Paul di Resta believes he was high up on the list for the race seat at Williams Martini Racing in 2018, only to be overlooked in favour of Sergey Sirotkin, while Robert Kubica has also usurped him as the reserve driver.
The Scotsman has had a close relationship with Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams during his time with the Grove-based team, and was chosen to fill the seat of Felipe Massa in last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix when the veteran Brazilian was taken ill, but despite impressing after being thrown into the deep end without any previous experience of the FW40, he was overlooked for a full-time drive for 2018.
“I think it was very close, I was definitely in that running [for the race seat],” said di Resta to RACER. “They don’t want to call it an ‘assessment’ in Budapest, but it went as far as the effort to put you in the car for that.
“I was a key player there for a couple of years, I’ve built an exceptionally strong relationship with [deputy team principal] Claire [Williams] personally. I like the way she works, I like the way she is as an individual leading the team, and fundamentally it came close to that seat becoming available.”
Di Resta admitted he was not expecting the game of ‘musical chairs’ that took place over who would replace Massa in 2018, but despite losing the reserve driver role to Kubica he is in talks about some kind of role with Williams for this season, and could return to the reserve driver role in the future.
“Did I think when I signed up to be the reserve driver that was going to happen and how all the musical chairs was going to happen? Probably not,” admitted di Resta. “And I saw it as a service I could provide. I fortunately got to provide that service and I think by doing that in Hungary that put me back on the market for it.
“I tried to go into that race as best as I could and tried to represent the team as best I could, and I was thrown in the deep of all deep ends. I somehow got out of the weekend very well, and it makes you hungry again. Not that I was ever not hungry for it, but it just gives you that bug again.
“It’s a shame it didn’t come off, it’s a shame that our relationship has not continued in the sense of where they’ve gone… At the same time, they want to somehow keep a relationship with me, so I’m in discussions with them to do other things, and I’m actually at the point of trying to set up a meeting to get across and go and see them.
“I will somehow still be very close to them on a personal level. On a professional level it’s a shame, because I still feel that what I brought to the team was good. I think they would say the same thing, but at the same time new opportunities arise from new things, don’t they?”