Midseason Report: Grading Force India's Paul di Resta
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Make no mistake about it, 2013 is a massive season for Scotsman Paul di Resta as he enters his third full season as a Formula One driver.
Di Resta made a massive impression in his debut season alongside Adrian Sutil, finishing in the points on eight separate occasions. It led David Coulthard to tip his countryman to become one of the top drivers in the sport in an interview with The Sun (subscription required).
But as Sutil was forced to miss the season after a conviction for causing grievous bodily harm to Lotus shareholder Eric Lux, Di Resta was expected to carry the mantle in 2012. New teammate Nico Hulkenberg refused to read the script, however, and outpointed Di Resta before moving onto Sauber.
So here we are, Di Resta and Sutil reunited for 2013. And the pressure is on with Sutil just 13 points behind and Di Resta telling Sky Sports the car was the worst it had felt all year after Hungary qualifying.
Sutil laid down the challenge in Australia when he led a Grand Prix for the first time before finishing a place ahead of Di Resta in seventh. It was a good start for both drivers, but it quickly turned into a catastrophe in Malaysia after the German followed Di Resta into retirement as a precaution due to problems with the captive wheel nut system.
Di Resta enjoyed the stronger race in China, fighting his way from 11th to eighth by the finish as Esteban Gutierrez punted Sutil out of the race, but his standout drive of the season came in Bahrain when he looked set for a first podium until Romain Grosjean hunted him down on fresher tyres to pass with just five laps remaining.
Afterward, the Scot told BBC Sport that it had been his best ever race:
Di Resta was delighted with fourth in Bahrain
That was probably my strongest Grand Prix.
The podium was very close, but with our strategy we were always going to be vulnerable, especially to Grosjean who had two new sets of medium tyres.
I had a good start to the race, a strong opening stint and we showed our true speed today, but ultimately fourth place was the maximum that was possible.
We will get on the podium one day, hopefully soon, but for now we can be very happy with the points we've scored today.
Di Resta backed up his strong Bahrain outing with seventh in Spain and was tucked up behind pole-sitter Nico Rosberg’s gearbox at the finish, with less than a second separating the scrapping pair. But things were about to take a turn for the worse.
A disastrous qualifying in Monaco saw Di Resta line up 17th on the grid, but he was aided by a number of retirements to again make it into the points albeit four places behind his teammate. It would be a sign of things to come.
A third seventh-place finish in Canada was all the more impressive given that he again started at 17th on the grid due to gearbox software issues during qualifying before carving his way through the field. Relationships had been strained between the Scot and his team on Saturday when he blamed his team’s performance as "unacceptable" in an interview with BBC Sport. But a day later a somewhat calmer Di Resta told the same broadcaster that his strong race had helped to build bridges.
Di Resta's fury after Canada qualifying turned to relief after a strong race
It was taken constructively. Everybody in the team felt the same.
But we regrouped, showed we can do it and, as far as my relationship with the team is concerned, it's still good.
The person who made the mistake apologised and I'm fully supportive of that. It's just unfortunate it happened two weeks in a row, which is where the anger was.
Looking back, I don't think I was too harsh. When you work with the team so closely, it's good to have that heat because you need to show your emotion.
If I'd twice made a mistake, I'd be kicking myself and the team would come down hard on me - and rightly so.
Unbelievably, lightning struck for the third race in succession during qualifying for his home Grand Prix at Silverstone. Di Resta had expressed himself as “over the moon” in his now familiar post-session interview with BBC Sport having qualified fifth before being excluded for having an underweight car.
This time the Scot vented his fury on the race track, carving his way through to seventh.
It would be his final points finish of the first half of the season, 11th- and 18th-place finishes in Germany and Hungary leaving him 10th in the drivers’ standings, three behind McLaren’s Jenson Button.
Paul’s midseason marks
Race craft: 8/10
Summary: Spectacularly lost his cool with his team in Canada and but for three qualifying horror shows he could have been much higher up the table. Strong race showings in adversity have shown exactly what a good racer he is.
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