Paul di Resta
2010 DTM Champion & F1 test driver
Williams F1 test driver and DTM ace Paul di Resta is the latest online driving instructor for SAFEisFAST.com
The 31-year-old currently competes across two series, combining F1 testing duties for Williams Racing with a drive for Mercedes in DTM, a championship he won back in 2010. Di Resta is also a pundit and co-commentator for Sky Sports F1.
Having excelled in karting as a youngster, di Resta began his car-racing career in Formula Renault before graduating to the Formula 3 Euro Series, where he beat four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel to the 2006 title. Four seasons in DTM soon followed, culminating in the 2010 title before he switched to F1 with Force India the following year.
Di Resta spent three seasons with Force India, racking up 121 points and a best finish of fourth. The Scot returned to DTM in 2014, and in 2016 was hired as reserve driver for Williams F1 team.
Paul di Resta answers your questions!
What made you choose DTM, a championship you have won in the past, over IndyCar back in 2014?
I chose DTM because Mercedes-Benz came in and helped me in Formula 3, and I became a Mercedes-Benz junior driver, so the natural progression was to go into DTM if I was successful in that, and I always wanted to stay in Europe as well with the ambition of being a Formula 1 driver, and I believe if I’d gone to IndyCar that would have hampered that. That was a big drive and it’s been the best decision to get me where I am today.
How much harder are this year’s F1 cars to drive compared to previous years with the increased cornering speeds?
The cars are much harder to drive; they’re heavier, have more downforce and much bigger tyres. Generally these cars are five seconds a lap faster, and that’s all in the corners, not in the straights, so they’re quite physical but nothing you can’t get yourself prepared in the gym for.
What are your plans for the future after the exit of Mercedes from the DTM?
I’m not really too sure what my plans are at the moment! We’ll have to wait and see. Obviously at the end of next year when Mercedes pull out of DTM, but ultimately there’s some other opportunities that may be expressed. At the moment it’s work in progress, but we’ll see how it develops.
Hi Paul, would you ever consider either a season or a one-off appearance racing in the British Touring Car Championship like former F1 champion and Scot Jim Clark?
I don’t think I would consider BTCC, it’s not something I’ve grown up doing in order to try and enable yourself to be successful in it. I’ve been fully-focused on F1, obviously as a reserve driver, and I would be much more interested in doing a one-off race in that.
How did your experience in DTM benefit your Formula One career?
DTM was a great preparation to get into F1. When you’re the highlight of the weekend and working with a brand as big as Mercedes-Benz, which is the biggest car manufacturer in the world, it presents to you how to deal with the media, but more importantly, how to expect expectations on-track, with the weight of a brand behind you.
When in your career did you realise your dream of becoming a professional racing driver could become a reality?
From as long as I can remember I always wanted to race and be successful, and the reality comes in when you realise the paths that some of these guys have and more importantly, as much as it’s my life and it’s my hobby, it also makes me a living, it’s something I like to do, and even more importantly, driving the cars are the great bit for me.
What is the biggest change to the cars of the different periods you’ve driven? Did you feel much G Force difference between the 2 cars?
The biggest change is the downforce like you say, it’s massively changed it, so the braking distances have become much shorter, high-speed corners are a bit quicker. Some high-speed corners that were a challenge before are obviously not now, but some of the corners were more of a challenge before now are a bigger challenge. Those are what F1 cars excel in. On low fuel, new tyres, that’s what they’re great at doing.
How did you quickly adapt switching from a DTM to an F1 car? Especially when you got that last minute call in Hungary. I’ve seen a few drivers like Ocon, Wehrlein, and yourself go from DTM to F1, and they look like such different cars on the outside, but I was wondering why drivers seem to switch over so well?
I don’t find the switch from DTM to F1 that different, I think that’s purely because I’ve done it so much. It’s difficult at the beginning – you’re going from a car that’s 720Kg to a car that’s some 1,100Kg, so it’s massively different, a lot more power, and where you sit in the car is the biggest thing. In a DTM car you’re more directly to the left, in F1 you’re in the middle with an open cockpit. But the reality is that you have to drive the car to the grip that’s available, and each car will slide at that point. That’s where the confidence and commitment builds up through the laps you do.
Hi Paul – in your opinion, who is faster – you, Felipe Massa, or Robert Kubica?
It’s a very easy answer – me!
As a girl who has been in and around the sport her whole life, there comes a time where it just feels like nothing is happening but you’d like to get further and dream of making it. What would you suggest doing to help stand out more or be more connected with people who can guide you in the right direction? Thank you so much!
It’s a difficult sport to get into obviously. There’s less females that are successful in motor sport – that doesn’t mean to say you can’t be, and I believe in equal rights in this world and everything like that. I guess it comes down to success in junior categories, success in coming through the ranks, because ultimately that’s what gets you there. It was the hard work that I put in and the hard work that other people put in that has got us to the top, so I don’t believe you can do anything different than winning championships and winning races.
Hi Paul, you’ve driven a lot of different types of racing car, so have you ever wanted to try out a Formula E car? What do you think of the series in general?
Yeah, I guess it’s something to look at. It’s definitely on the rise. It’s not something that has opened its doors to me yet, purely because of the series I have been involved in. Mercedes are entering that series very soon, so maybe there’s a chance to get involved in that programme. The important thing at the moment to focus on is what is now, thinking about the future and what will happen, but we’ll see. The cars are getting better every year and look more exciting!
How difficult was it to compete against Sebastian Vettel in European F3, and if you were in the same car, do you think you would have beaten him to an F1 title?
I’d like to hope I could still beat him given the same car! Last time we were teammates, and it was the only time I managed to beat him, so that’s what matters and that’s the only time you can compare us. But you can’t take away what Sebastian has achieved to date.
How hard was it to jump straight to F1 car, and how helpful for you was the fact that you are an active racing driver in DTM?
Yeah, it is difficult to jump into a car. I think a big benefit for me is that I’ve been racing DTM for the last four years, so the race craft is there. Ultimately you’ve got to learn a new car and a new challenge each time with a new team, so it never takes away how hard it is, so that’s why Formula 1 drivers are expected to be the best in the world, because they’re performing to the best in the world against each other.
Following a group of cars fairly ahead of you, how do you use your two-step vision? Primarily you look at the track up ahead and keep the other cars out of focus or the other way around? Or, do you switch your focus momentarily up ahead?
It’s something that comes with the race craft, and it’s something that comes from go karts. Predicting what’s going to happen and looking ahead of you, and that’s one thing a racing driver does – they do look ahead. They look at the corner entry and exit before they arrive, and it’s about managing your space, and I guess that’s where your spatial awareness comes in. It’s all to do with your vision and your sense, and your confidence with how you feel the car through your whole body. There’s a lot of contact with your back and the way your seat protects you in a car, and you get the feeling through all of that. It’s all about commitment, confidence, and only through time do you learn that, and me being in my thirties now, hopefully I’ve got enough experience to be better than somebody who’s young.
Miguel del Pilar
I’m 15 and driving in karts looking forward to move to cars. But money is an issue. What pointers can you give to find partners and build relationships for sponsorship?
It’s something I’ve always found quite hard, finding personal sponsors. It’s difficult, sometimes it comes down to who you know rather than what you know. If you find a good solution, please could you come and see me because it would certainly help my career!
Hi Paul, what an enlightening career you have. Congratulations on your success! I have a G35 coupe, mostly stock and I track with amateurs for fun. On track one day, it just started sprinkling, I was coming to a tight left, the car drifted a bit around the turn, I was able to hold it, but before straightening out, the rear tires caught traction in a dry patch and the car whipped right, then left and I ended up in a ditch. How would I have avoided that and stayed in control after the tires caught traction? Thanks!
Sorry to hear you smashed your car James, I guess you can say maybe a bit more experience in that scenario would help! It’s one of these things that, I guess, going to these race schools, they can teach you to drift, and when the car slides, braking is not always the thing to do, sometimes it’s accelerating can help you get things out of the way. Hopefully next time it goes a bit better, enjoy it – hopefully it doesn’t dent your confidence, and hopefully it doesn’t dent your pocket as well! It’s one of those things – we all crash, but you have to move on, and enjoy it next time.