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Scot Paul di Resta closes in on Force India F1 drive

By Andrew Benson and Sarah Holt

Paul di Resta
Di Resta was Force India's reserve driver in 2010

Scot Paul di Resta is poised to seal a deal to race for Force India and become the third British driver in Formula 1.

BBC Sport understands Force India have decided to promote the 24-year-old from his position as test driver and pair him with German Adrian Sutil.

But the team have not yet concluded negotiations with Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi, who has a contract for 2011.

Liuzzi's manager Peter Collins said: "Tonio will be in F1 this year. Will he be racing? I don't know."

Force India refused to comment on the situation and Di Resta and his manager Anthony Hamilton, father of McLaren driver Lewis, were not available.

Di Resta, who is a Mercedes protege and won the DTM German Touring Car Championship for the marque in 2010, impressed Force India while driving in Friday morning practice sessions and the team have decided they have to give him a race seat. However, Liuzzi has a firm contract for 2011 and talks to resolve the situation are yet to be concluded.

Collins added: "I've no comment to make at this stage and it would be wrong for me to do so.

I've raced against Sebastian (Vettel) and Lewis (Hamilton) and done the same job as them

Paul di Resta

"The position has been very clear for some time and it is best to let the team make any announcement."

Assuming a deal can be concluded, Di Resta will join Hamilton and the 2008 F1 champion's McLaren team-mate Jenson Button on the grid for the first grand prix of the year in Bahrain on 13 March.

He will also be crossing swords again with world champion Sebastian Vettel, who was his team-mate when Di Resta won the Formula Three Euroseries in 2006.

Di Resta says he is confident he can match the best drivers in F1, although he is unlikely to be able to be in a position to do so in a Force India in 2011.

He told Scotland on Sunday two years ago: "I've raced against Sebastian and Lewis and done the same job as them so hopefully I can get into Formula 1 and do a job against them.

"Sebastian was my team-mate in 2006 in Formula Three when I was the European Champion and won the Ultimate Masters as well.

Paul di Resta in a Force India
Di Resta impressed the team with his work in Friday practice last year

"I beat him in both those things and I definitely beat him on far more occasions than he ever beat me.

"I'm not saying that I'm a faster or better driver than him, but if you look at the results we achieved when we had equal cars then you'd have to say there's at least parity between us.

"As for Lewis, people ask whether I see him as a role model, but how could I because I've raced against him and beaten him?

"He's always been a year in front of me so he's always had that little bit more experience, but when we had the same machinery we were equally good."

Di Resta is also the cousin of triple IndyCar champion, and two-time Indy 500 winner, Dario Franchitti.

Force India are expected to employ former Williams driver Nico Hulkenberg as their third driver, although he is also hoping for a similar role at Mercedes.

Hulkenberg impressed in his rookie season for Williams last year but the team decided to replace him with Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, who succeeded the German as GP2 champion and whose presence in the team is tied to a multi-year multi-million pound sponsorship from Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.

Hulkenberg's manager Willi Weber told the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport this week that the 23-year-old had an offer to race for Virgin but preferred to be a reserve driver for a more established team.

SARAH HOLT'S BLOG

"We have been thinking and asking do we want to pause a year? But in this day and age you are forgotten because everything changes so quickly," Weber said.

"Therefore, I am of the opinion that it would be better for Nico to go to a team where he can at least drive in Friday practice. That would be the ideal solution for him. So he stays on the ball.

"With the small teams, someone like Nico, who has a season behind him, does not have much more to learn."

Force India were narrowly pipped by Williams to sixth place in the constructors' championship last season.



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see also
Di Resta pleased with practice time
27 Mar 10 |  Formula 1


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