Paul di Resta has been rewarded for his stellar 2008 campaign in the DTM by being given his first outing in a Formula One car since winning the McLaren Autosport
BRDC Young Driver of the Year accolade back in 2004.
Since then, the Scot has gone on to follow in present McLaren-Mercedes F1 star Lewis Hamilton's wheeltracks by triumphing in the prestigious F3 Euroseries with ASM Formule 3 but, after money ran dry, a move to tin-tops beckoned in 2007, when he joined the Three-Pointed Star's DTM squad, impressively claiming four rostrum finishes in a two-year old C-Class to end the season fifth in the points standings and highest-placed driver in non-current machinery.
Those performances saw di Resta promoted to a seat in the crack AMG line-up in 2008, and he has paid Mercedes back with interest, triumphing twice and taking four runner-up spots from ten outings to sit just two points adrift of long-time championship leader Timo Scheider with one meeting left on the calendar – and, with the momentum on his side, in with a real chance of glory.
Indeed, it was the 22-year old's most recent podium finish at Le Mans last weekend – a stunning back-to-front charge after changing over to wet-weather tyres late in the race before going on to hunt down and pass Audi rival Scheider, and this all despite Mercedes having feared they had terminally torpedoed his title hopes by sending him out on the wrong rubber at the start [see separate story – click here
] – that earned di Resta his F1 opportunity.
“I have seen some good races but this one was remarkable,” Mercedes-Benz Motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug is quoted as having said by British newspaper The Sun
. “He was last; he was at one stage 38 seconds behind, and he made ten seconds in ten or eleven laps. That is really, really impressive.”
“It was a case of getting the head down and pushing as hard and as fast as I could in the hope we could save something from the day,” added di Resta.
The West Lothian-born ace conducted two days with the Silver Arrows at Silverstone this week – albeit seeing the first of them entirely washed out by rain – and is set to get a further couple of days behind the wheel later this month. He also recently tried out for leading GP2 Series concern ART Grand Prix at Paul Ricard in southern France.
“It is difficult for a driver to accept that he has no chance to get into F1,” he mused, “and I hope I don't have to. My job is just to do the best I can. I am trying my hardest and hopefully they will come knocking on the door or give me a 'phone call, but for now it is up to me to concentrate on the DTM.
“The powers-that-be at Mercedes have looked after me and I am sure they will continue to look after me. We just have to see what the outcome of it all will be. I just need to see what the right chance is to get there and make sure it is a good opportunity.”
“Paul has been brought in as part of the young driver programme,” added a McLaren spokesman. “The scheme encourages the assessment of young talent by providing them with four days of valuable track time.”
di Resta's test was possible due to the 2008 F1 test agreement, which allows teams to try out inexperienced drivers outside of the usual season testing restrictions.