Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug has confessed that the Stuttgart manufacturer is eager for current Force India F1 test and reserve driver Paul di Resta to graduate to a race seat in the top flight next year – but he insists he 'cannot influence' the Silverstone-based squad's decision.
Long a Mercedes protégé, di Resta is presently competing for the three-pointed star in pan-European touring car series the DTM – and leading the way in 2010, courtesy of three successive triumphs at Brands Hatch, Oschersleben and Hockenheim – and has dovetailed those commitments with his FIF1 role, impressing on the occasions when he has taken to the track in Friday practice and being linked with replacing either Adrian Sutil or Vitantonio Liuzzi in 2011.
Haug concedes that he would dearly love to see the Scot join the grand prix grid next season after ably serving his apprenticeship in the junior formulae, but adds that no pressure will be applied on the Vijay Mallya-led, Mercedes-powered operation as it continues to remain coy on its likely line-up, with deputy team principal Robert Fernley revealing only that 'we are comfortable with the drivers we have'.
“Paul is certainly a remarkable driver, no doubt,” the German underlined, “but it is not in our hands. It would be nice for Paul, nice for our junior scheme, nice for the DTM to bring another driver up and hopefully he has a good chance. Of course we have discussions with Force India. We have a good relationship, but it is not our decision at the end of the day – we cannot influence it.”
It has been mooted that due to Force India's stated non-attendance, di Resta may be asked to drive the Mercedes MGP W01 in the post-Abu Dhabi young driver test next month – with Haug reflecting that 'no final decision is taken for the young guy, but hopefully it can be one of the guys who are on the Mercedes scheme' – whilst the 24-year-old himself has been looking ahead to this weekend's inaugural Korean Grand Prix, even though he will not be driving in practice to allow Sutil and Liuzzi more time to acclimatise to the complete unknown that is the Korea International Circuit.
“For the second event in a row, I'll be going to another new track and country I've not visited before,” mused the man who pipped current F1 title contender Sebastian Vettel to the F3 Euroseries crown in 2006. “As we decided at the start of the season, I'm not going to be driving in Korea as it's a new track for everyone and the drivers will need the extra track time to get used to its nuances. With the track being ready so late, that extra time is even more important as the conditions are going to evolve very, very quickly over the race weekend.
“From my perspective, however, it will be interesting to see the new venue and also experience how the team prepares for a completely new event, both at the track and back at the factory. I'm sure the whole paddock will be a different atmosphere, as no-one really knows what to expect. We've heard it's a great facility, so let's hope it is as good as it sounds. Like everyone else in the team, I'm looking forward to seeing something completely new.”