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di Resta team-mate still unknown as Force India launches

Paul di Resta appeared as the only Sahara Force India driver at the team's official 2013 launch at Silverstone, with several names still in the frame to partner him this season.

Sahara Force India appeared no closer to naming a team-mate for Paul di Resta as the covers were pulled back to reveal the new VJM06 at Silverstone.

The local team is one of three still with a seat to fill just days before the start of pre-season testing, but appears to be in no hurry to confirm its replacement for Nico Hulkenberg, who headed for Sauber during the winter. Although several names have been raised as possible contenders to partner third-year driver di Resta, the Scot was left to fly solo during the launch of the team's 2013 car, where he was joined in the reveal by deputy team principal Bob Fernley.

"The shareholders are obviously thinking about where the drivers are going to be, but our main objective today is to launch the car - and Paul is the key person for doing that,” Fernley told Sky Sports News as it covered the launch live, “We don't want to confuse the two stories.”

Jules Bianchi, who acted as reserve driver for the Silverstone team on loan from Ferrari last season, is seen by many as the favourite to partner di Resta in 2013 – and Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has made no secret about the Scuderia helping its protégé find a race seat – but faces opposition from the likes of former FIF1 favourite Adrian Sutil and the likes of Bruno Senna and Jaime Alguersuari, who continue to seek a way back into F1 after being dropped by previous employers.

Indeed, the build-up to the launch was peppered with speculation that di Resta had used Twitter to reveal Senna as his new partner, but any post that may have existed was hastily deleted. Luiz Razia, who was also in the frame to partner the Scot, appears to have taken himself out of the reckoning by revealing that he is Marussia-bound, even though both the Banbury team and his own management have yet to confirm a deal.

Reuters, meanwhile, has revealed that Force India may not even know its full line-up until before the Barcelona test, leaving di Resta to run solo in Jerez next week. The Briton may be accompanied by one-time Honda development driver James Rossiter, however, according to Fernley, who admits that Bianchi and others remain in the frame.

Rumours that di Resta's seat may be under threat given the parlous nature of many teams on the F1 grid were finally laid to rest by team principal Vijay Mallya, who confirmed that the Scot's spot was safe.

“Paul will race with us for a third season,” the Indian insisted, “He has delivered some great performances for us over the last two years and gives us the consistency we need going into 2013. He had a difficult end to last season, but we've worked hard to understand those issues and I believe he can step up another level this year.

“As for his team-mate, we had a shortlist and have considered every driver who is available. We are very close to making our decision and I can assure you that we will arrive in Australia with one of the most exciting pairings on the grid.”

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Jules Bianchi (FRA), test driver, Scuderia Ferrari  13.09.2012. Formula One Young Drivers Test, Day 3, Magny-Cours, France. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com - copy of publication required for printed pictures. Every used picture is fee-liable. © Copyright: Charniaux / XPB Images
Paul di Resta. Sahara Force India F1 VJM06 launch [Pic credit: Sahara Force India F1]
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