Paul di Resta has welcomed the return of former team-mate Adrian Sutil to the Force India ranks, believing that the move will pay off in the battle for midfield supremacy.
With what appears to be a reliable and, at times, quick car under them, Sutil and di Resta will be looking to reclaim the upper hand in the scrap with Sauber, Williams and Toro Rosso that went the way of the Swiss squad last season. While STR remains unchanged, with second year pairing Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne at the helm, both Sauber and Williams head into 2013 with a rookie occupying one of their seats.
Although both Esteban Gutierrez and Valtteri Bottas have amassed a lot of laps in F1 machinery, and both can claim GP3 titles on the ascent of the motorsport ladder, neither will have started a race in the top flight until this weekend's Australian GP, and that is where di Resta hopes Force India can capitalise.
“I think it will [have a positive effect for us],” he told the official F1 website, “Both teams do not know how their rookies will perform, whereas Force India can go into the season with the knowledge of having two drivers that have proved that they can deliver.”
While admitting that it was unusual for a driver to return to F1 after a year out, and with his former team, di Resta insists that Sutil, with whom he drove in his 2011 debut season, is fully deserving of a place on the grid, even if it came at the expense of 2012 reserve Jules Bianchi.
“You have probably never thought something like this could happen, [but the] fact is that it was very sad not to see Adrian racing last year because he definitely deserves a seat,” the Scot confirmed, “His experience will make the transition of his comeback very quick - actually he's still got more F1 experience than I have - so I expect us to work very well together and push each other to get the best for the team. I think we had a good balance in 2011 and, with my additional experience, we should have a competitive year ahead and push the team to new boundaries.”
Although di Resta's own form took a dip in the final throes of 2012, largely due to an undiscovered crack in his regular chassis, Nico Hulkenberg led at the Interlagos finale, and the team ended the year strongly. With solid testing performances at both Jerez and Barcelona, di Resta is naturally confident that that form can continue into 2013.
“I certainly hope so,” he claimed, “Essentially, we have struggled in the first part of the year for the last two seasons - that is no secret - but this car is an evolution, so we should be in good shape as our strength was to develop our car over the course of the year, and we have worked very hard on the good platform that we had at the end of 2012.
“We are arriving here in Melbourne in the most positive shape since I have joined. I hope that, with refining a lot of details on the 2012 car, we will be able to step up the ladder.
“All you can do right now is to be optimistic that you are very fast. Anywhere in the top three would make us very happy! I think that could be a realistic target. Further up would be a dream, anything behind would be a reasonable start into the season. We've scored points the past two seasons here...”