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Motorsport: Paul di Resta on the way back to Formula One

Bathgate's Paul di Resta may have watched qualifying for today's Australian Grand Prix on TV in the comfort of his Monaco flat, but the 27-year-old Scot is poised for a dramatic return to Formula One.

Lewis Hamilton during qualifying in MelbournePhotograph: Getty
Lewis Hamilton during qualifying in MelbournePhotograph: Getty

Controversially dumped by Force India at the end of last season as they opted to take the multi-million pound sponsorship cheque waved by Mexican Sergio Perez, Di Resta, below, is closing in on a test and reserve driver role at Mercedes GP.

The role, expected to be confirmed within four weeks, will further consolidate the Scot's long relationship with Mercedes-Benz. It is 10 years since he joined the Mercedes Young Driver Development Programme, and this year he returned to lead the car giant's all-out assault on the German Touring Car (DTM) Championship.

Mercedes haven't won the title since Di Resta sealed it in Shanghai in 2010. But as soon as Force India ditched him for 2014 - despite his best point-scoring year in F1 - Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff was on the phone to the Scot.

"When the opportunity arose last year to come back to DTM, it was a pretty easy decision," Di Resta said. "Both parties wanted it to happen, and in the end the deal was done very quickly. It's a place I obviously have fond memories of, and great relationships with. Being part of a major manufacturer and team like Mercedes-Benz has been fantastic over the past 10 years: it's great to be working directly with them again."

The position as test and reserve driver for the Mercedes F1 team is a role he dovetailed with Force India during his DTM-winning 2010 season and both parties are keen for it to happen. It would be important not just for Di Resta, but for Mercedes and their two current F1 pilots, former world champion Lewis Hamilton, and team-mate Nico Rosberg.

The pre-season test domination of the Mercedes-powered cars was confirmed when Hamilton took pole position for today's opening grand prix in Melbourne.

How does Di Resta believe the massive raft of rule changes for the new season will influence the championship?

"I think you can definitely say it'll be a Mercedes-powered car that wins the majority of the opening races. They have the biggest confidence in their engine and its reliability, and their aero package is the best on the grid.

"On the face of that, you have to be looking at either Lewis or Nico, most probably, for the title.

"But the crucial part of the year will be once we get to mid-season and the engines have completed a number of races. Each car only gets five engines for the season, compared to the eight last year. So reliability and engineering strength is likely to be pivotal, and that's where I think Mercedes will ease further ahead.

"It's obviously looking very challenging, but it's new technology - a combustion engine boosted by two electric motors - which is ultimately more relevant to the hybrid power units we'll see fitted to the cars we drive in our everyday lives."

Di Resta, who returned from an intensive five-day fitness camp in the Alps with his Mercedes DTM team-mate last Sunday, also reflected on his three years racing in F1.

"I've got to look back on it and see it as the greatest experience of my life, at least so far," he said. "Obviously getting there, after all the hard work we'd put in, was a fantastic achievement.

"Travelling the world was fun too, but racing in the most technologically cutting-edge cars in the world, on some of the fastest and best tracks in the world, was the biggest buzz for me. That's the bit I'll really miss.

"It's quite a difficult thing to accept, not racing in Formula One this season. Slowly but surely it's been sinking in, especially as you start to see the coverage on TV, and you realise you're not a direct part of it at the moment.

"What it's doing though is driving that strong desire and ambition to make F1 a reality again."

Di Resta definitely has unfinished business in Formula One. Don't discount a return to the F1 grid.

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