Exclusive Q&A with Force Indias Paul di Resta 13 Dec 2011
Results-wise, Force Indias Paul di Resta proved himself king of rookies this season, but while Saubers Sergio Perez and Williams Pastor Maldonado have already secured their drives for a second season, Di Resta is patiently waiting to hear whether he will race again in 2012. With the Silverstone-based team securing a strong sixth place in the 2011 constructors standings, theres no doubting the Scot and team mate Adrian Sutil proved to be an excellent pairing. Di Resta, however, isnt counting his chickens for 2012 just yet, especially with third driver Nico Hulkenberg waiting expectantly in the wings
Q: Paul, a rookie season is a once in a lifetime experience. How has it been for you?
Paul di Resta: Obviously I am really happy to have spent a year in Formula One as it has been a long-term ambition for me. It has been a pretty good year for me - and a pretty good year together with the team. It was a joyful experience, but also a lot of hard work. I definitely look back with good memories. Of course the memories could have been a bit better, but overall 2011 stands up quite positively and I think this experience can drive us further in the future and herald many more good years to come.
Q: A number of drivers made their Formula One debuts in 2011: three from the start of the season - you, Saubers Sergio Perez and Williams Pastor Maldonado - whilst HRTs Daniel Ricciardo joined later in the year. You were the rookie of the year in terms of results. Are you pleased?
PdR: Well, I think that is something that you would always be very happy with, but you also have to consider that we are speaking about different circumstances for different people. My main focus was on doing the best job possible, getting involved with all the other drivers out there and hopefully getting the same respect back that I have shown to them - on and off the track.
Q: You won the DTM championship in 2010 but even winners sometimes face hard times. Was that how it felt to you this season?
PdR: I think you have to have the right mind set and be realistic about your targets. In terms of what we wanted to achieve, Force India finished sixth in the constructors championship which is the best theyve ever done. So that is very rewarding as it secures a bit more infrastructure and definitely changes the goals for next year. The next ambition will definitely be to finish fifth and I hope that I am part of that journey. (laughs) Really, weve been the underdogs and when you look at where we ended in the standings we clearly overachieved compared to other people. So everybody in the team should be very proud of the 2011 season.
Q: In fact Force India were only four points shy of P5. With the withdrawal of the Bahrain round there were only 19 races instead of the intended 20. Do you think with one more race you could have outperformed Renault?
PdR: Yes, I guess we could have. Our performance was very high at the end of the year. Unfortunately we started a bit slower than the others, but thats life! We put up a good fight. We had said to ourselves that we had to finish the last race in fifth and seventh and we finished in sixth and eighth, so we were very close to catching Renault. There have been times when we should have maximized, but weve been unlucky not to score points. At other times Renault could have said the same. My philosophy is that you shouldnt think too much about the past - and we reached our original goal to be sixth in the constructors standings. What we have to do now is think more about the future and then hopefully that journey takes us to fifth.
Q: What was the most difficult - or annoying - thing you experienced in 2011? And what was the funniest?
PdR: Well, I think the finest moment was qualifying sixth at the British Grand Prix - and the race itself was the most annoying moment of the year as the pit stop screwed up a great finish, which, if you look back, could have meant fifth in the constructors championship. But as I said before, you cant think too much about the past. Frustrating points for me were probably a few of the strategy decisions, but we had to cover ourselves as we definitely wanted to finish sixth in the constructors. If we had known then what we know now we probably wouldnt have had to have played it that safe because in the end we beat Sauber by 25 points, which was a remarkable result. The funniest situation? I think its a bit difficult to come across funny situations in Formula One. It is such a competitive environment - your focus has to be at 100 percent because if it is not then you will not score any points. If I have to pick something funny over a Grand Prix weekend its probably the drivers parade where we all mouth off about each other! (laughs) Other than that everybody is in a different mind set.
Q: You came from a huge team in DTM to a small team in Formula One racing. Has the transition been an easy one?
PdR: It is certainly different. But I have to say that Ive enjoyed it a lot this season. You work much more closely with the team and you have to put in a lot more work. When I was with Mercedes I was driving a factory car so you are expected to win every single weekend - and if you dont then its a question of why not. Here we are much more focused on what we can achieve - at a good level. But dont underestimate that the ambition at Force India is on a very high level, as we have shown over the second half of the season. Of course the infrastructure is not the biggest but its very professional. And that is a good omen for 2012.
Q: You started the season with a very brave outlook, but it seemed to falter as the season progressed. Why was that?
PdR: I think it was just a bit about being unlucky and also some unfortunate circumstances. Remember that I was racing on tracks that Ive never driven before and it was a bit like a roundabout. Sometimes I was faster than Adrian and sometimes he was faster than me. Dont forget that Adrian is a competitive guy. He is very fast, I respect him and we are good friends. As a combination in the team I think we worked very well together and the results have shown that.
Q: You just said that you and Sutil worked very well together for the sake of the team. The FIAs initial 2012 entry list has both names missing at Force India, but it is understood that you will definitely race for them next season. Is that correct?
PdR: I cant say anything. The only thing that I can say is that I am still working closely with the team and helping with the new car. I will do some simulator work over the next week and hopefully by then (Force India team principal) Dr Mallya and his board will have made up their minds about their 2012 driver line-up. Certainly I would be very proud to stay with them for another year. They have shown a lot of respect for me and a lot of faith in me. Theyve given me the opportunity of a lifetime and I am very thankful for that.
Q: Should you stay with Force India what are your goals for next season? And what is the goal for the team? Theyve achieved so much this year - will they be out to raise the bar even higher in 2012?
PdR: I honestly hope so. For sure the focus is looking upwards and only up will do! (laughs)
Q: When you look back, what were the dos and donts of your rookie year?
PdR: Well, I never set myself goals because I wanted to keep an open mind in my first season. Of course there have been a lot of donts but then you have to tell yourself that you learn from it and you can use it to your advantage. The most important thing was definitely to drive the car and enjoy that experience. I have worked very hard with my family and key people that have made the journey happen and I am very happy about the decisions theyve made and the faith theyve put in me.
Q: Dr Mallya has indicated that he will make a decision by December 15. Should the odds turn against you, is there a Plan B in place for you?
PdR: I dont think that this is something that you want to think about, but sure you have to think about a worst-case scenario - and thank goodness I have (manager) Anthony (Hamilton) doing that for me. Thats what he is employed to do.