In the wake of Andy Murray’s loss in the final of the Australian Open, Scottish sport will get a major boost this week when Formula One team Force India finally confirms Bathgate’s Paul Di Resta as its new reserve and test driver.
Di Resta, who has also tested the McLaren-Mercedes F1 car, will be unveiled in Force India team colours at a venue in Scotland which has yet to be announced.
While both Force India and the 23-year-old Scot remained tight-lipped about the plans, the team’s chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer is scheduled to be in Scotland during the next five days.
“I honestly can’t say anything about what’s happening,” Di Resta, who has been in detailed discussions with the Silverstone-based outfit since impressing the team with a series of impressive times during his three-day test at Jerez last month, said yesterday.
“Since the test, for sure we have been in talks. Hopefully we can build a very long and strong relationship for me to try and race with Force India in the future.”
Di Resta, a cousin of double IndyCar champ and Indy500 winner Dario Franchitti, will play a pivotal role for Force India. Not only will he be the team’s reserve driver, but he will take part in the Friday practice session prior to each grand prix this season.
It’s expected that having gained such experience throughout this season, he will then be promoted to a full race seat for the 2011 season; if not before. It was a point confirmed by McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh.
“It’s a great opportunity for Paul,” Whitmarsh, whose team is a technical partner of Force India, said. “I believe he will be running in the majority of the Friday sessions at grand prix weekends for Force India.
“He’s going to push like hell to make his case to have a race drive at Force India during the course of this year. I’m happy for him.”
Whitmarsh has first-hand experience of working with Di Resta. The Scot drove the McLaren F1 car at Silverstone towards the end of 2008 and helped the team develop new aerodynamic packages. The results aided his close friend Lewis Hamilton to the world title.
Di Resta, a former European Formula 3 champ and runner-up in the DTM with Mercedes, has long been linked to a drive in Formula One and will immediately put current Force India drivers Adrian Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi under pressure.
Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug — the man who worked with Franchitti during his years in DTM in the mid-Nineties, as well as helping mastermind the success of Mika Hakkinen, David Coulthard and Hamilton at McLaren — is known to be a keen fan.