Welcome to another edition of The Scrutineering Bay, Badger GP’s very own version of Question Time (only younger, cooler and less depressing). For the those who haven’t seen the article before, it’s quite simple; a hot topic is asked in the Sett and whichever of our intrepid writers are in earshot get the chance to put their opinion across. Previous editions covered things as varied as the new 2011 regulations to good ol’  Mr Controversy himself, Michael Schumacher.

This week’s question for everyone is:

“What sort of impact can Paul Di Resta hope to make this season?”

The first man to make his get his opinion across, and fresh off many all nighters sprucing up the site, is Adam:

Paul Di Resta, like me is Scottish and therefore all I can do is hope that he crashes less than Coulthard, doesn’t pull over for his team mate and makes a solid impression on the sport during his rookie year.
In a previous ‘Scrutineering Bay’ debate I put Force India forward as possibly joining the big three teams, if this prophecy turns out to be true, I’d love to see a good ol’ Scot on the podium in 2011!

Short, but to the point! Adam is the first to bring up the importance of Force India’s role in Di Resta’s debut year though.
Next to have a potshot is Graham:

Judging by his past performances in other formulas, Paul di Resta definitely has the talent necessary to make an impact in Formula 1 – however, also judging by his past performances in other formulas it may not necessarily be in his first season. In addition to the natural talent, he has also managed to get some actual experience driving F1 cars, rather than just simulators, both in trials for McLaren and in practice sessions for Force India, but (and it is a big but, of the size normally only found in rap videos) whether he makes a real impact will depend on the quality of the car that Force India can put him in. (In a previous Scrutineering Bay, Adam Milleneuve has tipped Force India to be the fourth team accompanying McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari to the top of the standings and who am I to argue with our beloved editor…)

Anyway, that’s enough stating the obvious, time to actually venture an opinion and risk getting shot down in flames, and that opinion is that I think Paul di Resta will make a strong impact in his first season, will out-compete his team mate Adrian Sutil over the course of the year and that 2011 will be the start rather than the sum total of his F1 career.

Although he agrees with Adam about the importance of Force India’s 2011 challenger, Graham also points out that the young Scot is no slouch when it comes to sitting in an F1 car. McLaren don’t just put any driver in their cars, they’re there for a reason.

Jimmy trawls through the archives to deliver his verdict:

As with all rookies in the test-restricted world of modern F1 it’s difficult to say at this stage. On one hand you’d be fair to suggest that he’s in a much better position than the likes of Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez, whose F1 seat time in 2010 was limited to a few runs in the end-of-season young driver tests. Di Resta on the other hand, through his role as Force India’s third driver, did plenty of running in Friday’s first practice sessions, meaning he has a far better understanding of the team and their car.

Then again, unlike GP2 front-runners Maldonado and Perez, Paul has been racing tin tops for four years now and is yet to race a single-seater more powerful than a Formula Three car (and that was way back in 2006). You can’t be certain that the transition back to single-seater racing (rather than testing) will be smooth. Who was the last person to switch from the DTM to F1? Dutchman Christijan Albers, who was DTM runner-up in 2003 and third in 2004 before landing an F1 ride with Minardi for 2005. Two and a half largely forgettable seasons later he was on the scrapheap.

Don’t get me wrong; I’d definitely put di Resta above Albers in the talent stakes. But touring cars are very different beasts in racing condition to F1 cars. How well Paul manages that transition will be key to his success in 2011. But, honestly, it’s hard to see him getting the better of Sutil over the course of the campaign.

With his head held high, Jimmy strikes the first blow; can a driver with real potential overcome the stigmata attached to moving from single-seaters to touring cars, and then back again? Is it simply just too much to ask?

Without further ado, it’s my turn to add my two cents:

Although it’s taken him a while to get to the pinnacle of motorsport, the Scot has fought many of the current crop of drivers at various times in the past, including Lewis Hamilton and Force India cohort Adrian Sutil. In some circles he’s still regarded as faster than World Champ Sebastian Vettel, who he beat in 2006 while racing in the Euro F3 championship. Word has it, Di Resta was the cool character while the German wonderkid began throwing it off the black stuff.

Of course, any impact he can hope to make is hindered by just how the new Force India will be. But, the team have been on a steady increase in pace in consistency over the past few seasons. Is it too much to hope for regular points? Probably. Someone once said “your fiercest rival is always your team-mate”, and that’s where Di Resta starts. In my eyes, the only real target he should have is regularly beating Sutil. If he achieves that, then he will be firmly on the F1 map.

The one thing the young Paul Di Resta is not lacking is confidence. If you read any interview with him over the past four seasons while racing in the DTM, you can find self-belief by the bucket load. There’s no “if” or “maybe” in his speech, it’s full of “when” and “will”. While others see driving touring cars as a step down, Di Resta has stayed positive and used it to keep a high profile at Mercedes. Now that’s paid off, the pressure is really on.

Rookies in a sport like Formula One will always be under the microscope the moment they edge their way from the pitlane for the first time. Tests of character from the squad they’re in, their (usually) more experienced team-mate and other rival drivers can make or break careers, and shape their future in not just F1, but motorsport as a whole. Here’s hoping, in 2011, that Paul Di Resta takes each and every one of those firmly on his broad, Scottish chin. Britain, and indeed the world, will be watching.

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