Exclusive interview - Force Indias Paul di Resta 12 Feb 2011
After a short break since David Coulthards retirement, there will be a Scottish driver back on the grid this season: reigning DTM champion Paul di Resta, who has been promoted from third man to racer at Force India. Whether Scots have racing in their blood is unclear, but its definitely in the Di Resta bloodline - his cousin is Dario Franchitti, the multiple IndyCar champion. In the long run he will settle for nothing less than the F1 crown - even if his first day in the new VJM04 was a bit troubled
Q: Paul, you are the reigning DTM champion and now coming into Formula One. The normal procedure is that outgoing F1 drivers move to DTM - often with little success. Will moving in this direction produce more success?
Paul di Resta: True, some F1 drivers came to DTM lately. But I came through the ranks to DTM when I was only 19 years-old and indeed had a successful time - and I have obviously proved myself enough to get into a Formula One car. It sure was an opportunity Ive dreamed of having, but there was also a lot of hard work going into it along with my family.
Q: Is it easier to change from touring cars to single seaters than vice versa?
PdR: Well, I went from single seaters to touring car and the transition was quite fast. I was young and ambitious. Now I came from a touring car into a Formula One car, but people probably have a bit of a wrong impression: a touring car today is more of a single seater. What people tend to misunderstand when they come from F1 to DTM is that the performance level there is very high and the driving technique is pretty much the same. Why F1 drivers have no success in DTM I cannot put my finger on - I am simply looking for my own performance. For whatever reason these guys found it very hard - probably they underestimated the high level of competition.
Q: You won the DTM championship with Mercedes and obviously Mercedes paved your way into the Force India cockpit. So it is fair to say that the German car manufacturer is your guardian angel. How much did hey contribute to your motor racing career?
PdR: They definitely had a great influence on my career. I have been with them for six years, obviously until the end of last year, and I came on with them as a Mercedes Benz junior development driver, won the Formula Three championship with them and progressed on. It was always fun to do the DTM with them and I have much enjoyed being with a huge manufacturer and I feel very privileged and will continue to be with them in the future. Looking back I wouldnt have changed my route one single bit.
Q: Was the F1 drive the reward for the DTM championship? Or asked differently: would you be driving in F1 this season had you not won the DTM title?
PdR: I wouldnt say it that way. I was in F1 before I won the DTM championship as part of the Force India team, so it is difficult to look back and say that this was a crucial part. But sure it was an important part regarding the approach we had last year with two tasks: to be Force Indias third driver and to win the DTM championship. We succeeded with both and there was always a natural progression to move on to F1 if my performance is at a good level. I dont think that the DTM title was the absolute key to it, but it sure was a nice plus.
Q: It took quite a long time before Force India announced their final driver line-up for this season. Was there ever a fear that you would not make it to the grid this year due to contractual issues?
PdR: You can always fear. All drivers have to cope with the limited number of places on the grid and at the end of the day we are all here to perform and we all need to keep the level of performance high every single day to be kept on. Indications were relatively good last year and I feel very comfortable being part of this young team and I hope that in the future many good things will come our way.
Q: A rookie season is always a mix of hope and trepidation. Do you feel you head into your first F1 season well equipped?
PdR: I think as well as I can be. You can only do your best and hope that it is enough. I certainly had some key people that have helped me and gave me influence and help that you cannot buy and I hope I will use that. It is a bit of a learning curve and it is a huge task, but I am very excited and eager to make it happen.
Q: Force India lost out on sixth place in the 2010 constructors championship by only one point and it is a common knowledge that both the teams drivers have to score this year. Is that what is expected from you?
PdR: Definitely. Our expectations this year are high - higher than last year. Weve nearly achieved what we said we would do and the workforce has really concentrated all their efforts on this years car, so when we get to Bahrain we will have more of an indication of where we are. Things are moving on progressively - and as long as it is going in the right direction we should be in reasonable shape. We are aiming at midfield or above.
Q: Scottish drivers have a long and successful standing in F1 since its early days. Are you ready to walk in those shoes?
PdR: Absolutely. We have a great Scottish heritage in Formula One. Probably the best driver of all time was from Scotland: Jim Clark. But theres also what Jackie Stewart has achieved with his two titles and his influence on the sport, and certainly David Coulthard had a hugely long career. I hope I can tie in with these Scottish success stories. Scotland is a small place, but hopefully big things come out of it.
Q: Do you think this important F1 heritage made it easier for you to get your chance, as there is a common understanding of the sport and national pride coming with it?
PdR: It gives you drive and you sure want one day to be part of the history books. But I have my own ambitions and goals first. I try to meet them and then lets see where it takes me in the history books.
Q: What are your ambitions for this season and in medium term?
PdR: It is difficult to give an answer for this year. The main thing is to have a professional approach to it and enjoy it. As long as you are positive about it, hopefully it is the right direction and then it should be fine.
Q: Isnt the DTM title a bit of a guide to defining your goals. It clearly must be a benchmark
PdR: I had a clear goal to get to Formula One - and Ive achieved that. I have a goal of winning the world championship and I hope I will be driving on and marking my goals off.
Q: First day in the new VJM04. Your memory of the VJM03 must be very fresh from last week in Valencia. How did it feel?
PdR: Well, very obviously I had some braking issues that ended my first flying lap in the afternoon quite abruptly. Actually today was the second day of running with the new car, so basically what (team mate) Adrian (Sutil) and myself are doing here is to identify any teething problems and have them fixed in the factory so that we go next week to Barcelona with a car that we can build performance on and incorporate KERS and the moveable rear wing, which should give us some extra boost. Generally speaking the car feels good - the balance is good and that makes me convinced that we can build on what we have for a good season.
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