F1: Di Resta in driving seat as team No.1

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Bathgate’s Paul di Resta will lead Sahara Force India’s Formula One assault next year after being confirmed as its No.1 driver for 2012.

The 25-year-old Scot will partner Nico Hulkenberg, the 24-year-old German, who steps up from his role as the team’s test and reserve driver.

Adrian Sutil, who teamed up with Di Resta this season, is now expected to sign for Williams.

For Di Resta, preparing now for only his second season racing in F1, the step up to team leader merely confirms the impressive reputation he established in his rookie year.

“There’s no denying I’m really looking forward to my second season of Formula One and continuing to grow and develop with Sahara Force India,” he said yesterday. “I love being part of this team: we’re one big, positive family.”

And Di Resta — who scored 27 world championship points in his first year, finishing top F1 rookie — took time to thank the team, and team principal Dr Vijay Mallya.

“Working with the team has been fantastic, and I’d like to thank them, and Dr Mallya, for all their hard work this year and for all the support they’ve given me,” he said.

Mallya, whose global drinks and aviation operations include Glasgow-based whisky company Whyte & Mackay, paid tribute to Di Resta’s performance in 2011.

“I think Paul caught the eye of everybody in the pit lane during his rookie season,” the Indian billionaire said. “His speed, maturity and racecraft confirmed we were right to believe in him.”