Paul di Resta has revealed that 'things are moving forward' with regard to a potential F1 future with Force India and that he is 'nearly there' now – as he bids to get his foot in the door off the back of a hugely promising testing appearance for the Silverstone-based squad at Jerez back in December.
Force India was indisputably one of the biggest improvers of last season in the top flight, progressing from neither car managing to make it beyond the Q1 stage of qualifying in the initial stages to Giancarlo Fisichella sensationally putting his Mercedes-powered VJM02 on pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps in September, and damn near winning the race the following day.
As it was, Kimi Raikkonen made use of an early safety car period and the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) 'power boost' button in his Ferrari to breeze past and narrowly steal the victory, but still second place was a landmark achievement – and team-mate Adrian Sutil very nearly matched that form a fortnight later in annexing a front row grid spot for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
The improvement might not have been maintained everywhere, but nonetheless FIF1 ended the campaign regarded in a very different manner to that in which it had set out. Whilst Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi are already firmly ensconced in the two cockpits for 2010, the test and reserve role remains unclaimed – and di Resta clearly wants a piece of it.
Invited to try out for the team alongside reigning Indy Lights Champion J.R. Hildebrand as part of the special F1 young driver test at Jerez a month-and-a-half ago, the young Scot was palpably the quicker of the pair – to the tune of more than a second on each of the three days – and even more impressively still, he was never outside the top four on the end-of-day timesheets, lapping a superb second-quickest on the first and last days. As job interviews go, it was pretty flawless.
“It was a huge opportunity, and I've got to thank Force India for giving me that chance,” reflected the 23-year-old Mercedes-Benz protégé, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio
. “It was a big thing for me to drive the car; I've waited a long time to achieve it. I think it was quite a successful three days, both from my point-of-view in terms of learning the car, and from Force India's side in getting on with their development for this year.
“I think for them it gave them a bit of an idea of where they had improved from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. I got up-to-speed relatively quickly, and we were able to get straight into the programme on the second run. I think Force India learned quite a lot, and I learned a lot about how they work and how things are going to change for 2010.
“When we were running, we were always at the front, whether it was long runs or short runs or whatever. I'm trying to build a future with Force India. They've got a reserve driver role up for grabs and I'm going to try to get it, which hopefully in the future will turn into a race drive.”
Admitting to being 'in talks' and '90 per cent' of the way towards sealing the deal – whilst acknowledging that the limited amount of testing mileage in F1 nowadays does not make things easy – in terms of getting his foot in the door in a sport that is famously difficult to break into, successfully securing the position would nevertheless be almost akin to finding the Holy Grail.