After clinching the DTM crown in Shanghai last weekend, Paul di Resta has set his sights on what he describes as 'the next box I've got to tick off' – F1 World Championship glory.
A front-runner season-long in the pan-European touring car series, di Resta produced a superb second half of 2010 to outscore erstwhile championship leader and Mercedes-Benz team-mate Bruno Spengler by 46 points to 24 and in so doing overhaul the Canadian at the last gasp in the Chinese finale.
Three points in arrears at the beginning of the weekend, by dint of claiming the runner-up spoils in the race whilst Spengler endured a nightmare and failed to make the points at all, di Resta successfully turned the tables – not bad for a driver who earlier on in the campaign had languished some 17 markers adrift.
The blame for that was placed on the Scot's attendance at grands prix with Force India to participate in the Friday FP1 practice sessions, and henceforth his appearances in the F1 paddock became more sporadic as the 24-year-old concentrated more closely on his DTM title bid – an approach that ultimately paid off richly.
With that now taken care of, though, he admits the focus has reverted fully back to F1 – and with the speculation suggesting he is all-but a shoo-in to replace the frustratingly erratic Vitantonio Liuzzi at the Silverstone-based squad in 2011, the team's current test and reserve driver is quietly confident.
“I've won the McLaren/Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year
award and the F3 Euroseries – these are big things you want to win in your life – and the DTM is another major title and I'm really chuffed to have won it, especially having previously finished second and third,” confessed the man who pipped current F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel to the F3 Euroseries laurels four years ago. “It's another tick in my book, and I just want to enjoy it now.
“Regarding the future, I've been test and reserve driver with Force India this season. They gave me a great opportunity, and I've loved being part of the team. It's no secret that I always wanted to be part of an F1 team and I'm certainly hoping I can get a seat there next year, because I'd love to continue a long relationship with them. My dream is to become F1 World Champion, and that's the next box in my book I've got to tick off. I'll keep praying it happens.”
“If you look at the mistakes [Adrian] Sutil and Liuzzi have made in the past few races, you would have to say Paul has a good case to be out there,” di Resta's countryman Allan McNish – a former grand prix ace himself – recently mused. “Unfortunately, there's a lot of politics in motorsport and F1 is at the very height of that, so it is not just about a driver's performance.”
If the cousin of double Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti has ably stated his case for promotion, then it would appear his principal rival for Liuzzi's cockpit is not the Italian – who has a contract in-place for 2011 – but rather Williams F1 refugee Nico Hülkenberg, whose manager Willi Weber has admitted to talks with FIF1. Sutil is expected to stay put in the other car.