In 39 days, Scots racer Paul di Resta will swap the blustery snow of Glasgow for the sweltering heat of Bahrain for the Formula One season’s opener after he was officially unveiled as the reserve and test driver for Force India.
The 23-year-old from Bathgate, who like most drivers today slithered his way to work in the snow, was centre stage at the announcement held at the HQ of the team’s major sponsor, whisky company Whyte & Mackay.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for me,” di Resta, cousin of double IndyCar champ Dario Franchitti, admitted. “To be joining a leading team like Force India is fantastic for me. Obviously I’m delighted to be reserve and test driver, but what I really want to do is race.
“This is another step towards me being on the starting grid for a Formula One Grand Prix. That’s what I’ve dreamed about and hopefully, if I continue to impress everyone in the team, the next move will be a race drive.”
Di Resta — who beat Sebastian Vettel, already a grand prix winner with Red Bull, to the European Formula 3 Championship in 2006 — has already impressed the team with a blistering performance during his three-day test at Jerez in December.
And while many of the F1 teams are currently developing their cars at the first official test at Valencia, Silverstone-based Force India will not unveil its new car until later this month. Di Resta will drive the all-new 2010 racer for the first time back at Jerez on February 19/20.
But the Scot, who will dovetail another assault on the DTM title alongside his F1 duties, is hungry to take the next step and become a fully-fledged grand prix racer.
“I’m ready to race as soon as I get the opportunity,” di Resta continued. “I know the team have two very good drivers, Tonio (Liuzzi) and Adrian (Sutil), under contract for this season, but I’m looking at the longterm future with the team. I’m reserve just now, but I want to race.”
The promotion to a ‘race drive’ may come sooner than anticipated. Last season the team’s reserve driver Liuzzi, was promoted into a race seat after fellow Italian Giancarlo Fisichella moved to Ferrari having powered his Force India to second place in the Belgian Grand Prix.
Di Resta’s contract will see him tackle the Friday practice sessions ahead of the grands prix as the team, backed by its engine supplier Mercedes-Benz, develops his F1 knowledge and experience.
The Scot is highly regarded both within Mercedes — di Resta is a member of the manufacturer’s Young Driver Development Programme — and at McLaren, a team he impressed when he tested with them in 2008.
“I think he deserves the opportunity,” Mercedes motorsport boss, Norbert Haug, said. “He did a good job when he tested in December and I think he is one to watch. He is good. Very good.” And di Resta received praise from Force India owner, Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya.
“We are very proud to have someone of Paul’s calibre joining the team as his potential is clear and he has the right attitude for making it in F1,” stated Mallya, whose drinks empire includes Whyte & Mackay. “We look forward to this becoming a very fruitful partnership.”
And di Resta, who aims to emulate Scots F1 legends Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart by being crowned world champion, is hungry to develop the partnership.
“Since the early days when I was karting at places like Larkhall, I’ve dreamed of being a Formula One driver,” he explained. “At times it might have looked as though it wasn’t going to happen, but I always had faith in my own ability.
“I feel this is the right time in my life to be entering Formula One. It’s a very, very exciting time and I know there are big challenges ahead. But I have the belief that I can, and will succeed, and that will drive me on to success.”
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