Force India F1 has announced the two drivers who will try out for the team during the special young driver test at Jerez in southern Spain in early December – DTM front-runner Paul di Resta and reigning Indy Lights Champion J.R. Hildebrand – with one of the pair looking set for a reserve driver role in 2010.
Long-time Mercedes-Benz protégé and multiple DTM race-winner di Resta and American Hildebrand will share driving duties of the much-improved Silverstone-based squad's VJM02 over the three days of the test from 1-3 December, after the duo earned the opportunity by impressing in the team's simulator last month.
“We are delighted to have Paul and J.R. join us for the young driver test,” commented Force India F1 chairman and team principal Dr. Vijay Mallya. “Both of their showings in the simulator were excellent, and we had no hesitation in offering them some valuable testing.
“We will be looking at their performance on-track very closely and should they perform well, as we are confident they will, we will look at a permanent role for one within the team in 2010, potentially as a test and reserve driver. As a young team we are looking for drivers who can grow with us. As we've always said, nationality isn't the primary selection criteria – it's talent and dedication to the cause, and we have seen enough to know that these two have both.”
di Resta was linked with Adrian Sutil's seat at FIF1 in 2009, and has been on the fringes of the top flight for some time, ever since lifting the laurels in the hotly-fought F3 Euroseries in 2006, one year after 2008 F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton had done likewise and beating current Red Bull Racing star Sebastian Vettel along the way. During his three seasons with Force India engine-supplier Mercedes in the pan-European DTM touring car series, the 23-year-old Scot has triumphed three times and never finished lower than fifth in the title standings.
“I am thrilled to be joining Force India for this test,” remarked the former McLaren/Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year
. “It's been a while since I last tested an F1 car, but I've been working hard in the simulator and giving it my all in the DTM, so I'm confident I'll be up-to-speed quickly. It's an exciting opportunity for me, as F1 has always been my dream and I feel this is taking me one step closer to achieving it.
“I'm realistic that I've got a lot to prove and that I need a bit more experience of the cars and the F1 environment before getting a permanent seat, but this is just the beginning of what I hope will be a very bright future with Force India. I'd like to thank Mercedes for giving me this opportunity, and Force India for being so supportive.”
Hildebrand, meanwhile, has rapidly risen to prominence across the Pond by way of impressive results in the junior formulae and, most recently, his success in Indy Lights, the feeder category to the USA's premier open-wheel championship IndyCar.
“I'm ecstatic to get my first taste of F1,” the Californian enthused. “I've heard so much about the performance of the cars, and I know this is going to be quicker and more responsive than anything I've ever sat in before. I know it's a big challenge, but I feel ready to tackle it. The aim is to learn the track and the car and then hopefully show my potential.
“As an American, we don't necessarily have the culture of F1, but anything that's so impressive and cutting-edge demands respect. I hope I can do the car and myself justice. Thanks to everyone for making this happen – I can't wait to get to Jerez!”