|By Stuart Neo - 15 March 2013|
Paul di Resta believes that a minor shunt in the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix, sparked off a chain of events that was the catalyst for him missing out on a drive with Sauber (a team known to incubate future Ferrari drivers).
Paul explains his reasoning:
“It was the beginning of Friday’s Free Practice Two [of the Japanese Grand Prix],” said Di Resta.
"I found myself slightly offline and on the dirt. The track had been resurfaced and it was difficult to see exactly where the asphalt finished. There was loose dirt thrown on the circuit by other cars.”
As a result of the debris on the track, di Resta's wheels touched the grass and he ploughed into the barriers, sustaining damage to his monocoque that went unnoticed for three races.
“We were even down on straight line speed for three Grands Prix and, after changing various different components, the last thing we changed was the monocoque in Abu Dhabi.
“It was like flicking a switch and we were back.”
During that time, the "Silly Season" was in full swing. His then teammate, Nico Hulkenberg went on a points scoring streak and was snapped up by Sauber.
Paul was shorted listed to replace Lewis at McLaren but Sergio Perez's three podiums could not be overlooked. Perez received the call from McLaren and was handed the prestigious race seat with the British team.
Felipe Massa was always likely to retain his seat at Ferrari, however it was documented that Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali, had enquired about di Resta's contract early on in the season at the Chinese Grand Prix.
Paul believes his poor form caused by his damaged chassis in the three subsequent races, led to him being overlooked for the Sauber drive. His response at the time was dismissive to hide his disappointment: "I don't see it as being a step up, to be perfectly honest. I see it as an equal kind of status."
But here is the key. Sauber drivers usually get preferential selection for the glamorous Ferrari seat (albeit, the number two seat). Sauber also have a close relationship with Ferrari through their engine partnership.
In 2012, Sauber scored four podiums whereas Force India scored no podiums. Sauber is clearly not a side step.
If you look at the most recent ex-Sauber driver who was promoted to Ferrari (Felipe Massa), you will understand Paul's remorse for that fateful accident.
Sergio Perez who came through Ferrari's Junior Driver Academy and who drove for Sauber in 2011 and 2012, was seen as a future replacement for Felipe Massa. Nico Hulkenberg, who now drives for Sauber, is tipped to take the second coveted Ferrari seat in 2014.
Last year Paul di Resta's teammate was Nico Hulkenberg, a German who took a one year hiatus from Formula 1. This year his teammate is Adrian Sutil, a German who took a one year hiatus from F1. In regards to driver promotion, will it be deja vu?