Half Term Report: Paul di Resta

The Rookie Report:

Paul di Resta

He follows a long line of distinguished Scottish drivers into Formula One, such as Jim Clark, Sir Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard. While competing in the DTM series for Mercedes throughout 2010, Paul di Resta also spent weekends testing for Force India and he subsequently impressed enough to earn a seat this year. Di Resta is another rookie with racing in the family genetics, cousin Dario Franchitti is an IndyCar champion, and another, Marino Franchitti, has competed in Le Mans.

The Stats:

Races completed 11
Points 8
Retirements 1
Out-qualified team mate 7
Higher race position than team mate 5
Highest qualifying position 6th
Highest race position 7th
Average qualifying position 12th
Average race position 12th

The Season:

First driver's parade in Australia (Clive Mason/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Paul di Resta has been fortunate enough to join a certified mid-field team for his rookie season, and when he did he displace Vitantonio Liuzzi who moved on for a life at Hispania. Di Resta stepped up to the plate and for his first year he would be running alongside the experienced Adrian Sutil, who had been with the team (even before it became Force India) since 2006 in its two guises of Midland and Spyker. The teams biggest claim to fame was its sole pole position and second place on the podium at Spa in 2009, and of course they are chasing that level of result again. Force India are currently in the same 7th position they finished their 2010 season in, but are definitely behind the point tally at the same point, although their reliability is a little better. As they charge past the halfway flag, they aim to not only catch and pass Sauber, but are making a bid for Renault as well.

On his first outing as a fully fledged Formula One driver, he took the honour of being the first rookie driver to put a point onto his championship tally. Although it must be noted he was given a substantial helping hand from fellow rookie Sergio Perez who, along with his team mate Kamui Kobayashi, was disqualified for a technical infraction. Sutil may have, just, finished ahead of him in the race but di Resta began a fantastic qualifying record. Continuing his great form he finished 10th again in Malyasia, ahead of Sutil, to add another point to his score board. This weekend he shoved his team mateinto the shadows with both hands, and so consolidated a trend he’s been adamant to keep up.

Di Resta charging past the new pit complex at his home race

China was next on the list and where is turned out to be a very eventful race, di Resta recovered well after he tried to defend his position from Heidfeld around the turn 14 hairpin. He just missed out on a third consecutive scoring race, the Scot featured in Q3 for the first time. However it’s all change in Turkey, for the first time since the season began Sutil managed to nip ahead of di Resta for the first time. Not only that but a wheel nut failure during the later stages of the race saw Sutil dominate the weekend, with di Resta having retired on the 44th lap. The Spanish race was a non-scoring weekend for the team, but di Resta came out on top once more for the entire weekend.

From here on out the early burst of success from di Resta against Sutil seemed to fade a little. The race in Monaco wasn’t the greatest race for di Resta, he may have had the upper hand in qualifying but a collision with Alguersuari earned him his first penalty, a drive through made him the only other driver to get one apart from Hamilton. An ambitious day was curtailed by losing his nose cone on the 24th lap at the Loews hairpin. However in an act showing his maturity for his tender years, he took full responsibility for the collision, “I have to hold my hands up for this accident because I was probably a bit too ambitious.” Canada was 4 hour adventure that saw some of the most experienced drivers finish early, and even though he was classified as the last finisher in 18th he spent time as a P5 runner before his day unraveled.  A broken front wing, penalty and crashing out in the last lap were his prizes for his first race in Canada.

A scuffle between Heidfeld and di Resta (Charles Coates/LAT Photographic)

All eyes were on Sutil as he stamped his authority on a rather boring trip to Valencia, but di Resta was held back with Hulkenberg crashing his car during Friday practice due to changing track conditions. Including Valencia, di Resta struggled to make an impact on race day until the last race before the summer break in Hungary. At his home race the hopes of a nation rested on his shoulders following his best ever qualifying result of 6th, but it was not a day for British fans to cheer about. A mix up on the pitwall had di Resta coming in for a stop designated for his team mate, he came in with points being a possibility, but left the pit lane without a chance after colliding with Buemi which resulted in a new nose cone. Collisions are a reoccurring theme and in Germany he found himself tussling with Heidfeld yet again. Heidfeld ran up the back of di Resta and was awarded a penalty which he was unable to take due to crashing out. Di Resta felt aggrieved that Heidfeld had not apologised for the incident, the German questioned why he should and simply called it a racing incident. Admitting he needed a strong race before the summer break, he pulled out his career best result of 7th while at Hungary despite being sent on the scenic route by Hamilton.

The Verdict:

Paul di Resta may not have had the single seater experience to match his fellow rookies, but his success in DTM ( four years; 5th, 2nd, 3rd, 1st) has served him well and the first half of his first season reflects this. When give a rookie driver as a team mate, it could be easy to assume they will need a little time to adjust and adapt to the highest level of motor sport. This was not an assumption that Adrian Sutil could have made and lived with easily, di Resta has hit the ground running. He’s also hit a few other things too, namely his nose cone against other people, or rather Nick Heidfeld. Ambition in a midfield car can create some spectacular moments, Sebastian Vettel’s 2008 win in Monza with Toro Rosso, and even within Force India with Giancarlo Fischella’s pole and P2 finish in Belgium 2009. However di Resta’s ambition has sometimes resulted in a swift need for replacement parts, but when he manages to avoid Heidfeld, which won’t be an issue for the remainder of the season, his persistence impresses.

Out of the field of five rookies he’s got the most impressive set of statistics, but Sergio Perez has just edged him on the driver’s standings although they have the same amount of championship points. Neither have sat back and wait for the opportunity to shine, and on average di Resta hasn’t improved on his qualifying position which hasn’t been helped by two retirements (NB: he was classified in Canada). His first in Turkey was a error during a pit stop when his team requested him to pull out of the race where he was in line for more points. The second came in Canada, where his ambitious attempt on Heidfeld at the final chicane saw him come into contact with the German’s rear wing.

Apart from his propensity of ditching his front wing, the only sour note to mention was his attitude towards Hulkenberg in Germany. He complained to the press that he felt under prepared due to the Force India test driver using his car during Friday morning practice, rather unfair as he put Sutil and Liuzzi in the same position last year. Although contracts have not been confirmed for next year, presently di Resta looks to be a fairly secure position if he continues to improve. And if he does that, British driving will have a great future to look forward to. But if his future isn’t with Force India, a great deal of interest has been paid to reports that Mercedes want to see the DTM champion return to a more familiar garage.

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