On Friday morning there will be a third British driver for fans to watch when Force India test and reserve driver Paul di Resta does his usual stint in the first practice session, standing in for Tonio Liuzzi. This will be the first chance that...
On Friday morning there will be a third British driver for fans to watch when Force India test and reserve driver Paul di Resta does his usual stint in the first practice session, standing in for Tonio Liuzzi.
This will be the first chance that Paul has had to perform in front of a home Grand Prix crowd, but he's been going to Silverstone since he was a kid, often to watch his cousin Dario Franchitti in action. 'I think the first time I was at Silverstone was with my dad when he was racing in the Superkart Grand Prix,' Paul recalls. 'I was very young at the time - I can remember going to watch Dario testing in Vauxhall Junior, and then later when he was racing in DTM.
'The first time I drove there was in the winter of 2003, when I tested a Formula Renault on the national circuit. It was a normal general test day, with all types of cars. It was the first time I'd driven on a huge track, and when I drove out of the pits I thought, 'Wow, you can really get lost here!' A Formula Renault wasn't that quick, although it felt quick at the time.'
Surprisingly Paul has had very little opportunity to race at Silverstone, since he did not go there in EuroSeries F3 or DTM. 'I only raced there in Formula Renault. But I think the biggest thing I've done there was when I won the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award in December 2004. We drove an F3 car, a DTM car and a BTCC car. It was two miserably wet days, but it all worked out well for me! It was good experience.'
The most important element of the prize was of course a test in a McLaren F1 car, although he didn't actually get to do it for three seasons. The chance finally came at Silverstone on November 8 2007, with the previous year's MP4-21.
'That was a big deal. It was absolutely superb to drive, and it was a dream come true. It's something you work towards as a little boy, to try and get that experience, and not a lot of people get it. It just keeps making you want more. The whole sensation of the noise and speed, even for just 20 laps, was a memorable experience.'
He's excited to back behind the wheel of an F1 car at Silverstone, this time at the British GP and on the full circuit.
'I've been there watching for the last three years, so I'm very excited to be driving this time!
'I've got some family coming, and my dad's coming to see me for the first time this year. He deserves as much credit as I do for where I've got to, he sacrificed more than I did, and gave me the opportunity. He's been busy with my brother in karting. So I'm looking forward to him coming to watch.
'It's a track where F1 cars really excel, and of course there's all the history behind the circuit. Hopefully everything will run well, and we can really get going. We've also got some upgrades to bring, like any other race we go to.'
Like everyone else, Paul will be experiencing the changes to the Grand Prix circuit for the first time when he takes to the track on Friday. 'I went there and had a look on foot but it's a completely different thing when you drive these cars. I've been in the simulator, so hopefully I can get up to speed reasonably quickly. All the tracks have been new to me so far this year, so Silverstone won't be any exception.'
It's hoped that the track revisions will lead to more overtaking, but Paul says the jury is out: 'I think it will depend more on the weather conditions. I think it's still going to be difficult, but this year we've seen some great races on tracks that you wouldn't even dream of overtaking on. We can't really tell too much, and I suppose a lot also depends on the tyres, and how people use them.'
Of course the hardest thing for Paul will be Friday lunchtime, when he'll have to hand the VJM03 back to Tonio.
'It's difficult. In Valencia the track improved by 3secs from one session to the other. It was so tricky, the first session. The tyres didn't last very long. But we know that's the way it is, and it's something I have to deal with. I can't wait to get back out there.'