F1 » Paul di Resta
Paul di Resta appeared destined for the very top level of motorsport from the very start, carrying a famous racing name and being related to a couple of other Scots performing on the world stage.
Although not related to 1916 Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Resta, the young Scot is the cousin of Dario and Marino Franchitti, the former a three-time winner of America's best-known race, and a keen follower of di Resta's career since he began karting at the age of eight in his native Scotland.
A seven-year career on the lowest rungs of the motorsport ladder highlighted the talent that lay within, as di Resta claimed several Scottish titles before elevating his profile further by taking a string of UK national crowns in Cadets and JICA between 1994 and 2001, and finishing second in Europe, in the latter class, in 1999.
Buoyed by his success, the Scot took the decision to try his hand in single-seaters in 2002, combining an outing in the British Formula Renault Winter Series with further karting outings, before taking the plunge and graduating full-time, again in Formula Renault the following year.
His first full season in cars, running with Team JVA, yielded seventh overall, with one win, while returning to Manor Motorsport for another year of FRenault in 2004 saw him rise to third in the standings on the back of four wins and four podiums.
Being with Manor allowed di Resta access to the team's other programmes, and he ended the 2004 campaign by getting his first taste of F3, racing against the likes of Lewis Hamilton in the Bahrain Superprix, where he finished fifth. That performance, as well as those in FRenault, helped the Scot land the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award, following the footsteps of fellow Scots David Coulthard, Andrew Kirklady and one Dario Franchitti....
Moving into F3 full-time for 2005, di Resta was obliged to contest the Euroseries in order to remain with Manor, but managed a creditable tenth overall in his debut season.
The following year pitted him against future F1 drivers Romain Grosjean, Sebastien Buemi, Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima, as well as a young German talent by the name of Sebastian Vettel, with both di Resta and the German running for the crack ASM outfit that had claimed a string of titles in previous years. While Vettel was heavily tipped to take the title, di Resta matched him throughout the year, eventually claiming the crown by eleven points on the back of five wins and four podiums. He also added to the list of Britons winning the F3 Masters event at Zandvoort.
Despite testing GP2 machinery with a view to following in the footsteps of Lewis Hamilton, his predecessor as Euroseries champion, di Resta's career took a surprise turn when Mercedes offered him a chance to join the DTM touring car series. While many assumed that the cost of graduating had denied the Scot the chance to continue in single-seaters, he later revealed that his height had made it nigh on impossible to fit into a GP2 cockpit comfortably...
The single-seater world's loss was the DTM's gain, and di Resta made an immediate impact on the world of 'tin tops' by claiming fifth in the overall standings in his debut year, despite being saddled with a two-year-old C-Klasse.
His four podium finishes in 2007 left Mercedes with little choice but to promote him to a works seat - and contemporary spec car - for the following season, and again the Scot rewarded the company's judgement, taking second overall, and adding his first two wins in the category, as he trailed champion Timo Scheider by just four points.
Another win helped him to third overall in 2009, before di Resta bounced back in style to claim the 2010 title, using back-to-back wins at Brands Hatch, Oschersleben and Hockenheim as a springboard to securing the crown at the final in Shanghai.
The continued success in DTM kept di Resta's name in the mix when it came to discussing the best young talent on the verge of possible F1 graduation, and his links with Mercedes again came good as he was signed as reserve driver by the Force India team. Despite focusing on his DTM campaign, the Scot got to drive one of the Silverstone-based team's cars in Friday practice at the majority of grands prix.
His performance in those limited outings was enough to convince team owner Vijay Mallya to promote him to a full race seat for 2011, where di Resta partnered the experienced Adrian Sutil throughout the 19-race campaign. Although he lucked into a point on debut, when both Saubers were disqualified in Melbourne, di Resta quickly showed that he deserved the seat, scoring another tenth place finish next time out in Malaysia and, after a string of near misses, adding further points in seven of the final ten rounds, with a best of sixth in Singapore.
Although he ended the year 13th overall with 27 points to his name, perhaps more importantly, di Resta matched Sutil in qualifying - eventually losing the head-to-head 10-9 - and that was enough to make the Scot a lock for the 2012 season, while debate surrounded the identity of his team-mate.
That role eventually went to his replacement as reserve, Nico Hulkenberg, and, while the pair went into the campaign equal on experience, much was expected of di Resta. The Scot responded positively with points in five of the first eight races, but the second half of the season proved to be an exercise in frustration, with just a brief flurry of top ten finishes – capped by a career best fourth in Singapore – raising hopes of a strong finish. In the end, di Resta added just two points in the final half-dozen outings, leaving him 14th overall, his 46-point total having been overhauled by his team-mate.
A trip into the Interlagos wall somehow symbolised the disappointing end to a year in which the Briton, like Hulkenberg, had been mentioned in connection with a possible move to either Ferrari or McLaren. Instead, he will return with Force India in 2013, looking to re-establish the team’s top six credentials after being beaten to the spot by Sauber in the 2012 standings.