Paul di Resta will make his F1 debut with Force India in 2011.
The team confirmed the signing at a press conference for sponsor Whyte & Mackay in Glasgow following ending months of speculation.
Di Resta will take Vitantonio Liuzzi’s place at the team alongside Adrian Sutil, even though Liuzzi originally had a contract to race for the team in 2011.
Di Resta said:
[‘I’m] very excited for this, it’s great to be doing this in Glasgow, announcing this news. Last year I became third driver here and good things happened so here’s hoping we get more good things.
I’ve not set any ambitions for this year, I want to enjoy it but ForceIndia have plans and ambitions. I think Silverstone could be a personal highlight this year. [I’ve] had no advice from my family yet but sure they’ll offer it!
Paul di Resta
The team have also signed ex-Williams pilot Nico Hulkenberg as their test and reserve driver.
Team principal Vijay Mallya said:
I am genuinely excited by the drivers we will be fielding in 2011. I believe that the combination of talent we’ve assembled gives us one of the strongest line-ups on the grid: Adrian has matured into one of F1’s most consistent and highly-rated young drivers, while Paul is, I believe, a real star of the future. He has won in every category in his career and this base speed was in evidence when he got in the car on Fridays last year.
With Nico, signing him was too good an opportunity to let by. He showed a good racing head and talent and I was amazed by his control in Brazil last year. Together I think they are a formidable partnership and will help take us to the next level of performance.
Force India issued the following Q&As:
Q&A with Adrian Sutil
You’re back with Force India for another season! What are your feelings about this?
I made my F1 debut with the team back in 2007 and we’ve worked together since then, so to stay for another year here feels very right. I’ve always said that I feel good in this team, it feels like family and when you feel good, you are confident and can push to your maximum. We’ve made some good progress together over the past four years and I’m excited to be part of the the team when it takes the next step, which is hopefully to become a front running team. We have the same ambitions so it makes a lot of sense to achieve them together.
What made you want to stay with the team?
Over the past four years we’ve made huge progress. When I started we were at the back of the grid and since then we’ve got stronger and stronger and are now achieving real results. Force India is now genuinely a strong midfield team, but it’s got plans to be even better: I’ve seen the plans for this year and it looks positive. The car will be quite strong, the team work well together and with the new regulations favouring smaller teams we should be in a good position for the future.
This will be your fifth season with Force India. What are the advantages of staying with a team for a longer period of time?
You know the team, you know the people, the procedures, the systems and how to get things done so it’s a very positive working environment as you can just get on with things. We know each other’s strengths and also weaknesses so everything you do happens very smoothly.
What can you achieve with Force India this year?
I was in the points a lot in the first half of 2010 and I want to keep that going until the end of the season this year. We were quick but it tailed off a little in the middle of the year so to be consistently quick and in the points has got to be the aim. The odd podium would also be very welcome!
Last year was your most successful season in F1 to date – what has helped you get to that point, do you think you have grown as a driver?
I’m obviously more experienced and now know when to push and when to hold back. I also know the circuits and the places you can overtake and how to get the best out of the car in them. Plus knowing your team and knowing they understand you gives a real psychological advantage.
You have two new team-mates this year, how do you think you will work together?
I’ve known Paul for the past year and we’ve got a good relationship. He did a really good job in the test driver seat last year and showed he’s quick and has a good technical feedback, but he is also open about what he’s done and how he felt we could improve. That’s really important for the team so it should work well. I know Nico relatively well and he seems like a good guy. Having a good test driver is positive as you know that in every area the team is strong.
As the most experienced F1 driver in the team now, do you feel there is a pressure on you to lead the team?
There’s no additional pressure from the team, they expect everyone to do a good job. The only pressure I feel is the one I put on myself to be as quick as I can.
What are your aims in F1?
Still the same as I had when I came in: to be quick, score points, podiums and wins, and eventually to be a world champion.
With the Indian GP coming up this year, will it be a special year to be with the team?
For sure. I have been to India several times with the team and have seen how the team and F1 are getting bigger and bigger. There’s now a real fan following and they have got behind the team. Being in a Force India car for the Indian GP is going to be very special and I hope I can do the fans and country proud.
Q&A with Paul di Resta
Paul, you are now a full-time, fully-fledged Formula 1 driver. What are your thoughts on making your F1 debut this year?
Naturally I am thrilled to be making my race debut this season. Becoming an F1 driver has been a long-held ambition of mine, something I’ve wanted to do since I first stepped into a kart, and to finally realise it feels amazing. I’ve worked really hard for this opportunity throughout my career and to get it with Force India, a young team that’s got ambitions as big as mine, is genuinely exciting. I can’t wait to be on the grid in Bahrain, it can’t come soon enough!
How have you been preparing for your first season?
I’ve been working on fitness to be completely ‘race fit’ and I’ll have some simulator sessions before the start of the testing programme. We will decide the days I will do very shortly, but I should be in the car at each of the tests to make sure the team and I have as much information as possible about the new car and its behaviour. I’ve been spending as much time as I can in the factory as well – even though I know the team very well from last season, I am strengthening those relationships so we function at our best level as a team.
You have stepped up from the test driver role, what do you think you’ll gain from that experience?
Obviously I know the team very well, and understanding how people work and the systems and procedures in place gives a real advantage as everything you do is improving, rather than learning from scratch. I will also know some of the circuits from my Friday experience so getting up to speed on those weekends will be quicker and easier. It’s an ideal position to be in when you make your race debut.
Which circuits are you looking forward to this year? How much experience do you have on some of them?
Silverstone will obviously be very special as it’s my home Grand Prix. Last year I was lucky enough to drive in the Friday practice session and was the first out on track so I could hear the crowd. The atmosphere was amazing so I’ll be geared up for that race. Equally all the circuits are special in some respects – Monza has the history, Belgium that incredible track and Singapore the lights. Really it will be about optimising every opportunity I have on and off track.
You’ll be the third British driver on the grid this year, but also joining some of the greatest names in British and Scottish motorsport. How does it feel to be stepping up to this level?
Britain has produced some great drivers over the years and Lewis and Jenson have really stood out in recent seasons as two back to back world champions. To be on the grid with them is pretty special. To then follow in the footsteps of some other great names – Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark for example – is a real honour and I hope that I will do justice to their achievements.
What will your aims be for the coming season?
Initially it will be to learn from the bottom up and create a solid foundation. Learn the tracks, understand the car and get the information everyone needs to achieve the ambitious goals we have set ourselves. To do this, we need to finish as many races as possible and to make sure that when we finish we’re in the points.
Have your family or anyone given you any advice?
They are all so pleased that I’ve been given this opportunity, but no one has told me what to do or what not to do, but I know that if I need some help or advice, all I need to do is ask. My father in particular has worked just as hard as I have to make this happen and to see his smile when we get to the grid in Bahrain will make me really proud.
Will you be competing in any other series this year, as you did last year, or will your attention be focussed on F1?
No, F1 will be my only series this year. With 20 races on the calendar, that doesn’t leave a lot of time to compete in anything else! I’ve waited a long time to get this chance and now all my efforts are going into this to be as successful as I can.
You’ve got two very quick team-mates, both of whom have F1 race experience. How do you think your respective talents will benefit each other?
Having two team-mates that have competed in F1 is an advantage as you have people who know the tracks, the business and how to deal with certain situations you only get when you are racing. Equally I hope that I can bring some experience from my outings last year, what I know about the team and a different perspective on things. I think we’ll complement each
Q&A with Nico Hulkenberg
Nico, you’re joining Force India in the test and reserve driver role this season. What are your feelings about starting your new job with the team?
I feel excited about my new home in F1. I am looking forward to working here and of course I am especially looking forward to driving the car for the first time. The team have made a huge leap forward within the last years and I want to be a part of the next step.
What can you bring to the team?
Last year was very important for me. I could gain lots of experience and had a good team-mate. I learned a lot from him on how to help developing a car in the right direction. I’m bringing a high level of motivation and will give my very best to be helpful for the team.
How will you keep yourself motivated this year as a test driver?
Well, of course I’d rather be a race driver, but the most important is that I stay within the F1 circus. Every driver wants to compete in races – that is what we are all driving for. But my motivation is to convince the team of my skills in order to be back in a race cockpit in 2012.
What will your plans be from now until the start of the season?
I will work with my physiotherapist for some days, work with the Force India engineers in the factory and drive the car a few days of the winter testing.
Have you been at the factory getting to know the team and the new engineering team you’ll work with?
Yes, I have. We had to do a seat fit and discuss some other things. The team left a very good impression and I think we will be a good combination and bring the team forward.
What do you make of your new team-mates?
These are two great guys. Adrian and I were direct competitors last year, I like him personally. Also Paul is a sympathetic guy and had a very successful career so far, he could bring some surprises to the team.
Video: Paul di Resta onjoining Force India
View the list of 2011 F1 drivers and teams.
Image © Force India F1 Team