Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil have been confirmed as Force India’s driver pairing for 2011, while Nico Hulkenberg has been signed up as a test and reserve driver. The news means Tonio Liuzzi will not drive for the team this season despite having a contract.
Di Resta, who raced against and beat world champion Sebastian Vettel in the F3 Euroseries, drove in eight Friday practice sessions last season as well as winning the DTM title. On the strength of those performances he has been promoted to race driver at Force India, making him one of three British drivers lining up on the grid in 2011.
“Naturally I am thrilled to be making my race debut this season,” he said. “Becoming an F1 driver has been a long-held ambition of mine, something I’ve wanted to do since I first stepped into a kart, and to finally realise it feels amazing. I’ve worked really hard for this opportunity throughout my career and to get it with Force India, a young team that’s got ambitions as big as mine, is genuinely exciting. I can’t wait to be on the grid in Bahrain, it can’t come soon enough.”
When asked what his aim was for this season, di Resta said: “Initially it will be to learn from the bottom up and create a solid foundation. Learn the tracks, understand the car and get the information everyone needs to achieve the ambitious goals we have set ourselves. To do this, we need to finish as many races as possible and to make sure that when we finish we’re in the points.”
He will line up alongside Sutil, who finished 11th in the drivers’ standings in 2010 and scored over half the team’s points. His previous contract expired at the end of last year, but Force India has opted to renew it, meaning he will start his fifth consecutive season as a race driver at the team. He said his target is to score podiums in 2011.
“I was in the points a lot in the first half of 2010 and I want to keep that going until the end of the season this year. We were quick but it tailed off a little in the middle of the year so to be consistently quick and in the points has got to be the aim. The odd podium would also be very welcome.”
He also said he was looking forward to going up against di Resta: “I’ve known Paul for the past year and we’ve got a good relationship. He did a really good job in the test driver seat last year and showed he’s quick and has a good technical feedback, but he is also open about what he’s done and how he felt we could improve. That’s really important for the team so it should work well.”
Hulkenberg has signed a “long-term partnership” with the team and will take part in some of its pre-season testing. He said it is crucial that he remains as part of an F1 team after losing his drive with Williams at the end of 2010.
“Of course I’d rather be a race driver, but the most important is that I stay within the F1 circus,” Hulkenberg said. “Every driver wants to compete in races – that is what we are all driving for. But my motivation is to convince the team of my skills in order to be back in a race cockpit in 2012.”
He also tipped di Resta for success: “Paul is a sympathetic guy and had a very successful career so far, he could bring some surprises to the team.”
Team principal Vijay Mallya believes the trio is one of the strongest driver line-ups on the grid.
“I am genuinely excited by the drivers we will be fielding in 2011,” Mallya said. “I believe that the combination of talent we’ve assembled gives us one of the strongest line-ups on the grid: Adrian has matured into one of F1’s most consistent and highly-rated young drivers, while Paul is, I believe, a real star of the future. He has won in every category in his career and this base speed was in evidence when he got in the car on Fridays last year. With Nico, signing him was too good an opportunity to let by. He showed a good racing head and talent and I was amazed by his control in Brazil last year. Together I think they are a formidable partnership and will help take us to the next level of performance.”