Scotland’s latest Formula One driver Paul di Resta has received some timely advice from the sports’ old master, triple world champion, Sir Jackie Stewart: “Paul may have a foot on the first rung of the Formula One ladder, but he has to bide his time, while at the same time be ready for success.”
The 70-year-old, who won the last of his three titles for Tyrrell in 1973, was in his home town of Dumbarton to open the new Children’s Library. And Stewart, who suffers from dyslexia, is excited by Di Resta’s entry into F1 as test and reserve driver for Force India.
“It’s good for the sport, but most importantly it’s good for Scotland,” he continued. “With guys like me, Jimmy Clark and more recently David Coulthard and Dario Franchitti, not forgetting the late Colin McRae, we’ve done very well; Scotland’s been extraordinarily rich.
“We’ve had Scots waving the flag around the motorsport world now for so many years. Scotland’s played a big part for a wee country with so few living in it in comparison to the big countries. We’ve been pretty damned good.
“Now the next generation of Scottish racers is being led by Paul. I know he’s very talented, from the success he’s already achieved, but he musn’t be put under too much pressure too soon.”
And Stewart, who won two races in his first year as a grand prix driver, believes Di Resta’s role as reserve driver for the team will ultimately prove beneficial to the 23-year-old who heads to Bahrain this week for the season’s opener.
“I think it will suit him better than being fast-tracked into the sport like Lewis Hamilton was at McLaren,” Stewart, who retired after winning 27 of his 99 grand prix starts, continued. “He’ll benefit by serving something of an apprenticeship like Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.”
While double world champ Alonso started at the very bottom with Minardi in 2001 before switching to Renault the following year, current world champ Button spent years in the wilderness at BAR and Honda.
“Paul will gain a huge amount of knowledge about F1 this year in his current role,” Stewart explained, “but when he gets that first chance as a race driver in a grand prix, he has to be ready to grab the opportunity with both hands.
“I’m confident that when he gets into Formula One he will do very well. He’s highly skilled and has a good Scottish canniness about him. I don’t think he will trip up when he gets the chance.
“I have seen young drivers try to develop and you don’t want them to have to deliver too soon. They need time, the competition is fierce. Paul needs that time.
“First he has to get a race seat and get starts, then compare himself against his team-mate as his car may not be as good as a Ferrari or McLaren. Then he has to build from there.
“Is he a potential world champion? Too early to say. First he has to deliver. If you are a striker you need to score goals. If you are a racing driver you need points and podiums and it’s too early to ask that of him. But in time I believe he will deliver.”