F1: Massive local support for Bathgate driver

Force India Formula One driver Paul di Resta

Force India Formula One driver Paul di Resta

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Bathgate’s Paul di Resta tackles his second “home” grand prix this weekend when he races at the Buddh International Circuit in India.

For the 26-year-old Scot, it’s the biggest race of the year for his Sahara Force India team which has a massive following in the country.

“People in the UK, understandably, have no idea of the size of following the team has in India,” said Di Resta, who has been undertaking pre-race PR events all week.

“It’s absolutely massive. The media demands this week have gone through the roof, and it’s fantastic to be able to be out there promoting not just the team, but F1.”

Di Resta, who now looks likely to remain at Sahara Force India for a third season next year, heads into the race knowing his team is eager for a world championship boost.

“Points, of course, are crucially important, especially as we head towards the end of the season and the outcome of the Constructors’ Championship,” he continued. “We’re a healthy 31 points ahead of Williams in eighth, and only 27 points behind Sauber in sixth. So it’s crucial we score well this weekend.

“A good haul of points would hopefully close the gap in the race for sixth position in the championship. That’s our goal, and we’ll be doing everything we can to achieve it.”

With only four races remaining, the battle for the drivers’ championship promises a mouthwatering finale.

Defending champ Sebastian Vettel, winner of the last three races in his Red Bull, enters the weekend with a slender six-point gap over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

Today, Vetell topped the first practice session, with Jenson Button second and Alonso third. And the Spaniard, whose title hopes have been dented by two first-lap retirements this year, is adamant he can still win the title.

“My situation is quite good,” explained Alonso, who has finished third twice and retired once in the last three grands prix. “With four races to go we have nearly the same points as Vettel and have all the possibilities open for the championship. We are in the situation we wanted, fighting for the championship until the end.

“It’s true that in the last few races Red Bull has been very strong and quick, but we have seen all year that there have been ups and downs for everybody, so we need to improve our situation and our level of competitiveness and try to catch them.

“As for my motivation, it is better than ever and not just me, the whole team is very motivated. Everyone in the team wants this championship.

“We have struggled all year with our car, especially in the first part of the season and now with four races to go, we are going on full attack for the last month with everyone in the team so focussed.”

Ironically, Vettel faces a two-pronged assault on his title hopes after his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, 63 points behind, was told he was free to race the German.

“We won’t be imposing team orders,” team boss Christian Horner said. “Not yet, anyway. “Sebastian has moved into the lead of the title chase and Mark still has a chance of winning this championship. It would be wrong to impose team orders while Mark still mathematically has a chance of winning.