PAUL DI RESTA’S second
season in Formula One may have ended unflatteringly – against the wall in the Brazilian rain – when he aquaplaned off the Interlagos track in the season
finale, but the Scot is already
eyeing podium finishes in his
Sahara Force India next season.
Paying a flying visit to Glasgow from his Monaco home, the 26-year-old from Bathgate admitted his primary objective for 2013 is to finally finish on the podium. However, he stressed he’ll only achieve that if his team give him a car capable of competing at the front.
“I certainly want a podium,” Di Resta said, in between signing bottles of 13-year-old Whyte & Mackay whisky for one of his main sponsors, “and then I want to be on it again. That’s the target.
“But I don’t want to luck-in to a podium. For me, it has to be a well-earned top-three finish, one which we can build on. We need to do it on merit, and I certainly believe it’s achievable.
“But to do it, we need a car capable of delivering fast, sustainable pace right through not only a race weekend, but also the whole season.”
Di Resta came close this year to a podium finish, only narrowly missing out when a safety car hindered his late-race charge and he had to content himself with a highly creditable fourth place under the Singapore floodlights. “That was definitely the highlight of my season,” said the Scot. “Everyone in the team delivered their maximum that weekend.”
Ironically, in the six races which followed Singapore, Di Resta’s season unravelled. But while many were quick to highlight the fallout from management problems – he’s currently in a legal case with his former manager Anthony Hamilton – as the catalyst for his on-track problems, the real reason was outwith his control.
His Sahara Force India had developed a problem, but one which seeped into its performance gradually. In fact, so gradual was its progress that it went undetected by Di Resta’s technicians for too long.
“Obviously I won’t go into specific details,” he smiled, “but the car slowly but surely got worse as the season progressed. And we didn’t pick the problem up quick enough. You tend to think these problems will iron themselves out over time, but instead it continued getting worse. It cost us time in Suzuka and in India. We changed the monocoque for Abu Dhabi, but in the end we had to replace the whole chassis, and that cured the problem. Unfortunately, that came right at the end of the season.”
Despite the unseen gremlins, Di Resta’s Sahara Force India was a regular top 10 qualifier, and over the second half of the season was the fifth-highest scoring team.
“We’re hoping to finish fifth overall in the Constructors’ Championship next season,” said Di Resta, whose team fell from sixth to seventh this year. “Personally, my first objective is to at least get back to sixth. Anything more than that would be a bonus.”
The Scot had been tipped to switch to either McLaren or Mercedes for 2013, but was surprisingly ignored in favour of Mexican Sergio Perez at the former, and ex-world champion Lewis Hamilton at the latter. He believes, however, that he still has what it takes to attract the attention of one of the top teams. “Of course it was flattering to be linked to those seats,” Di Resta said. “But I won’t deny I was disappointed when both teams opted to go down another route.”
The Scot, of course, is too professional to question why McLaren surprised the world by opting for Perez, who, by coincidence, takes a multi-million dollar sponsorship package to the team.
“It’s just fired me up even more to go out and deliver next season,” Di Resta said. “Of course you want to be in a car capable of regularly winning races and, ultimately championships. All I can do is go out next season, and deliver. If I do that, and it attracts a bigger team, then so be it. At the moment I’m paid to race for Sahara Force India, and I’ll be giving it 100 per cent when we line up on the grid for the season opener in Australia in March.”