Jim McGill: Di Resta not under presusure for 2014

Paul di Resta signs autographs for Indian fans. Picture: James Moy/PA
Paul di Resta signs autographs for Indian fans. Picture: James Moy/PA
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Bathgate’s Paul di Resta was in practice at his team’s home grand prix in India this morning looking to rescue his season after finishing just outside the points in Japan too weeks ago.

Di Resta finished 11th at Suzuka but it was the seventh successive race in which the 27-year-old had failed to score a world championship point.

And that run of results triggered a wave of headlines stating he’s “fighting for his F1 career”. But those claims ignore the fact that Di Resta delivered a mightily impressive opening first eight races of the season, scoring in seven.

The only race he failed to score points in was the season’s second race, the Malaysian Grand Prix, when the team’s new wheel nut mechanism failed.

Remember too, a number of those point-scoring results came after being forced to start near the back of the grid after his Sahara Force India team made basic errors during qualifying.

In Monaco he was forced to start 17th after the team made the wrong tyre choice, but on the tight, demanding street circuit, he delivered an impeccable drive to storm through to ninth.

Next race in Montreal, again he had to start 17th after the team opted to repair a small glitch in his car’s seamless shift gearbox software midway through the opening qualifying session. While he sat in the garage, a rain shower swept across the track compromising his final run. Come race day, he battled through to finish seventh.

Next race, Silverstone. Just hours after sealing his best-ever qualifying position, fifth, he was excluded because his car was found to be underweight. Twenty-four hours later, having started from the back of the grid, he finished ninth.

And let’s not forget, he was only denied a podium finish in Bahrain when he was overtaken by Romain Grosjean’s Lotus on the last couple of laps as his tyre disintegrated.

The turning point in Di Resta’s season — and form — came in Hungary when Pirelli re-introduced the 2012 tyre construction, getting rid of the compounds and construction which had been used in the opening half of the season.

He finished 18th at the Hungaroring, and since then his results have been Belgium: DNF (hydraulics); Monza: DNF (collision); Singapore, DNF (crash); Korea, DNF (spin); Japan: 11th.

And how has his team-mate Adrian Sutil performed over the same period? Hungary: DNF (hydraulics); Belgium: ninth; Monza: DNF (brakes); Singapore: 10th; Korea: DNF (collision); Japan: 14th.

Overnight, it appears, the Mercedes-powered Sahara Force India car went from being one capable of fighting at the front for podiums, to a dog of a car lacking in performance and balance.

But can a car really lose its strengths and character overnight? No. But if you take away one of the main constituent parts round which the 2013 Sahara Force India car was honed and finely tuned — the Pirelli tyres — then without those building blocks the structure collapses.

That is what has happened to Di Resta’s form. That is what is at the core of his frustration.

Let us not forget that Di Resta is a racer: always has been, always will be. He didn’t win the DTM Championship with Mercedes simply by conserving tyres and nursing his car round the tracks.

This season he started with an F1 car which was fast and handled impeccably, simply because the whole of his Sahara Force India team had worked tirelessly during the pre-season testing to maximise the car’s performance with the 2013 Pirelli tyres.

The results in the opening eight races confirm the work they’d achieved.

The results in the last six races, simply confirm the whole team has been derailed since the introduction of the ‘2012’ construction tyres.

Di Resta’s car has lost pace and balance, and as a result he’s constantly having to overdrive the car to maximise performance. In doing so, he’s pushing the car to limits it’s not capable of achieving.

“At the end of the day I can deliver when I’m given the tools to deliver,” he said. “At the same time, with what has happened over the past few races, where I am at right now is not a great place to be.

“I did have a tremendous run of points before that, but when times are hard, they are hard I suppose. We regrouped and improved in Suzuka, and hopefully that upward trend will continue this weekend in India.

“I, more than anybody, want to get back on track with the team because they deserve it, so now it’s now about digging deep.

“When I reflect, Singapore was obviously a disappointing way to end, but with five laps to go I believe my effort was more than anybody had put into that race.

“As I said, I know I can deliver. That’s not a question. I just need a bit of support from the team to understand how difficult this car is at the moment to get us out of it.

“We’re working together to achieve that, and I’ve 100 per cent belief everybody is trying their hardest.”

“At the moment we’re working as a team and I’m working with my groups of guys. More than anybody, I’ll put the effort in and I won’t be down about it because I know how this game works. Things can quickly turn.”

For Di Resta, things turned badly quickly when Pirelli made its decision to change tyres mid season. Given the right equipment, there is no denying the Scot’s fortunes can turn just as quickly back to the positive.

The team is fully aware of what he is having to cope with, in relation to the car: perhaps more significantly, it’s pretty safe to bet the team is also aware of other problems with the car which never find their way into the public domain.

So, is Di Resta under pressure for 2014? I would suggest the answer would have to be, no.