BATHGATE’S Paul di Resta flies to Spain on Monday to prepare for the first official Formula One test session of the season, and the Scot believes his new Sahara Force India is ready to make an impact.
The 26-year-old braved a windswept and rainy Silverstone to unveil his new 2013 Mercedes-powered racer yesterday.
And after a series of strong finishes last season — he narrowly missed out on a podium in Singapore where he finished fourth — he knows his team’s ready to kick on.
“That has to happen and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t,” said Di Resta, preparing for his third year racing in the pinnacle of world motorsport. “I think the pressure is on all the departments to make sure we start better; last year we underperformed, certainly until the European season kicked in.
“We did get some good results before that, in the rain in Malaysia and in Bahrain, where we just got everything together and managed to achieve something remarkable that early in the season.
“We need to launch a car, understand it, and add a race package to it, one that needs to make the car quicker than when it rolled out on the first day.”
Though externally the new Force India VJM06 looks very similar to last year’s car, a point not lost on Di Resta, he is only too aware of the improvements which have been made under the skin.
“Essentially, under the skin, it’s a brand new car from the ground up,” he continued. “There’s completely new front and rear suspension, and numerous other bits I’m not allowed to mention.
The eagle-eyed aficionados will immediately notice the front of the car now has a fairing on top of the nose to hide the ‘step’. The reason? Apparently it “tidies up the flow over the top of the chassis.”
And the talented Scot is confident the new car will be capable of delivering not only his first podium, but possibly even the first grand prix win of his career.
“It’s no secret, I want to be on the podium, I want to win races,” Di Resta stated clinically. “We showed on numerous occasions last year that the car is fast. Now we have to build on that.
“I only missed out on a podium at Singapore last year when the safety car came out and scuppered our chances. In the end we had to settle for fourth.
“I’m in no doubt the changes we’ve built into the car for 2013 will make it even faster and more reliable. We’ll definitely be battling at the front of the pack.”
Strangely at an F1 launch, Di Resta is still the only driver on Sahara Force India’s books. Frenchman Jules Bianchi, who was the team’s third driver last season, was widely expected to be formally announced as a race driver for 2013, but instead he was present at the launch of yesterday’s new Ferrari at Maranello. Does the vacancy create a strange environment for Di Resta?
“No, not really,” he explained. “It’s not affecting my preparations in any way. I’m fully focused on what I need to achieve. It’s entirely the team’s decision to announce the driver line-up when they feel comfortable.
And Di Resta is relishing the responsibility of handling the pressure of being the team’s official leader.
“Yeah, there’s obviously a bit more pressure on me,” he explained. “It’s natural that being the senior driver, the team will rely on me. I don’t have a problem with that.
“There’s obviously pressure to perform. But there’s pressure everywhere in life and I think that’s what gives you adrenalin, and that’s when we, as F1 drivers, perform at our best … under pressure. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
And already, his thoughts are on this week’s four-day test at Jerez in southern Spain.
“It was great to get three laps under our belt in the new car today,” he said, “but the real work begins next week.”