Paul di Resta thinks that his experience of driving in Friday practice at eight circuits last year puts him in an ‘ideal position’ as he prepares for his debut season as a Formula 1 driver.
Speaking at yesterday’s announcement, which confirmed the Scot in the second seat at Force India alongside Adrian Sutil, di Resta said that he had finally realised a long-held ambition. “Naturally I am thrilled to be making my race debut this season,” said the reigning DTM champion. “Becoming an F1 driver has been a long-held ambition of mine, something I’ve wanted to do since I first stepped into a kart, and to finally realise it feels amazing.
“I’ve worked really hard for this opportunity throughout my career and to get it with Force India, a young team that’s got ambitions as big as mine, is genuinely exciting. I can’t wait to be on the grid in Bahrain, it can’t come soon enough! “
The 24-year-old also said that he has already been preparing hard for his first season in the sport: “I’ve been working on fitness to be completely ‘race fit’ and I’ll have some simulator sessions before the start of the testing programme. We will decide the days I will do very shortly, but I should be in the car at each of the tests to make sure the team and I have as much information as possible about the new car and its behaviour. I’ve been spending as much time as I can in the factory as well – even though I know the team very well from last season, I am strengthening those relationships so we function at our best level as a team.”
Di Resta was test and reserve driver for Force India last season, and was given chance to drive in a Friday practice session on eight occasions last season. This, he feels, gives him a good footing for what lies ahead. “Obviously I know the team very well, and understanding how people work and the systems and procedures in place gives a real advantage as everything you do is improving, rather than learning from scratch,” he said. “I will also know some of the circuits from my Friday experience so getting up to speed on those weekends will be quicker and easier. It’s an ideal position to be in when you make your race debut.”
And there were no surprises when Di Resta was asked which race he is looking forward to most next season: “Silverstone will obviously be very special as it’s my home Grand Prix. Last year I was lucky enough to drive in the Friday practice session and was the first out on track so I could hear the crowd. The atmosphere was amazing so I’ll be geared up for that race.
“Equally all the circuits are special in some respects – Monza has the history, Belgium that incredible track and Singapore the lights. Really it will be about optimising every opportunity I have on and off track.”
This appointment Di Resta means that Britain will have three representatives on the 2011 grid, and di Resta knows that he is following a long-line of distinguished compatriots. “Britain has produced some great drivers over the years and Lewis and Jenson have really stood out in recent seasons as two back to back world champion,” he commented. “To be on the grid with them is pretty special. To then follow in the footsteps of some other great names – Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark for example – is a real honour and I hope that I will do justice to their achievements.”
Looking to the coming year, Di Resta knows that, with Nico Hulkenberg taking his old role as reserve driver in the team, he has two very quick, relatively experienced team-mates who he will have to measure up against. However, he thinks that the new Force India trio will work well together as he sets out his personal aims for 2011.
“Initially [the aim] will be to learn from the bottom up and create a solid foundation,” he said. “Learn the tracks, understand the car and get the information everyone needs to achieve the ambitious goals we have set ourselves. To do this, we need to finish as many races as possible and to make sure that when we finish we’re in the points.
“Having two team-mates that have competed in F1 is an advantage as you have people who know the tracks, the business and how to deal with certain situations you only get when you are racing. Equally I hope that I can bring some experience from my outings last year, what I know about the team and a different perspective on things. I think we’ll complement each [other].”