Di Resta sets out to prove Ferrari dream is no fantasy

 

A year after his first British Grand Prix as a Formula One driver, Paul Di Resta is both wiser and more mature.

"I'm expecting an easier time of it this time around," he said, before the débâcle of ingress and egress from Silverstone rendered the event a shameful farce for all concerned. "I'm more comfortable than I was this time last year, when I felt the expectations of 120,000 fans. I've learned so much in the past year, and recently the Force India team have begun to maximise some of the opportunities we perhaps didn't grab in the first few races.

"We've been under extra pressure because of the strong performances from both Williams and Sauber, who are at our level, and now we are aiming to maximise every opportunity and take every chance that we get."

In Valencia recently Di Resta had what he feels was his best race of the season, even though it ultimately only yielded sixth place after rivals who made two pitstops were able to snatch away fourth place in the closing laps, as he was on a single-stop strategy and his tyres were finished.

"I think it was by far our strongest performance as a team. You have to be relatively confident that you can carry that into this weekend. We had the potential to be much higher up in qualifying; a mistake by me in Q3 cost that.

"But we set ourselves quite a risky target in the race and achieved a one-stop strategy, and were the only car that did that. Obviously the safety car compromised us a lot, so that wasn't ideal, but the positive side is that we picked up points. And really that's key when you're a midfield team: to capitalise on those small points that are out there to get."

The 26-year-old Scot has proved as adept at that as he has handling quick team-mates; he has more than held his own against Adrian Sutil last year and Nico Hulkenberg this season, both of them recognised hotshoes. His calm and confident manner, allied to the on-track results, prompted Sir Jackie Stewart to suggest earlier this season that he is ready for the opportunity at Ferrari alongside Fernando Alonso in 2013, should it arise.

"Paul has got an enormous amount of talent," Stewart said, "but I hope Scotland doesn't ask too much too soon from him. You've got to be with a top-class team in order to win. You can't do that with a second-rate team. Force India are trying hard to be a first-rate team but they're not there yet. Paul has been leading that team to better results, so I think he's got every chance."

Di Resta is a man of few words, unlike his urbane cousin Dario Franchitti, but he gets his talking done where it counts, on the track. Which means that by his understated standards he's been doing a fair bit of talking this year, as he is currently 11th overall with 27 points.

While the weather thus far has demolished the race's credibility, it could also present an opportunity as the playing field gets levelled a little. "Given the forecast, which looks wet, wet and wet, we could well be in for another unpredictable race," Di Resta says. "We have certainly shown throughout the opening eight grands prix that we have the pace to push for a podium finish. So who knows, if the conditions do turn messy and we manage to stay out of trouble, then yes, why not a podium?"

He has high expectations of himself and isn't one to proffer excuses, but you'd be the same if you had beaten Sebastian Vettel in your Formula 3 days.

"If you can't deliver in front of your home supporters and fans, then you're not doing your job," he says. "Even before I started racing in F1, the British Grand Prix was always the biggest race for me. Now it's even more important."

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