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Di Resta out to prove winning potential

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Sarah Holt | 12:00 UK time, Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Paul di Resta has bumped up the British numbers racing in Formula 1 this year by finally signing for Force India.

But unlike his compatriots, McLaren drivers and world champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, Di Resta is out to prove he deserves his place on the grid.

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."

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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".

After winning the 2010 German touring car championship (DTM) for Mercedes on his weekends off from F1 duties, Di Resta arrives as a proven champion.

In his junior career, the Scot raced against future F1 world champions Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, notably beating the German to the Formula Three Euroseries crown.

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.


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  • 1. At 2:33pm on 26 Jan 2011, Ian P wrote:

    Great to see another talented young driver given a chance, albeit with a team that has had some significant difficulties in the past two years and may be in danger of slipping back down the field.

    Whilst it may be true that Paul diResta isn't paying for his drive per se, it is maybe slightly disengenuous to make it seem it's because he's just soooo good, when the might of ForceIndia's engine supplier, Mercedes-Benz is his backer. Who knows what deal has been done on engine costs, etc. to help oil the wheels of this move.

    However, you have to feel sorry for Tonio Luizzi, who despite having a race contract for 2011, has been dropped. What price a contract???

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  • 2. At 2:40pm on 26 Jan 2011, DixieBean wrote:

    Good to see Di Resta get a break and with a team that at times shows some great pace so I'm hopeful that he will deliver some string points finishes over the season. Shame Ant Davidson never quite got the same break but well done to PDR.

    If he can outpace Sutil then his stock will go up and I expect the Force India to be quite competitive with their Merc tie ins.

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  • 3. At 3:31pm on 26 Jan 2011, AndyRAC wrote:

    While I'm glad he's made it to F1 - it is only Force India. Would it have been better to stay in the DTM until a 'proper' seat came along?
    Probably not, there's nothing like seat time, and in the current era, with little testing, he's doing the right thing, hopefully. And with the backing of Mercedes/ Norbert Haug, he has the right backing.
    The boy is a talent - yet another in the family, following cousins Dario and Marino Franchitti.

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  • 4. At 3:55pm on 26 Jan 2011, nibs wrote:

    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."

    What the honourable gentleman doesn't tell us is that Vettel became Sauber's 3rd driver mid-season having to concentrate on f1 tests, Friday practices -topping them from the start-, flyaway races and pr from August onwards. Oh and that at the same time he took some part in the WSR championship of the same season winning on his debut.

    Also what the honourable gentleman doesn't tell us is that the season before with himself being one year more experienced and in a slightly better team he was thumped by Vettel who claimed best rookie.

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  • 5. At 4:09pm on 26 Jan 2011, Footula1 wrote:

    Good to have another Brit on the grid, and even better he is Scottish. Hopefully see him work his way up through the ranks. Best of luck to him!

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  • 6. At 4:53pm on 26 Jan 2011, the real deal wrote:

    Good to see another brit on the grid, hopefully he can do well and eventually get to show what hes made of in a team with a chance to win

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  • 7. At 8:51pm on 26 Jan 2011, footballrevolution wrote:

    It's good to see one of the middle order teams place so much faith with someone who is still, although well known, a new face to the formula one grid.
    The sports historic team traditions and values seem to be alive and well at Force India.

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  • 8. At 9:08pm on 26 Jan 2011, smallvizier wrote:

    I'm a lot more worried by this than by the 'sponsored' drivers.

    The key differences here are
    - we already know he was slower than Liuzzi last year, in the same car
    - Liuzzi had a contract in place to race this year
    - Di Resta is backed by Force India's engine manufacturer.

    So it's sponsorship, but they're trying to hide it. Yay for less transparency! Yay for not honouring contracts!

    It seems to me that he's getting a free ride from the press (and the fans) because he's British. That's not right...

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  • 9. At 9:35pm on 26 Jan 2011, hackerjack wrote:

    What's all the not-sponsored rubbish? DiResta in a Mercedes protigee, who supplies engines to Force India again?

    He's a good driver and deserve his chance but dont try to pretend.

    He has his work cut out, first he needs to get near Sutil and consistently bring home the car, otherwise he could find himself out and Hulk in mid-season. If he can match or beat Sutil then he has a decent future ahead of him.

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  • 10. At 9:39pm on 26 Jan 2011, ShinyDavidHowell wrote:

    If the comments here are accurate, that's four sponsored rookies out of four in F1 this season.

    Forgive me for questioning the sport...

    Still, we'll see how he fares. Would love to see Liuzzi get back into F1 with another team and show Force India up for letting him go in a stitch-up.

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  • 11. At 11:06pm on 26 Jan 2011, smallvizier wrote:

    I don't actually think sponsored drivers are intrinsically bad.

    In all sports, managers need to balance talent against its cost. Leeds fans could tell you a lot about losing control of salaries.

    Real Madrid buy superstars on huge wages, then make their money back on shirt sales. Ferrari are doing the same with Alonso: they pay him a lot, but they get a better deal from Santander with a Spaniard in their car.

    "It's different," you cry, "Ferrari would admire Alonso even without Santander's sponsorship." But you know what? These rookies aren't talentless either. They've all seen success, whether in the junior formulae, or as test drivers. The 'extras' are really being used as tie-breakers:

    "I'll take *this* talented driver instead of *that* talented driver because of his sponsorship."

    It's about snapping up talented youngsters for pennies (like Arsenal), instead of paying a lot for established pros (Man City).

    You might wonder, if I think the teams are being reasonable, why I complained in comment #8 above. Well, what really gets me isn't the sponsorship, it's the double standards. Williams, Virgin and Sauber have been slated for hiring paid-for, talented unknowns instead of sticking with expensive, talented pros (their choice!). But the same media outlets are praising Force India for doing the same thing!

    I worry that we're giving di Resta an easy ride because he's British, he's familiar, he's called Paul instead of Pastor - and because his media manager (Hamilton's dad) gets on well with the reporters.

    Whatever you think of sponsorship, let's treat all the rookies the same, whether they're backed by Genii capital (Ambrosio) or Mercedes (di Resta).

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  • 12. At 11:29pm on 26 Jan 2011, Bart_E_Slartfast wrote:

    It's good to see another Brit on the grid for 2011 but it's a shame we won't be able to discuss his progress amongst ourselves on 606.

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  • 13. At 00:21am on 27 Jan 2011, matt-stone wrote:

    If Di Resta is as good as Vettel and Hamilton have been, then we're in for a treat. Older drivers now need replacing in my view, not Alonso or Massa though, they're still in their prime, but Shumachker has seen his better days I think. Three Brits now fighting for the championship, can't be bad, though I don't know if Nigel Mansell thinks Di Resta is also manufactured like Hamilton and not natural ????

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  • 14. At 00:22am on 27 Jan 2011, Ginger wrote:

    Good luck to him and the rest of the rookies, they will all need it especially with the changes in the aero and tyres. I suspect that Force India will be looking behind them this season not up the field.

    Shame they didn't get the win at Spa in 2009 and Kimi was allowed to take his slingshot approach to Eau Rouge!

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  • 15. At 07:39am on 27 Jan 2011, hackerjack wrote:

    10. At 9:39pm on 26 Jan 2011, ShinyDavidHowell wrote:
    If the comments here are accurate, that's four sponsored rookies out of four in F1 this season.

    Forgive me for questioning the sport..

    Don't be naive. Pretty much EVERY driver on the grid right now got their chance partly through sponsorship and partly through talent, none of them got there on pure speed alone.

    The quickest drivers have a better chance of attracting sponsors, which is how they can then afford to progress up the formulas in the first place. Hamilton was effectively sponsored by McLaren's PR machine because they really wanted a top Brit in the car, Alonso was sponsored by a bunch of companies that Flavio Briatore deals with as part of his stable of drivers as was Webber, Vettel was sponsred by the Red Bull driver program.

    The difference now from 15 years ago is drivers can no longer get there solely on sponsorship (HRT excepted), there has to be basic speed there as well. Also other than Hulkenberg (possibly Heidfeld but he's had is go) there really isn't anyone out there who is more talented and missing out.

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  • 16. At 1:11pm on 27 Jan 2011, Bestyboy wrote:

    @ No 8 - sorry to correct you, but, Di Resta was told specifically not to push too hard and crash the car, thats why he was generally a tenth or so slower, although on one occasion from the eight he drove he was actually quicker than Liuzzi, even with the "Do NOT bend the car!" orders.

    I think the general consensus of opinion is right, quick young driver, but would he have been given the chance in place of a contracted driver if he didnt have Mercedes backing ? - I dont think so.

    There's no doubt he belongs in F1 purely on talent, but so does Hulkenberg and look whats happened to him because he doesnt have a "sponsor". Personally, i think the likelyhood of Hulkenberg getting a race drive this year is high, he'll either replace Schumacher at Mercedes when he realises that it just isnt going to happen for him again, or replace Sutil at Force India when the team realise that he's just too inconsistent. I'll be watching Mr Di Resta with great interest to see how he goes. I have no doubt he'll show Sutil the way home a few times.

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  • 17. At 1:33pm on 27 Jan 2011, livpoksoc wrote:

    Sorry, why are we all surprised by the whole sponsorship thing? We all know he was racing for Mercedes in DTM & we all know Force India race with Merc it is sponsorship & they've not lied...they have said it is because of the Merc tie in too.

    As for Liuzzi, he has had 2 stints in F1 and only had minor flashes of talent, still not up to match that of his peers. It is a shame that a contract hasn't been honoured but you have to consider this for Force India's POV, they slipped last season after losing a solid driver in Fisichella in 2009 & they need to move forward, Vijay cannot continue to pump money into a team now 6 years old if he's collecting the scraps at the end of the season!

    He needs quick drivers & he needs all the money he can save to run that team. It's a no brainer to settle with Liuzzi & replace him, also good for Merc to retain Hulkenberg too.

    As for DiResta needing a good seat for next year, there's a certain German Driver only contracted to Mercedes GP until the end of 2012 & a certain British driver only contracted at McLaren for the same period (yes McLarens engine deal ends in 2015 but that's still 2 years running with a front running team who supplies there engines).

    As for other drivers getting into F1, this is not a shame thing because there are very few drivers who get in without bringing something to the table in the past/present:

    Alonso - Santander
    Vettel - Red Bull (has been part of the Red Bull young driver program & tested for Sauber when Red Bull were sponsors)
    Button - Head & Shoulders, Vodafone
    Lewis - TAG Heuer, Vodafone
    Schu - Deutsche weranbergatstung
    Rosberg - Sabo
    Webber - Yellow pages
    Massa - Red Bull (originally)
    Petrov - Lada
    Maldano - Venezualan govt.

    All drivers have sponsorships, unless they happen to have £5m a year sat in the bank to pay for it themselves! It is F1, are we surprised?...should we be surprised?...No.

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  • 18. At 4:54pm on 27 Jan 2011, Paul Baker wrote:

    So pleased to hear the recent news about Paul Di Resta.

    Personally I think he'll do well as Friday practices in 2010 he did a good job. Also, he has a fab surname for an F1 driver - Di Resta. Keep saying to yourself and it just sounds better and better.

    I shall be watching his progress throughout the 2011 season. 7 weeks until 2011 season gets underway. Its been a quite a wait!

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  • 19. At 9:34pm on 28 Jan 2011, Ross Quinn wrote:

    Andy RAC. Wow it is only Force India, who Ferrari stole a driver off the other season and have improved from 10th to 9th to 7th in their years in the sport.
    Also how many top current drivers started in the big teams
    Seb - Sauber, Toro Rosso and Red Bull
    Mark - Minardi, Jaguar, Williams and Red Bull
    Lewis - McLaren
    Jenson - Williams, Bennetton, Renault, BAR, Honda, Brawn and McLaren
    Fernando - Minardi, Renault, McLaren, Renault & Ferrari
    Felipe - Sauber, Ferrari (test), Sauber & Ferrari
    Scummy - Bennetton, Ferrari, Ferrari (test) & Mercedes
    Nico - Williams & Mercedes
    Rob - Renault (test), Sauber & Renault
    Vitaly - Renault

    So only two of the current drivers are at the one team throughout their career. The others have moved about and worked their way up and two of the top 6 started their careers at the 'joke' (I always liked them even if others didn't) Minardi.

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  • 20. At 2:52pm on 31 Jan 2011, MGUK82 wrote:

    Good to see another Brit on the grid but still hope Hulk can get a seat somewhere.

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  • 21. At 4:02pm on 01 Feb 2011, M Charlton wrote:

    It looks like it is going to be the same again this year with Alonso. I think he is a one car team driver. It seems he can't get on with anyone as a team mate. As long as the other driver is way behind him that's ok with Alonso. I find him an arrogant man that has to be No1 in any walk of life. I pity Massa this year as he didn't show his best last year and all I can think of is he was bullied into being the second driver and let the No1 driver pass or else.

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