new cars ready for the first test in Valencia next week.
After the flashbulbs and fanfare of being unveiled as an F1 driver have died down, Di Resta will start the process of making his opportunity count in Valencia driving a modified 2010 car.
Di Resta may still have everything to prove in F1 but like the rest of 2011's rookies he also has nothing to lose.