Paul di Resta could be poised to join the F1 elite on a full-time basis next season, but his chances of taking one of the two Force India race seats could yet hinge on team-mate Adrian Sutil's interest in joining Renault.
While paddock insiders believe that the Scot is a strong rival for inconsistent Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi, Sutil's consideration as a potential team-mate for Robert Kubica at Enstone could open the door for di Resta without Force India boss Vijay Mallya having to take any difficult decisions.
According to Britain's Sun
newspaper, Mallya rates the 24-year old cousin of IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti particularly highly and, having given the opportunity to acclimatise to an F1 car during various Friday morning practice sessions this year, is looking to promote him to a full-time race seat in 2011. The Scot is backed by Force India engine partner Mercedes, and would make the switch from the DTM touring car series, where he races - and is in title contention - for the Three Pointed Star.
While Liuzzi has looked to be in danger of losing his seat for most of the season, he remains alongside Sutil for the final five rounds, with Mallya as yet undecided on whether to keep the Italian on board for 2011. However, with Sutil not only being linked to Renault, but also to Mercedes should Michael Schumacher decide - or be persuaded - to head back into retirement, a vacancy could naturally arise for di Resta to graduate from his current reserve role.
According to the report, Sutil has allowed his option to remain at Force India lapse while he waits on his options but, with Renault still debating whether to keep the potentially well-funded Vitaly Petrov for a second season and Schumacher insisting that he will continue his comeback into 2011, the German's position remains unclear.
Although there could be pressure for Mallya to consider countryman Karun Chandhok should the erstwhile HRT driver not find another berth in time for next season's inaugural Indian Grand Prix, Force India is unlikely to want to run two largely inexperienced drivers, potentially granting Liuzzi a stay of execution.