Paul di Resta has revealed that he is expecting a close battle with new Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg in 2012, and hopes that that can help drive the team forward.
di Resta proved equally matched with former team-mate Adrian Sutil last season, helping Force India to claim sixth position in the constructors' championship, and sees no reason why he and Hulkenberg cannot carry on the good work, despite neither having the experience of their departed colleague. With Hulkenberg having been forced to sit out the whole of last season after being dropped by Williams, the pair head into 2012 with a year of F1 racing
under their respective belts, although Hulkenberg did manage to complete several Friday morning practice sessions with Force India.
“It is a young team in terms of the driver line-up, but it should give the team a spark," di Resta told an audience at the Autosport International
show, "We need to be good team-mates and work well together, but also have a competitive nature on track so we can bounce off each other. I don't see any reason why we can't do that and support each other.
“We are both on equal territory, as we have the same experience, so it should be good. We're already working together by pushing ideas for the team, improve things from last year and that is being taken on board.”
The Scot admits that everything he learned last season will come into play this year, and expects to be up to speed more quickly each weekend, but concedes that the likes of Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso will continue to be one step ahead.
“My second year is going to be where experience plays in," he confirmed, "I will arrive at grands prix this year and know what is going to change, what to look for and how to get the perfect balance. However, getting that little extra edge is so difficult, against these [veteran] guys, because they know it inside out.”
Another good season in 2012, to follow a campaign where he was roundly voted rookie of the year, could stand di Resta in good stead to succeed Schumacher at Mercedes' own F1 team, should the German decide to walk away at the end of his current contract. While he admits that he has one eye on the longer term, however, the Scot admits that he cannot get carried away with dreams.
“I'd love to drive for [Mercedes],” he confirmed, "I've got great friends and great support at Mercedes-Benz. I've been part of their programme for six years and I'm still very close to them now, so I never say never. In the future, I want to be winning races and I'll make my decisions based on that, but, right now, I am a Force India driver, so the focus is there.”