Paul di Resta’s storming drive in
took him to a personal best sixth place, silencing the few critics that remained. But di Resta’s more subdued drive in Singapore , finishing only one place behind Suzuka specialist Adrian Sutil in equal machinery is arguably more impressive. Japan
|di Resta has managed to keep Sutil behind for most of this year|
One thing to remember when analysing the
race is the turning point of the Grand Prix - the safety car caused by Michael Schumacher’s almighty shunt after an attempt at overtaking Sergio Perez went awry. This actually disadvantaged di Resta, as his strategy relied upon him delivering fast lap times exactly around when Bernd Maylander appeared on track. Despite this, he still managed his best ever race position with sixth. But it could have been so much more. Singapore
went to the Japanese Grand Prix quietly confident - compared to their previous vehicles, this years VJM04 is an all-rounder, not just a car for fast tracks with plenty of straights on which it can utilise its Mercedes engine. However, they faced a rejuvenated Renault, who should have done well at the much more open track, a world away from the track which has served as their nemesis - India . Then, unexpectedly, di Resta developed a flu of some sort, similar to the symptoms which Sergio Perez also suffered this weekend. To make matters worse, Suzuka is a track which suits experience - its lines and grip are in places which conventional drivers might not expect, only with experience of the track can a driver learn them. It was always going to be difficult to beat Sutil - a driver who had driven at the Japanese track many times before - and with an illness it would be even more difficult. But di Resta was only two tenths away in Qualifying, and as we know Sutil is no slouch. Marina Bay
The race, for di Resta however, was even more impressive - he capitalised on home favourite Kobayashi’s tardy start and was into eighth by the end of lap one - up four positions from his grid slot. He was jumped by Sutil at the first stop by virtue of the undercut on fresh tyres, but returned the compliment at the second stops. Switching to the medium tyre, both drivers knew they had to put in some fast laps - but yet again the safety car ruined this strategy. di Resta was caught towards the end of the race and passed by his team-mate, Petrov and Rosberg after a brave move at Dunlop. However, he still managed to finish in the same place that he had started, and was only just behind is team-mate at the finish.
But will di Resta be able to carry this skill on through his entire career? And will he ever get the car to do so? It’s obvious to paddock insiders that he has the speed; he has beaten Sutil more often than not in Qualifying this year and he beat team-mate Vettel in Formula Three in 2005. Not only this, but his recent drives have shown a level of maturity and intelligence reminiscent of ‘The Professor’ Alain Prost, and to more contemporary audiences, Jenson Button. With the inevitable retirement of Michael Schumacher coming either at the end of this year or the next, it’s only a matter of time before he can get himself a race seat at the Mercedes works team, who are likely to be able to give him a race winning car in 2014 if they cope with the rule changes like they did into 2009. Until then, it’ll be Paul’s job to impress in a minnow team against a fast team-mate. Will you be keeping an eye on him? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.
Image (c) Force India