Monthly Archives: September 2009

Stuck In A Series You Can’t Get Out Of

Uphall is a typical Scottish village, just fourteen kilometres out of the capital, Edinburgh. There is nothing spectacular about Uphall, the village websites lists upcoming events that would normally be associated with a rural British village, playgroups, traditional dance classes and of course, Bingo at the Bowling Club. But there is one thing from Uphall that raised quite a few eyebrows.

Despite Paul di Resta currently racing in the German Touring Car Series, DTM, he was racing at his home circuit of sorts, Brands Hatch, on the first weekend of September. The Brit won the race, ahead of Timo Scheider and Martin Tomczyk and a certain Gary Paffett. But that has been the problem for di Resta, at the moment, the only racing series he seems to be able to race in at the moment is the DTM.

It is strange to be concerned over a driver who is only 23, someone who has between ten to fifteen years left in him, possibly even more. But di Resta has struggled to make the step from the lower series into the hallowed fame of Formula 1, with several opportunities in the past few years going begging.

Paul di Resta began his single seat career in the UK Formula Renault in 2003, finishing a respectable 7th in his debut year, which included a win at Oulton Park. The grid that year also happened to include a young Lewis Hamilton as well as another 2009 DTM driver, Susie Stoddart. 2004 was a significant improvement, finishing 3rd, with a double win at Brands Hatch to top it all off. His team Manor Motorsports were clearly impressed, he was promoted to a Formula 3 Euroseries drive for the following year.

However, the season was not to plan, only finishing tenth and with it three disqualifications for various reasons (unfortunately, I am unable to find out what the reasons were). Yet, looking back four years later, who would be the one to complain when that top 10 also compiled the names of three current F1 drivers, Lewis Hamilton, Adrian Sutil and Sebastian Vettel, as well as three current GP2 drivers Lucas di Grassi, Franck Perera and Giedo van der Garde. But, naturally, in 2006, he decided the best thing to do was to win the whole thing. And despite not being as dominant as Lewis Hamilton in the previous season, he finished a comfortable eleven points ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Yes, Vettel, current three time F1 race winner, and also well ahead of a few names you may recognise, Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Romain Grosjean.

Impressive it seems, so DTM came knocking, with Mercedes snapping him up and originally putting him in the two year old car along with Susie Stoddart and Greek driver, Alexandros Margaritis. Naturally, you’d expect him to be at the back. Not in this case, he finished the championship 5th, with four podiums.  For 2008, he was put in the most up to date Mercedes, he finished second to Timo Scheider, taking the battle right down to the last race at Hockenheim. So far in 2009 (last race was at Brands Hatch), he lies in 4th with having an average season till the win at Brands Hatch. Will it be the kick for him to win the DTM.

Will it be the kick for him to be in Formula 1?

Lets begin by thinking logically, Paul di Resta currently drives for Mercedes in the DTM and therefore has a contract with them. If he were to obey that, there are several options for di Resta. Assuming McLaren will be opting to go for the more experienced racing drivers, Raikkonen, Rosberg so on. Won’t go into that here however. Aside from McLaren, two other teams are supplied from Mercedes engines, Force India and Brawn GP. If we look closer at the detail, recent reports have revealed Mercedes may be buying a controlling share into the current championship leaders Brawn GP. And with Rubens Barrichello looking likely to be on his way out, either to another team or into retirement, it would seem ideal for di Resta to make his move into F1. However, the only catch is that the team are most likely to want more proven drivers due to the strong chance of them winning the Constructors Championship.

Force India seems to be a weaker bet of the two options, with no rumours of either Adrian Sutil or Vitantonio Liuzzi leaving the outfit for 2010. Therefore it would be unlikely that he would end up at the team.

Option number three is as a reserve driver at any of those teams. However, these days, being one of those has its massive downside. You best be in another series or you will find yourself doing nothing for an entire season unless someone is underperforming or gets injured in the race team. This would most likely see di Resta remain in DTM, and like Gary Paffett, seem to be linked around, but never get anywhere.

But the final thought is also the strongest one. One of the new teams in Formula 1 for 2010 is Manor Motorsports. Earlier on when going through di Resta’s career to date, you may recall me mentioning that team. He was with them for several years in his early career, that means he will be well known within the team and he knows the team well himself. The team have supported him throughout his career, this is an ideal opportunity for di Resta.

But does he deserve Formula 1 though, for all he has currently shown he is good in Touring Cars for the past few years?

Paul di Resta, has to be fair, done little to none single seater work since his move to DTM in 2007. He could defiantly be awfully rusty when being put inside something significantly faster than a Mercedes in the DTM. But in theory, it should make no difference, what you have learnt should not have gone in three years. It still may take testing to go from rusty to excellence once again.

There is a thing that worries me, is past drivers with deals with Mercedes who have gone nowhere. To name two, Gary Paffett and Mike Conway. Both, not so long ago, linked to drives in Formula 1, even linked with drives at McLaren before Lewis Hamilton came along. Now, Paffett is struggling as the reserve driver at McLaren along with Pedro de la Rosa and Mike Conway is driving in America in the IRL. Both drivers had potential, but never made it. The same could happen to Paul di Resta.

That would be a terrible shame, for not just di Resta or his small home village of Uphall, even Britain in general. Formula 1 may have lost the opportunity to have one fine driver in their ranks.