Bathgate driver Di Resta earns reserve berth at Force India

McLAREN chief Martin Whitmarsh has revealed Bathgate’s Paul Di Resta will go head-to-head with established Force India racers, Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi, when his new role as reserve driver for the Formula 1 team is confirmed next week.

While the 23-year-old continues to finalise the last few details on the contract which will propel him closer to a place on the grand prix grid, McLaren team principal Whitmarsh has confirmed the Scot will play a pivotal role for Force India. “Paul will be running, I believe, in the majority of the Friday sessions at grand prix weekends for Force India, so it’s a great opportunity for him,” said Whitmarsh, whose team is a technical partner of Force India.

“I’m happy for him. He’s going to push like hell to make his case to have a race drive at Force India during the course of this year. It’s a great opportunity for Paul.”

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Di Resta, who worked with Whitmarsh when he tested with McLaren in 2008, has already impressed team bosses at Force India. During his three-day test at Jerez last month, the Scot lapped a full second faster than the team’s established drivers.

“Since the test, for sure we have been in talks,” admitted the talented young Scot, who is a former European Formula 3 champ and runner-up in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) with Mercedes. “We are in the final stages of finishing off the programme they have set and hopefully we can build a very long and strong relationship for me to try and race with Force India in the future.”

Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher is convinced he can take the fight to the McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button at McLaren and add to his record haul of 91 grands prix victories with Mercedes. “I have to say I am totally committed to this new challenge. This season feels like a re-start for me and I am so motivated,” said 41-year-old Schumacher at the team’s official presentation in Stuttgart.

“We have a world champion team in every sense of the word, and I cannot wait to get into the car for the first time in Valencia next Monday. I am convinced the team will be in a very good position to fight for the championships this season and I will definitely give it a go.”