Force India confirmed the worst kept secret in Formula One when they announced the signing of Mexican Sergio Perez to replace Bathgate’s Paul di Resta. Perez, unceremoniously dumped by McLaren, brings with him around ¤15 million of sponsorship money.
It’s long been expected Force India would opt for the financial solution of bringing Perez into the team to partner Nico Hulkenberg for 2014.
And no matter how much team owner Vijay Mallya attempted to stress that the commercial interest had no bearing on the selection, he did make one admission.
“There might be opportunities going forward in Mexico and Latin America through Sergio, and that part of the world was totally closed to us,” he said. It has to be assumed he was referring to aspects of the global drinks company he owns.
And there’s a concerning irony surrounding the team’s decision to bring Perez into the fold.
The first is that towards the end of the 2012 season, after Lewis Hamilton announced he was switching to Mercedes, McLaren was poised to sign Di Resta as a replacement.
But Hamilton’s decision coincided with the news McLaren was to lose its primary sponsor, Vodaphone. Concerned by the cash implications, the Woking team stunned the F1 paddock by signing Perez – and pocketing his cash.
At the time, many questioned McLaren’s sense. There’s no doubt Di Resta – well known to the team, and who, himself, understood fully the workings of McLaren – would have been a better fit, and done a far better job in terms of results and points.
How ironic then that, 12 months later, McLaren – now flush with the knowledge they have Honda cash coming in in 2015 – ditched Perez and then essentially guaranteed him a seat with Force India.
That Di Resta was pivotal in helping Force India seal sixth place in this year’s constructors’ championship appears to have quickly been forgotten by the team.
Loyalty, it’s clear, has no place in F1 – certainly when it comes to teams.
And though the 27-year-old Scot doesn’t bring – unlike Perez – wads of sponsorship cash with him, it’s worth noting the difference between sixth and seventh in the constructors’ championship equates to around £10m.
What next for Di Resta? A return to DTM in Germany – where he won the title in 2010 – with Mercedes, is high on the list. Talks too have taken place with Sauber regarding their second seat.
IndyCar? That remains a possibility, but it’s an outside possibility. Di Resta has made it clear he has concerns about the safety of open-wheel racing in the States.
On thing which is certain, though, is that Paul Di Resta won’t be racing with Force India in 2014: not because of any lack of talent, but simply because he refuses to buy a seat in Formula One.
Di Resta responded to the news on Twitter, saying: “Just want to take this opportunity to thank @clubforce for 4 great years. As a team we’ve come a long way in our time together.
“But it’s now time for a new challenge for me in the next phase of my career and I wish them all the best for the future #beenapleasure”