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'Battle zone' tour of duty just the job for Di Resta

PAUL DI RESTA's 2012 Formula One season generally built on the foundations laid during his impressive rookie year in 2011, so it is somewhat unfortunate that the abiding memory he has been left with from the campaign should be his last one.

Scotland's Paul Di Resta of Force India crashes out of the final Formula One race of the season at Interlagos in Brazil. Picture: Reuters
Scotland's Paul Di Resta of Force India crashes out of the final Formula One race of the season at Interlagos in Brazil. Picture: Reuters

The 26-year-old from Bathgate made a scheduled pit stop in Glasgow yesterday at the behest of sponsors Whyte & Mackay and was diverted on to the subject of the slightly premature end which came to his season during the last race of the season in Interlagos.

We were into the second last lap in Brazil when Di Resta's Sahara Force India Mercedes aquaplaned on the drenched Tarmac, spun wildly out of control and struck a wall at a speed of up to 170 mph. It was an incident which occurred on precisely the same corner of the Brazilian course which was the scene of an infamous Fernando Alonso-Mark Webber crash back in 2003 and one which had been flagged up in pre-race discussions among the drivers as a danger zone should the weather worsen during the race.

Formula One cars these days can boast incredible safety records – all Di Resta suffered was a bruised knee, blamed on his wiry body shape – but presumably such soothing statistics aren't always uppermost in your mind when you are hurtling headlong towards a concrete wall. "I think I am a better Formula One driver now than I was last season," said Di Resta. "But when your last memory is bouncing along a wall, it is not ideal. It is probably the hardest hit I have had, the fastest hit I have had. I was in sixth gear, doing about 260, 270 km/h when I hit the wall.

"Looking at it, we were a bit ambitious," he added. "It was getting quite wet but when you were catching somebody at two seconds a lap, and we had three laps to catch four seconds and get past, we were trying to do that. Obviously there was a lack of control, sometimes with crashes you get a bit more warning and can prepare yourself a bit better.

"How do you explain it, do you shut your eyes and hope you come out the other side? You become almost a passenger of the car, you are so in the zone and so focused on what you are doing and what you want to achieve. You have to be thankful any time you come out of an accident, any sort of life-threatening thing, but here we all are sitting here, the world was supposed to end today."

Di Resta, who resides in Monaco these days near his friend Jenson Button, is back in Scotland for the first time since after the British Grand Prix in June, revelling in such mundane aspects of life as the rush hour M8 traffic as he shuttles between the homes of friends and family in Bathgate and Ayrshire. "I haven't driven a right-hand drive car for so long," he said. "But even driving into Glasgow this morning, the roads become second nature again."

This season saw Di Resta add a 14th-place finish to last year's 13th place at a Sahara Force India team which seems forever fated to be among the middle of the grid. But having racked up most of those points by the midway point of the season, the Scot, a cousin of Indy500 champion Dario Franchitti, was heavily linked with a move to the holy trinity of Mercedes, McLaren or Ferrari, only for Lewis Hamilton to leave McLaren to replace Michael Schumacher at Mercedes, Sergio Perez to land the ride with McLaren and for another door to close when Ferrari's Felipe Massa extended his contract until the end of 2013.

But Di Resta hasn't given up just yet on his dream of life in the fast lane; the chance to joust on a more regular basis with stars such as currrent champion Sebastian Vettel, whom he used to compete alongside and beat back in their Formula 3 days. "You have just got to hope that you catch their eye and catch their attention," said Di Resta.

"I am very close to Mercedes and McLaren through various different things and I have huge respect for them. There was no hard feelings. There were discussions, they spoke to me and various different things. Our paths may cross again. I am wise enough to understand that whatever decisions they have made might not work out.

"There are Ferrari drives coming up at the end of next season, there is a Red Bull drive at the end of next year possibly as well. At Force India, it is hard work, you are in the battle zone, I would just like to be a bit nearer the front dealing with the people I have come through different categories racing against."

In a global sport where marketing and TV revenues are all part of the package, Di Resta's Scottish nationality may count against him. But he wouldn't have it any other way. "I come from a small country but a beautiful country and I am proud of where I come from," he said. "In life you have just got to play the cards you are dealt, and I will keep working hard until I achieve what I want to do. I never gave up on my Formula One dream when people said it was over so there is no reason why I can't achieve the next part of my journey."

n Paul Di Resta was speaking as he promoted his role as Whyte & Mackay Whisky Ambassador at The Whisky Shop, Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow.

PAUL DI RESTA's 2012 Formula One season generally built on the foundations laid during his impressive rookie year in 2011, so it is somewhat unfortunate that the abiding memory he has been left with from the campaign should be his last one. The 26-year-old from Bathgate made a scheduled pit stop in Glasgow yesterday at the behest of sponsors Whyte & Mackay and was diverted on to the subject of the slightly premature end which came to his season during the last race of the season in Interlagos.

We were into the second last lap in Brazil when Di Resta's Sahara Force India Mercedes aquaplaned on the drenched Tarmac, spun wildly out of control and struck a wall at a speed of up to 170 mph. It was an incident which occurred on precisely the same corner of the Brazilian course which was the scene of an infamous Fernando Alonso-Mark Webber crash back in 2003 and one which had been flagged up in pre-race discussions among the drivers as a danger zone should the weather worsen during the race.

Formula One cars these days can boast incredible safety records – all Di Resta suffered was a bruised knee, blamed on his wiry body shape – but presumably such soothing statistics aren't always uppermost in your mind when you are hurtling headlong towards a concrete wall. "I think I am a better Formula One driver now than I was last season," said Di Resta. "But when your last memory is bouncing along a wall, it is not ideal. It is probably the hardest hit I have had, the fastest hit I have had. I was in sixth gear, doing about 260, 270 km/h when I hit the wall.

"Looking at it, we were a bit ambitious," he added. "It was getting quite wet but when you were catching somebody at two seconds a lap, and we had three laps to catch four seconds and get past, we were trying to do that. Obviously there was a lack of control, sometimes with crashes you get a bit more warning and can prepare yourself a bit better.

"How do you explain it, do you shut your eyes and hope you come out the other side? You become almost a passenger of the car, you are so in the zone and so focused on what you are doing and what you want to achieve. You have to be thankful any time you come out of an accident, any sort of life-threatening thing, but here we all are sitting here, the world was supposed to end today."

Di Resta, who resides in Monaco these days near his friend Jenson Button, is back in Scotland for the first time since after the British Grand Prix in June, revelling in such mundane aspects of life as the rush hour M8 traffic as he shuttles between the homes of friends and family in Bathgate and Ayrshire. "I haven't driven a right-hand drive car for so long," he said. "But even driving into Glasgow this morning, the roads become second nature again."

This season saw Di Resta add a 14th-place finish to last year's 13th place at a Sahara Force India team which seems forever fated to be among the middle of the grid. But having racked up most of those points by the midway point of the season, the Scot, a cousin of Indy500 champion Dario Franchitti, was heavily linked with a move to the holy trinity of Mercedes, McLaren or Ferrari, only for Lewis Hamilton to leave McLaren to replace Michael Schumacher at Mercedes, Sergio Perez to land the ride with McLaren and for another door to close when Ferrari's Felipe Massa extended his contract until the end of 2013.

But Di Resta hasn't given up just yet on his dream of life in the fast lane; the chance to joust on a more regular basis with stars such as currrent champion Sebastian Vettel, whom he used to compete alongside and beat back in their Formula 3 days. "You have just got to hope that you catch their eye and catch their attention," said Di Resta.

"I am very close to Mercedes and McLaren through various different things and I have huge respect for them. There was no hard feelings. There were discussions, they spoke to me and various different things. Our paths may cross again. I am wise enough to understand that whatever decisions they have made might not work out.

"There are Ferrari drives coming up at the end of next season, there is a Red Bull drive at the end of next year possibly as well. At Force India, it is hard work, you are in the battle zone, I would just like to be a bit nearer the front dealing with the people I have come through different categories racing against."

In a global sport where marketing and TV revenues are all part of the package, Di Resta's Scottish nationality may count against him. But he wouldn't have it any other way. "I come from a small country but a beautiful country and I am proud of where I come from," he said. "In life you have just got to play the cards you are dealt, and I will keep working hard until I achieve what I want to do. I never gave up on my Formula One dream when people said it was over so there is no reason why I can't achieve the next part of my journey."

Paul Di Resta was speaking as he promoted his role as Whyte & Mackay Whisky Ambassador at The Whisky Shop, Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow.

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