SCOTLAND'S Paul di Resta will have to wait until the start of the European season before he is given the upgrade package he believes is necessary before Force India can become truly competitive.
Di Resta has made a solid start to the new Formula One season, following up his point in Australia with a fine drive to seventh place despite tricky conditions in the Malaysian Grand Prix at the weekend.
Hopes of being given a stronger car with which to challenge in the double-header next month in China and Bahrain are on hold, though.
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"We have to be happy with what we achieved over the weekend," said Di Resta. "Given the mixed weather conditions, we maximised what we had and were quick at some points, especially on the intermediate tyres when we were nearly one of the quickest out there.
"We just have to keep plugging away until we bolt on some new performance parts, which we're looking forward to. Unfortunately that won't be in China, so we're just going to have to do what we can. We're looking at early May and the test in Mugello going into the Spanish Grand Prix. It's a bit frustrating, but with production nobody is invincible and you have to understand we've chosen to do it that way for a reason."
The Scot later intimated that he was not entirely happy with the decision, but at least Di Resta has come away from the opening two races with seven points. That is a positive start on which to build, certainly when F1 arrives for race five in Barcelona in May.
"We've been fighting all the way, we've scored points and we've performed as much as we could and done what we could as a team," said Di Resta. "We'll just try to continue our form and try to be in the same position, if we can, at the end of the races in China and Bahrain.
"Whether that will happen is another thing, but as long as you go and give 100%, that's all that can be asked of you. Then hopefully when we get to the European season we'll see big benefits and a turnaround. Hopefully it's as much as last year. We'll keep fighting."
Despite the arduous start to this campaign, with two long-haul events, there is no rest for Di Resta as he flew out of Malaysia to India yesterday for a PR event. He will remain in that part of the world prior to flying to China. It is a tough schedule for the 25-year-old. "It's probably my longest trip ever," said the Scot.
"I headed out to Australia a week before the race started, and now I'm not going home for another four [weeks], which is very frustrating, but it all comes with the job. We need to promote what we have in India, keep the sponsors happy because, at the end of the day, the name [of the team] says everything. We need to have their full support, to thank them for backing us and giving us a chance to race."
His ambitions are modest in comparison to those of Jenson Button, tough. The McLaren driver made an impressive start to the season with a compelling victory in Australia, but could not follow it up with a similar performance in Malaysia. Rather, Fernando Alonso secured a surprise victory.
Button – who finished 14th after a collision with the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan, a third of the way through the race – was hardly gracious in defeat, though, dismissing the suggestion that Alonso could pose a challenge for the championship. The Englishman trails Alonso by 10 points.
Instead, Button is looking a little closer to home, having identified his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, and Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, as his main rivals.
"Even after such a bad race – and that's hopefully my bad race for the year gone – I'm still only 10 points off the lead, and that's Alonso in a Ferrari; that's not the worry," Button said. "I'm also only five points behind Lewis, who is the guy in a competitive car, so still not bad considering the day I had.
"Lewis is definitely my main rival, and you have to say the Red Bulls as well. Those are the guys I still think are the main ones at this point in the season, and will be for quite a few races. The Mercedes' show signs of speed in qualifying, and we'll have to see what they can do in a nice dry race, and see where we stand compared to them. But the team we should still be worried about the most are Red Bull."
Martin Whitmarsh, the McLaren team principal, has taken a different view, though. He is refusing to write off Ferrari this season. "You can never underestimate Ferrari, but it was a turn-up for the books they were able to win," said Whitmarsh.
"If you're honest about it, at the back of your mind, you are wondering whether anyone turns up with a eureka moment and they overhaul you. But it's a long, long championship ahead, and although we're not in bad shape, nothing is taken for granted here. No one, with confidence, can predict the outcome of this year's world championship, and that's how it should be."