Paul di Resta could be in-line for a shock move from the DTM into Formula 1 in 2009, it has been claimed – in a deal that would see the Scot make his grand prix bow with Force India, and take Mercedes engines with him.
The 22-year-old is currently vying for the DTM title laurels with Audi rival Timo Scheider – sitting just two points adrift of the German heading into the season finale at Hockenheim in a fortnight's time and inarguably the driver most 'in-form' – but he has never made any secret of his desire to make it into the top flight one day.
Indeed, F1 is exactly where di Resta looked to be heading after clinching the 2006 F3 Euroseries laurels – the same championship won by Lewis Hamilton the previous year – ahead of the likes of Italian Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel, Williams' rookie Kazuki Nakajima and current GP2 Series front-runners Romain Grosjean and Sébastien Buemi.
With funds not forthcoming, however, the single-seater path was temporarily shelved as tin-tops beckoned, and a stellar first campaign in the pan-European DTM – in which he finished as the highest-placed driver in non-current machinery, with no fewer than four podium finishes to his name in a two-year-old Mercedes C-Class – earned di Resta a seat with the crack AMG works outfit in 2008. It is an opportunity he has not wasted.
Moreover, the former McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year
has been rewarded for his efforts with four days' behind the wheel of a McLaren-Mercedes – two at Silverstone last week, and two more elsewhere later this month [see separate story – click here
] – and has also enjoyed a GP2 outing with former series champions ART Grand Prix at Paul Ricard.
Whilst it had previously been believed he was perhaps being lined up for a GP2 promotion next season with Mercedes' help, it now seems the stakes could just be even higher still.
“I don't want people jumping to conclusions,” di Resta is quoted by F1SA
as having insisted of his McLaren test, “but I was quite happy with the way it went.
“I felt I belonged in Formula 1 from the moment I saw the car. Sebastian Vettel was my [F3 Euroseries] team-mate in 2006 and managed to beat me once in 20 races.
“The future is the future. Whatever happens next season, it would be nice to do it as the DTM champion.”
Should the West Lothian-born ace indeed make his top flight debut with Force India next year as the speculation suggests, it would likely be in conjunction with a 'customer' deal that would see McLaren-Mercedes supplying engines, McLaren KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) technology and potentially other technical support to the Silverstone-based outfit, which currently uses Ferrari powerplants.
McLaren team principal Ron Dennis confirmed in Fuji this weekend that a deal with Force India could be in place in the 'next few days', with other teams understood to be in similar talks with the multiple world championship-winning squad as well.
“Some form of collaboration might unfold during the next few days,” the 61-year-old told British newspaper the Daily Telegraph
. “Our objective is to help Formula 1 at every opportunity. One of these entails assisting an independent team, and that will be given serious consideration.”