Q&A with Scotland's new F1 racer 26 | 01 | 2011

    Bathgate's Paul di Resta has today been confirmed as a Formula One race driver with Force India. After weeks and months of speculation, he tells Jim McGill exactly what it means to finally be an F1 racer ... and the debt he owes to his dad, Louis.

    JM: How does it feel to finally have a Formula One racing contract?

    Paul: It's a huge achievement in life and a big weight off my shoulders. When you've worked so long and so hard, as I have with my dad, to try and achieve the ultimate goal in my profession — building up through the ranks, from karting and the junior formulae — it's a big personal achievement for me. In many ways it's difficult for me to put exactly into the words the way I feel and the depth of satisfaction I have being given the opportunity to embark on a race career path in Formula One.

    Of course I'm very excited about it; I'm very motivated about the 2011 season, and I'll be striving as hard as I can to do my job to the best of my ability. 

    It  has taken a long, but planned career path to come through from karting, to DTM Champion, to Formula One and hopefully now I can build a longterm future for myself racing in Formula One, and equally try to win the world championship.

    Becoming an F1 driver has to be the biggest achievement so far in your life?

    Without doubt. But it's not only a huge achievement for me, but also for my dad, Louis, and my whole family.  My dad has dedicated his life, his time, effort, blood, sweat and tears  o my racing career. He's the guy who used to work through the night to get my kart ready for the race the next day; I simply wouldn't be in Formula One if it wasn't for dad's dedication and determination. The support I've had from the whole family over the years has been incredible; it is now is my time to repay them for their support, love and belief.

    Of course, having won championships in every series you're raced in previously, winning the Formula One World Championship has to be a primary goal?

    It is, definitely. It's an ambition and a goal, and I'm going to do my utmost to achieve it. But you have to be realistic; in Formula One, it's a bit more than just the driver. You certainly have to be in the right place at the right time, and right now I'm in the right place, at the right time and with the right team; and I know we'll all be working extra hard together as a team to develop into a World Championship-winning team.

    Our ambitions are certainly higher than last year. We had a good car last year, finished seventh in the constructors' championship — missing out on sixth by just one point — so we're definitely aiming to finish higher than that. Ideally finishing fourth or fifth in the constructors' championship would be another great achievement for the team.

    Work appears to have progressed very well over the winter; targets are being met and exceeded, but as with every team at this stage of the season, until we all roll our new cars out at the pre-season tests and, more realistically, turn up for the first qualifying session in Bahrain the second weekend in March, we won't know just how competitive we are against the other teams and cars.

    You appeared to forge a solid working relationship with your team-mate Adrian Sutil last year; are you looking forward to working with him again in 2011?

    Yes, Adrian and I get on very well together, and we both are desperate to do what we can to deliver the best results for Force India. He obviously has more F1 experience than I do, but I'm looking forward to working together.

    How important will the first two tests be? Obviously the first test at Valencia is with last year's car; the 2011 Force India won't be unveiled until the second test in Jerez next month.

    I think it's quite an intelligent thing the team has done, taking the old car to Valencia, because it will certainly give us a far better opportunity to understand the new Pirelli tyres which we'll be using this year. We tested with Pirelli for a couple of days in Abu Dhabi at the end of last season, and we got an initial feeling of how the car behaves on the new rubber. 

    When we go to Valencia in a couple of weeks we'll get to use the new Pirelli tyres with their new construction and compounds — hopefully these will be the tyres Pirelli will continue with — and we can establish a very good baseline and reference point from which we can build when we get the new car out in Jerez.

    It also gives the guys in the factory at Silverstone a few extra days to get everything signed off with the new car; and even more importantly, they can have a few extra days with the car in the wind tunnel to ensure the car has the ideal race prep.

    Obviously there are exciting times coming because there are plenty of rule changes this season, including the removal of the double-diffuser and the return of the KERS system. 

    It's very exciting for me, and I'm looking forward to facing the new challenges. It's also going to be interesting to see what ideas our technical people come up with, and I'm sure there will be some interesting ones. But as long as we have a good strong baseline to work from, we'll be happy. And I definitely believe the work we've done over the winter has been the best we can do.

    What are your thoughts about driving a car with KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System)?

    I'm excited about it. It's definitely the way forward in terms of energy-recovery  — not just in Formula One, but in terms of the motoring industry as a whole — and it is as close as we can get, at the moment, to mirroring what happens in a production hybrid car you'd buy from your High Street car dealership.

    It is the way forward, but it does mean my cockpit is going to be very, very busy as I activate the number of controls which allow us to maximise the KERS system and extrude the maximum power exactly when I want and need it. It's a bit like working on a laptop at 200mph. Believe me, it certainly focuses the brain.

    I know all the engineers have worked the system out perfectly in the simulations they've done, so I'm confident we'll have an excellent system which will work very, very well and deliver the optimum performance over a lap.

    What personal goals are you setting yourself this year?

    Very difficult to set yourself an ultimate goal. I think the nice thing would be to go into the first race happy; enjoy the experience; work very hard and try to achieve the maximum possible. I'm going in with an open mind; I'm going in to learn, but also to do the best I possibly can. 

    I do have goals, but we'll just have to see how they pan out. Obviously I want to score as many points as I can for Force India this season to help them  achieve the best possible result.

    So you feel the timing is as ideal as you would have wanted?

    I think so. I've learned a lot over the past year or so. I'm coming into an F1 race seat having won another championship — the DTM with Mercedes — last year, and having worked with Force India in Formula One through 2010. That allowed me to see the perspective from a driver's point of view.

    Being there at the races; being the reserve driver; taking part in all the driver debrief meetings; getting prepared for all the sessions; being in the car, albeit for just a little while, on the Friday; and dealing with the pressure of a grand prix weekend, all that has given me a fantastic foundation for the season ahead.  

    How have you coped with all the speculation and rumours which have been flying around for the past few weeks and months?

    It has been nerve racking for me, my family and my management and I'm glad it is all over and out in the open. Now I know it is for real!  

    What has been important is staying motivated about everything. In the background I've been training harder than I ever have, and as a result I'm fitter and stronger than I've ever been. I've just been getting myself ready for a very, very busy year. 

    It's a big calendar, there's 20 races; equally there is a lot of promotion stuff going on in the background, which takes time. I just need to stay concentrated as much as I can.

    Force India showed last year just how committed they are to you, and now they're committed even further. That must give you a lot of confidence?

    Absolutely,  everyone at Force India has been extremely supportive and committed to helping me and I am totally committed to them in return. I have to thank everyone at Force India for their support and for being right behind me. I don't want to miss anyone out, but special thanks to Vijay Mallya, Robert Fernley and Otmar Szafnauer for their belief in me and for the golden opportunity. A big thank you to my manager Anthony Hamilton and the Hamilton Management Group for their hard work and effort in helping to make my dream become a reality. Special thanks also to Martin Whitmarsh and all at McLaren for their unwavering support, and to Norbert Haug and Gerhard Ungar at Mercedes HWA for the DTM opportunity. Last, but not least, special, special thank you to my dad Louis and all my family and friends who have supported me along the way.

    Watch Paul speak about his plans for 2011.


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