Paul Di Resta last night insisted he had no hard feelings towards Force India as his time with the team came to an end after three racing seasons and one season as test driver.
Yesterday’s expected announcement that Sergio Perez will partner Nico Hulkenberg for the 2014 season confirmed the Scot’s departure.
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.”
The 27-year-old Scot’s next challenge may lie away from Formula 1, with Hulkenberg’s vacated seat at Sauber appearing to be his only hope for a competitive drive in 2014. The Swiss team are searching for a partner for untried Russian Sergey Sirotkin, while backmarkers Caterham and Marussia are also yet to complete their line-ups but would represent a major step back for Di Resta. He could return to the German Touring Car Championship, which he won in 2010, or follow in the footsteps of his cousin Dario Franchitti and compete in America’s IndyCar series.
Perez, meanwhile, is looking to rebuild his Formula 1 career at a team he claims was his “first choice” destination after leaving McLaren. The 23-year-old Mexican signed a multi-year deal with Silverstone-based Force India yesterday.
Perez, who spent just a year at McLaren after being selected to replace Lewis Hamilton following a highly-impressive 2012 at Sauber, found it difficult to impress in an uncompetitive car last season. The Mexican, whose best finish in 2013 was fifth at the Indian Grand Prix, has been replaced at McLaren by Kevin Magnussen and will now bid to reclaim the hard-racing reputation he earned during his two-year stint at Sauber.
“It’s great to announce my new team as Sahara Force India,” Perez said. “Coming here was always my first choice and I’m really happy everything has now been confirmed. This is a young team with a lot of determination and they’ve produced competitive cars for the last few years. It’s all change for next season with the new regulations, but I already have a good feeling about 2014.”
Force India team principal Vijay Mallya is looking forward to working alongside Perez and feels the fact he was previously signed by McLaren proves he has plenty to offer. “It’s a pleasure to welcome Sergio to the team,” said Mallya. “He brings a healthy mix of youth and experience, and I’ve been very impressed with his recent performances. He already has several podium finishes and being chosen by McLaren last year was a clear indication that he is a driver to watch for the future.
“We are proud to have him in our team. He clearly has great speed and plenty of fire in his belly. Our job is to make sure he settles in quickly by creating the right atmosphere so that he can realise his potential.”