A Tale Of Two Drivers

The other day I ran across an article titled “Di Resta Not Sure Of Future With Force India Amid Recent Poor Results.” My first thought was, that couldn’t be right, the poor results are not Di Resta’s fault! Then I thought, isn’t Paul ahead in the points vs. his teammate Adrian Sutil? So I checked and sure enough, he has collected ten more points season-to-date than Sutil.

The aforementioned article does not really go into any real depth on the matter, it is more just window dressing as are most of the ‘news’ items from many F1 sites, maybe some would even call it gossip. I’m slightly ashamed to admit despite Joe Saward’s warning regarding this kind of journalism not being newsworthy, I still guiltily visit them on a daily basis for an F1 fix. But for the record, I religiously follow Joe’s blog and several others for the real stuff.

But this did get me thinking about something else in regards to Paul Di Resta and how this being his third year in F1 has turned out. And for that we need to go back and do a little homework. Specifically back to his days in the Formula Three Euroseries. His first effort was with a team called Manor Motorsport and Di Resta finished tenth in the standings back in 2005, nothing too impressive there. The following year he moved to the ASM F3 team and took the championship with five wins. Di Resta also won the BP Ultimate Masters at Zandvoort that year.

Now all of this might not mean too much, these are junior formulas, but did I happen to mention this was accomplished while racing against one Sebastian Vettel who was Di Resta’s teammate no less at ASM? Now things take on a slightly different light would you not say?

And this is now the context for my post: the dramatically divergent paths two drivers from similar junior formulas with comparable talent can take once they reach Formula 1. By the way, Paul Di Resta raced against one Lewis Hamilton as well. Three drivers, all with what would seem the same skill set at the lower Formulas, two of which are world champions and one now fighting to stay in a midfield team. However, for the purpose of this post I am only gong to concentrate on Di Resta and Vettel.

Vettel, Hamilton, and di Resta, they just look so young. Hard to imaging these kids are now in F1- Two of which have claimed the ultimate prize, one of them multiple times.

Vettel, Hamilton, and di Resta, they just look so young. Hard to imagine these kids are now in F1- Two of which have claimed the ultimate prize, one of them multiple times.

The results of each driver could not be further apart. Two completely different worlds, actually a better simile is that it seems Vettel and Di Resta are in two separate but parallel universes if we are to look at the results of each in Formula 1.

Taking into account just the first two seasons of each driver this is what it look like:

Sebastian Vettel: five 1st, two 2nds, two 3rds – Five pole positions, 221 laps lead. 

Paul di Resta;  zero 1sts, zero 2nds, zero 3rds – Zero pole positons, 1 lap lead.

Now I’m not going to turn this post into a rant about Vettel and Red Bull and the chassis they have produced these last four years, (five if you include the redesign of the RB5 to incorporate the FIA approved double diffuser), I’m saving that one for after India, LOL.

For now I am only interested in this point which is not highlighted that often: when drivers finally reach the holy grail of F1 from GP2 or GP3 or another feeder series, what team you land with, what performance cycle the team is in, how much sponsorship the team has in its portfolio, the health of the economy, or, as is the case at Red Bull, what personnel they have signed recently, all these things determine whether that talented driver who enjoyed such success prior to F1 is either on a path to continue that success or is just plain s**t-out-of-luck.

Sebastian Vettel is about to be crowned a four times World Champion - Need I say anymore?

Sebastian Vettel is about to be crowned a four time World Champion – Need I say any more?

Let’s bring back Hamilton for a moment. In an interview for the BBC’s 5Live Radio with James Allen and Suzy Perry, he stated a driver’s success is directly predicated on the performance of the car. That is no big mystery, but Hamilton followed that statement up with this whopper, I’m paraphrasing here, the car contributes 80% of what the driver can actually accomplish on Sunday afternoon.

If you ask me that is a very lopsided percentage and informs me that taking a drive at any of the F’1’s  top, mid-field or back-marker teams, is a crapshoot. Sure, Red Bull is the best now, but in three years, will they be? Ferrari was the best for six years straight not too long ago if you look at the constructor race, but where are they now? Don’t answer that, I’m trying not to think about it of late.  Ha Ha.

I don’t want to take this out of context; Hamilton was explaining why drivers such as Vettel, Alonso and himself are paid many millions. This is due to the fact that only the truly great and truly fast can find the few extra tenths in a car when no one else can. And this does make the difference, just look at the some of the times in qualifying this year. At several races less that six tenths separated the top eight cars. When a team is already spending millions on R&D what is another 5, 10, 20 million paid to a driver to ensure the car goes as fast as possible? I happen to agree with Hamilton’s analysis by the way.

di Resta's path took him to DTM and he won a championship with Mercedes, but F1 was always going to be the final stop.

di Resta’s path took him to DTM and he won a championship with Mercedes, but F1 was always going to be the final stop.

Maybe Paul Di Resta does not have the extra thing that Vettel, whom he beat to a championship in junior formula, does have currently in F1. Remember in the one and only year Sebastian Vettel was in a back-marker team, Toro Rosso, he won the Italian GP, convincingly I might add. If Vettel were driving a Force India today would he reaching the podium on a regular basis or be further up the driver pylon with points? Maybe he would but we can’t know for sure.

I think this is what I am trying to examine, not so much why one driver is successful and one is not. That is fairly simple: the driver with the fastest car is usually fastest. No, instead: Is F1 the land of milk and honey for all drivers? For the Alonsos, the Hamiltons, the Vettels, and Raikkonens, sure. You could put Jenson Button and possibly Mark Webber in that group as well. But surely not for others. For them, as for Paul di Resta recently, it is a cruel road traveled, while tugging around in a car that is not able to showcase their true potential.

It is often said that the cream always rises to the top; most people assume in F1 the best will always succeed. I’m not too sure about that. There are only so many top teams. This year seems to me to have more top teams than we’ve seen in quite some time, four or five depending on what part of the season you pick. In earlier years it was three, and prior to that, it has commonly been two. So there is only so many cups the cream can rise in, no?

Two and half years into his F1 career, Paul di Resta must be wondering when or if the results will come. My guess, he is not the only one…

Two and half years into his F1 career, Paul di Resta must be wondering when or if the results will come. My guess, he is not the only one…

I have to be honest and confess for some of the drivers currently on the F1 grid I have a certain level of ambivalence. If they are there next year, fine, if not, no big deal. Paul di Resta is not one of those drivers. I like him quite a bit. I enjoyed watching him win the championship in DTM (even though I am an avid Audi supporter). I was thrilled when he signed for Force India. I always cheer for him during the races. This is a driver that has untapped potential. Di Resta belongs in F1.

Eddie Jordan (who has an uncanny way of being right all the time) said, “He is on the minds and lips of lots of the team bosses, right up to the highest level.” Jordan is fairly confident that Paul di Resta will have a seat in the 2014 season. I hope so…

-jp- (and it is kinda weird to post and not praise the guy in red and rant against the guy in blue, for once)

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4 Comments on “A Tale Of Two Drivers

  1. Great post!

    Money and business play such a big part in who makes it, more so than talent these days.

    That however does mean your career is also greatly down to luck – you get ‘in’ with the right team, right sponsors, right manager, your flying, If not, well, welcome to a career in a lees highly regarded championship.

    Love watching Di Resta too, you can see the potential is still there and he does such good work for Force India, I hate it when the ‘blame the driver not the machinery’ card gets played, it’s Ducati usually in MotoGP – always someone else’s fault, even Rossi couldn’t rally against it!

    Hopefully,(sorry to stick with the MotoGp analogies!), Di Resta will be able to ‘do a Hayden’ and outlast the team blame and mind games and get himself the ride he deserves, rather than pulling a ‘Melandri’- Ducati sent him over the edge and off to Superbikes,

    Eddie Jordan had better be right, I can’t stand his shirts though! 🙂

    • Hey Lisa

      thanks for that. you know i get so caught up in the top drivers and the top cars that i often miss all the other compelling stories that make up the rest of F1. I am really going to make a conscience effort to look beyond Alonso and Ferrari, Vettel and Red Bull and my angst over losing out yet again to these two. lol…

    • part two

      i remember Rossi going to Ducati and thinking why would you leave Yamaha after winning the championship (again) and then to watch him drive around in 5th-6th and some times further back just illustrates how important the machinery is. makes one really understand what nicki hayden has been going through the last 3/4 years. and after all that he got fired. sad. Racing is so brutal at times…

      • I guess as I write about the two minor classes I am lucky as it broadens my knowledge and gives me an idea who to watch out for in MotoGP. It also means you start rooting for riders who fade away, because they did well in junior classes.

        MotoGP currently has 12 riders who have all been a champion of some sort. You can’t all be MotoGP champion and you’re right Rossi does illustrate well just how much all the other pieces matter, being beyond good at riding/driving is only a part of the equation.

        I think the same applies to Paul Di Resta. Sadly for him having great racing family ties doesn’t seem to do so much door opening as it used to (guess Bruno Senna can vouch for that too, surprised he didn’t get a longer crack at the whip!)

        Hayden had it tough but showed strength of character at Ducati, Melandri got so low there was a point where I thought he’s never ride again, so side-stepping to WSBK saved his biking soul if nothing else!

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