The Mercedes F1 team has confirmed that Paul di Resta is first in line to replace Michael Schumacher in the team, should the seven-time World Champion elect to call time on his return to the championship at the end of the season when his three-year deal with the team expires.
Speaking with SKY Sports News, the team’s CEO, Nick Fry, confirmed one of the sport’s worst-kept secrets but quickly added that neither Schumacher nor the team was in a position to make any decisions about the German’s future in the sport.
“Paul’s on our radar,” he said. “He has done a fantastic job, he’s a nice guy, he’s a great team player and he would be one of the drivers undoubtedly that, if Michael were to decide he didn’t want to continue, we would look at.
“We haven’t reached that time in our thinking yet, but we have all got a lot of admiration for Paul.”
Di Resta has had a long-term relationship with Mercedes, which backed his championship win in the Formula 3 Euro Series in 2006 before bankrolling a place for him with Mercedes in the DTM championship.
The Scot would go on to win the tin-top championship in 2010 while dovetailing his season as the reserve driver for Force India, which is a customer Mercedes team.
He was appointed full-time to the team in 2011 as the replacement for Vitantonio Liuzzi, with the terms of the deal believed to include a cut-price engine supply deal of Mercedes’ engines as a part of the bargain.
Di Resta would score points’ finishes in his first two races for the team, going on to finish 13th overall in the championship standings. He currently lies twelfth in this year’s standings with points’ finished in three of the first five races, including a sixth place at Bahrain.
Schumacher, meanwhile, is struggling in this year’s championship season, his third since his return to Formula 1 after he quit the sport at the end of the 2006 season. The 43-year-old has two tenth-placed finishes for his efforts, but also lost certain points-scoring results with retirements in the Australian, Chinese and Spanish Grands Prix.