F1: Di Resta’s place is in real danger

Paul di Resta will be on the grid on Sunday at Interlagos. Pic: Getty
Paul di Resta will be on the grid on Sunday at Interlagos. Pic: Getty
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BATHGATE’S Paul di Resta is in Brazil this weekend for the last grand prix of the season, but for the 27-year-old Scot, there are concerns he may not be back on the grid come 2014.

Politics and money speak louder than talent in Formula One and Di Resta now appears at serious risk of being ousted from his Sahara Force India seat by drivers bringing shed-loads of cash to the team.

F1 had until ten years ago prided itself on being the pinnacle of global motorsport: the world’s most technologically advanced cars driven by the world’s best drivers. Nowadays, with spiralling cost going hand-in-hand with the continued fall-out from the global financial downturn, cash is king. Talent seems to be of secondary importance.

This year has been Di Resta’s best-ever season in F1: he starts tomorrow’s Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos tenth in the drivers’ world championship. The Scot has also outscored his Sahara Force India team-mate Adrian Sutil 48-29 and collected the team’s best result, fourth in Bahrain. However, there is big danger that his performances may not be enough.

At the core of the uncertainty surrounding Di Resta’s future is the fact Sahara Force India team boss Vijay Mallya traditionally doesn’t announce his driver line-up for the following season until after the team’s Christmas party.

However, Sutil has already come out and hinted he’s staying with the team for next season, although he didn’t specifically make reference to Sahara Force India. “Yes, I know where I will be,” he said. “There is a signature somewhere, but it is a team policy that I don’t talk about it. But I’m quite happy.”

The picture at the team is further muddied by the availability of three other drivers, two of whom bring millions in sponsorship with them.

After walking away from the team last year to join Sauber, Nico Hulkenberg is believed to have already signed a contract with Sahara Force India.

Also knocking at the team’s door is Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan has left Williams and has £30m worth of sponsorship in his pocket. Though likely to go to Lotus, he is in the running for a Force India seat.

The third driver keen to replace Di Resta is Sergio Perez. The 23-year-old Mexican again brings megabucks with him, being bankrolled by the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim.

So, where does all this leave Di Resta and his management team? There is no questioning the fact the Scot is one of the most accomplished drivers on the F1 grid and yesterday he stressed he is concentrating on retaining his seat at Force India, even though he has once again admitted a move to IndyCar racing is an option.

“I’m still in the running for the seat here at Sahara Force India,” he stated, “and I would certainly like to think I am. There’s a few other options with interest, but the primary objective for me is to stay in F1: more importantly to stay driving because I’ve got a lot to offer.

“At this point in the year it’s my best year, and yet I still find myself in difficulties. It’s hard to accept, but I’ve got to understand where F1 is at the moment in the midfield. I strongly believe I’ve done enough to deserve a race seat: I hope everybody will agree with me on that.”

As for a switch to IndyCar in 2014, and taking the Ganassi seat Dario Franchitti was forced to vacate when he had to retire following his recent injuries, Di Resta admitted interest.

“I wouldn’t rule out anything,” he said, before revealing his one big issue with the sport. “I’ve always been slightly concerned about the safety of IndyCars,” he admitted, “but sitting down and looking at it logically, it’s a serious option to look elsewhere because of the success he has had.”