David Coulthard has said that, while expectations need to be tempered during his countryman's debut F1 season, if Paul di Resta can match - and possibly - beat Force India team-mate Adrian Sutil, he will have done well.
The driver-turned-commentator insists that di Resta cannot be expected to make an immediate impact on the top flight, despite switching to the Force India ride full-time after a season of testing appearances and a successful run to the DTM championship. The 24-year old Scot replaces comparative veteran Tonio Liuzzi alongside Sutil, who returns for a fourth season at the Silverstone set-up. Coulthard believes that simply being on the pace of his team-mate should be the target for his compatriot.
"If Paul can get close to Adrian, or match him, in the early races, that would be incredible," DC told BBC Scotland's Sport Nation
programme, "If he can be in front of him near the end of the year, that sets him out as a driver to be watched for the future."
Coulthard raced against di Resta in the DTM this season, and says that he will do what he can to assist the youngster's move to F1
"This is a great opportunity for him with Force India and he thoroughly deserves his chance," he insisted, keen to silence those who claimed that Liuzzi - who had a year remaining on his Force India contract - should have been retained, "Being successful in F1 is not just about having talent, you've got to have a good car and a good team. [Force India is] pretty much a mid-grid team, but we're all hoping the car will be more competitive. Anything I can do to help Paul I'm going to do because, if it works out, he could have a great career. But I think we have to be realistic and keep our expectations in check."
di Resta, a cousin of Indycar ace Dario Franchitti, joins former world champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button as the only British drivers in F1, and is already familiar with the Force India set-up after his Mercedes links saw him given the chance to drive one its cars in eight free practice sessions in 2010. Knowing his way around the team is, according to Coulthard, akin to a head-start on the 2011 season.
"It's invaluable," the 13-time F1 winner maintained, "You have to adapt to the different demands of a grand prix car, but the biggest thing for me is that he's known within the team - he knows the mechanics and the engineers, and he's comfortable in that environment. He'll understand how to work with these people, because it's not a holiday camp, it's a really tough business and you have to know who to turn when the car's not working properly. There's a real technical aspect to making sure he can get the best out of himself on the track."