Paul di Resta is part of the privileged few to have had the opportunity to take to the wheel of a Formula 1 car.
The 2010 DTM Series champion, spent three years in F1 before returning to the German touring car series in 2014.
Di Resta joined DTM in 2007 after a successful year in European Formula 3. The Scot did not return to single seaters fully until he secured his contract at Force India, but had received offers for seats in the GP2 Series prior to this opportunity.
“Fortunately, I’ve never been put in a particularly difficult situation. There were times, especially in 2008 during the early days of my DTM career, when there was an opportunity to move to GP2 and keep my hopes of Formula 1 alive there – and I was not at all averse to that. I was happy in the DTM and having fun, but my dream was of Formula 1, for sure, but I’m pleased I didn’t do it then, as I still managed to get there later.
“The second crucial moment was when my time in Formula 1 at Force India came to an end. I then asked myself. What’s the best way forward for me now? But all along, I knew exactly what I wanted. I liked the people in the DTM and wanted to return to Mercedes.
“Yes, I had lots of offers, but sometimes, you have to follow your heart, and I don’t regret my decision one bit. Not even after Mercedes announced that they would be leaving the DTM at the end of next year. Yes, it’s a pity, but at the same time, my journey can continue with Mercedes-Benz on another programme.”
As with Pascal Wehrlein, and to a lesser extent Esteban Ocon, competing with DTM for Mercedes presented an unique path into F1 rather than the traditional single seater leader route that most take.
Di Resta spent 2010 as Force India’s reserve driver, before being made a full time driver from the following year after being crowned DTM champion.
“I can remember the day I signed the contract. It was one of those painful years when I was a reserve driver. Sure, the intentions were there, but anything can happen if you’ve not got that bit of paper in your hand. And then it arrived at four o’clock on Christmas Eve – it was an early Christmas present. I usually don’t go out on Christmas Eve, but that day, we went out with friends and family to my dad’s nightclub and celebrated.”
It was a difficult few years for not only di Resta but also the team, with twelfth in the championship the maximum he could achieve.
“It was tough. Force India as a team were not having it easy, and not just with regard to the budget but with other things too. Still, the people in the outfit are incredibly passionate. They are the reason why the team functions. As a child, I used to get up at six o’clock in the morning to watch the races, and now suddenly, I’m travelling all over the world and contesting Formula 1 races at these tracks.
“I lived the dream. But ultimately, a qualifying lap in a DTM car is just as exciting as in a Formula 1 car. You drive on the absolute limit. Of course, I would still love to compete in Formula 1, because they have the fastest racing cars.
“It holds your interest as a driver. You never give up on your dream, but still, I’m one of the lucky few, who achieved the goal during their careers. There are plenty who’ve got the talent but never make it, but me, I can look back and say, ‘Yes, I did it and I loved it.'”
As well as his DTM commitments and acting as Williams’ reserve driver – and is one of the drivers in contention for the seat vacated by Felipe Massa – di Resta, also acted as part of the punditry team for Sky Sports F1.
“As a racing driver, you only ever get an unadulterated view of the other side. On a good day, you might see the great deal of support provided, but on a bad day, when someone picks holes in you all day long, you see bad things in the media, the dark side. You don’t want to show them your feelings, because you think they’ll use them against you, but they just want honest answers.
“In the end, they write all kinds of things about you, but if you have a good relationship with them and give them what they want, then it can be beneficial to both parties. You have to pay attention to the big picture and think about the future. A good relationship with other people can be the key to how they perceive you as a person.”