di Resta under pressure to deliver

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The decision by Force India to partner Paul di Resta with Adrian Sutil once again came as a surprise following the latter’s fall from grace at the end of 2011. A great deal has changed since Sutil first left, with di Resta heading into the new season as the ‘number one’ driver, but if he is outpaced by his teammate this year, the Scot could find his Formula One career under scrutiny.

di Resta’s time in F1 has been described as “solid” or “decent”, but these words lack the same panache that the likes of Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso were called when they entered the sport. Two seasons have yielded 73 points and a best finish of fourth in the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix. Occasionally, he has managed to force his way into the top ten shootout, but there has rarely been a spectacular showing from the Scot. In Belgium last year, he was as high as third before dropping back through the field to finish tenth. Considering his teammate had been out of F1 for a whole season, di Resta struggled to match Nico Hulkenberg, with their performances in the Brazilian GP summing up their seasons: Hulkenberg led for most of the race; di Resta struggled before crashing out with a few laps to go.

Enter Adrian Sutil. The German driver has reminded journalists how he scored more points than di Resta when they were last together, and if he could repeat this performance in 2013, it could spell trouble for the former DTM champion. To have spent three seasons in the sport without beating your teammate is not “future champion” material. When Lewis Hamilton vacated his McLaren seat, many saw di Resta as the ideal replacement. The factor that swung in Perez’s favor was his record for stand-out results (three podiums last season, including the nearly win in Malaysia).

Although this hypothesis may be a rather negative one for di Resta to contemplate, it will hopefully be the incentive that will lead him to some strong results in 2013. One must also remember how Jenson Button became a leading driver: eight years of midfield mediocrity before that championship win. As F1 becomes increasingly cut-throat though, di Resta may not have time to wait around, and will instead have to prove his worth in 2013.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III