Feb.3 (Force India) Paul Di Resta was without doubt the revelation of the 2011 season, his rookie year in Formula 1 and it was a foregone conclusion that the Scot would remain with the Force India team. He was at the launch of the team’s 2012 challenger – the VJM05 – and spoke of the year ahead.
Firstly, did you enjoy a relaxing winter and have a chance to recharge your batteries?
I stopped working just before Christmas and that was it until January 13th, so I had a chance to spend some quality time with family and friends, and switch off for a little bit. I pushed on with my training and I was in a good routine and really enjoying it. It was nice and quiet in Monaco and the weather was fantastic, so it encouraged me to get outside and get active.
You got a feel for the VJM05 when you had your seat fitting. What are your impressions?
It’s looking quite good and the seat fit went very smoothly. The small issues I had last year were obviously considered in the design, which is what happens in your second year as part of a team – that’s one of the things that becomes a bit easier. I wouldn’t say the cockpit was tight last year, but I just couldn’t get low enough in the car, where I wanted to be.
What is the team’s target with the new car?
The target is just to go forward really, from where we left off at the end of last year. We’ve got to start a bit stronger than we did last year – that will be key. We’ve also developed a lot of the things that we tried last year and now believe that it’s the way forward. I’m not going to say what it is, but you’ll see it as soon as the car hits the track!
Last year the team ensured that the car was competitive at all types of tracks, rather than just places like Spa and Monza. Will we see that again this year?
We actually struggled a bit in terms of straight-line speed compared to others. So there was definitely a change. If you look at Hungary, it was one of our best results: a very strong performance across the whole weekend. So it’s good to keep going down that route. You need downforce, but you need efficiency, and it’s a question of how finely you balance that.
How much stronger do you feel personally heading into the season, compared with this time last year?
A lot stronger. I’ve been training as hard as I ever have, really pushing on for the last few weeks. As I said, I’m getting myself into that routine and just pushing the body to another level. For some reason my life is just a lot more stable – it just lets you concentrate on the bits you need to as and when they come in. The other benefit is that I now have a year under my belt. Whether it’s making decisions on travel arrangements or just analysing your time, you can really see what you didn’t like last year and what affected you, and just put it right.
The Pirelli tyres were new for everyone last year. Did you feel comfortable with them?
It’s difficult to say because it was my first year, but it was not easy, because they were changing a lot and there was a big difference between them. At the same time everyone gets to run with the same tyres and it’s about making them work. It was all about doing it at the right point in the weekend, especially during qualifying.
You have a new team mate in Nico – are you looking forward to working with him?
Obviously Nico was already part of the team last year. I’ve known him for a long time and I’m sure we will work well together. At the same time you do have that bit of competitive nature, and you bounce off each other and push the team to take that little bit of an extra step.
It’s an unusual situation, because you’ve both done one season of racing, and one year of Friday FP1s – albeit not in the same order!
We’re on equal territory. He’s probably done a bit more mileage than me in an F1 car, and he knows all the tracks, so there’s not really any disadvantage for him. And he knows the team.
You often shared a car with Nico on Fridays last year. Did you learn from that whether you have similar styles, and perhaps would like the new car to develop in the same direction?
The testing priorities were always different, and even between FP1 and FP2 the car would change – they would generally try new things with Nico when he was in the car just to get a bit of an idea, even if it was about future races. So I don’t really know – I think that will develop over the winter.
The competition in the middle of the pack is very strong. Do you agree that it’s not going to be easy to repeat last year’s form?
True, we’ve got a job in hand to maintain sixth. At the end of last year we punched way higher than I think we should have, and credit to the team for their ambition. I think everybody is still on a high from that and hopefully that will push us to another level again. But it’s going to take a lot of dedication to achieve that. We have to start off where we finished last year and keep pushing in that direction.
Looking at the overall package can you see any reason why you can’t do that?
There’s definitely no reason why we can’t. We’ve had good stability and we have the same technical staff, and the same partners: Mercedes-Benz for engine and KERS, and McLaren for gearbox and hydraulics. So everything is very stable and has carried on over. It almost feels like there’s not been an end of the season and a beginning of the new one. Everybody’s in the same state of mind.