He may still be only 23, but Paul di Resta seems to have been on the fringes of F1 for years – and he admits that he has 'waited a very long time' to be given the kind of opportunity that Force India has presented him with during this week's special young driver test at Jerez.
After triumphing in the hotly-fought F3 Euroseries in 2006 – just a year after 2008 F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton had done likewise, and beating no fewer than five of this year's grand prix grid along the way, in the shape of Sebastian Vettel, Kazuki Nakajima, Kamui Kobayashi, Sébastien Buemi and Romain Grosjean – di Resta's single-seater ambitions stalled due to a lack of funding, the traditional bugbear of many a promising young British racing driver.
Long-time supporter Mercedes-Benz kept faith and placed him in the DTM pan-European touring car series, where he has since gone on to establish himself as not only a regular race-winner but also a genuine title contender – but he has made little secret of the fact that his heart remains set on an F1 future.
Whilst Force India has elected to retain Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi in 2010, the Silverstone-based squad is giving both di Resta and reigning Indy Lights Champion J.R. Hildebrand a chance to prove their worth in southern Spain this week, and the former immediately shone by setting the second-quickest time on the first day, in a car not regarded as being consistently one of the quickest [see separate story – click here
Should either of them impress the team sufficiently, Vijay Mallya has admitted that a test and reserve role next year is potentially on the table – and di Resta contends that he is closer to achieving his dream than ever.
“It's a great opportunity and something I have waited a very long time to get a hold of,” the West Lothian native told BBC Scotland
. “Who knows what the future holds, but my aim is to get into Formula 1. It is a very exciting time, and I have to be realistic and productive over these testing days.
“It is very difficult to predict anything. Force India are giving me a chance to drive the car, and we are looking to try to bond a relationship that will work for many years to come. I need to build myself up-to-speed in the car, because it's very different from what I am used to.
“I am sure the team have a lot of tests to run for next year and a lot of checks to make, so from both accounts it's going to be a big learning curve and, over the next three days, hopefully I can help them to try to achieve this goal at the end of it.”
di Resta has also in the past been linked with both McLaren-Mercedes and F1 2010 newcomer Manor Grand Prix – soon to be re-baptised Virgin Racing, by all accounts – and he reflected that he is eager to follow his illustrious cousin Dario Franchitti into the international limelight. Both are former winners of the prestigious McLaren/Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year
award, and Franchitti now has two IndyCar Series titles and an Indy 500 crown to his name across the Pond.
“We are very close to Dario,” acknowledged the Uphall ace. “Dario has done a tremendous amount in his racing career. Hopefully, one day, I can look back and certainly achieve as much as he has in his time served in racing.
“We have worked tremendously hard, both of our parents – my parents worked with Dario trying to achieve this. We have managed to achieve it on both counts, and we are very close to reaching the top also – for sure it is a racing family.”