There has always been a fairly regimented path into a formula one racing seat. Traditionally, a Formula One Driver has come up through the proverbial 'Lower League' Single seater Formula. At the moment, those leagues run approximately as:
Formula 3/World Series by Renault/Formula 2
as well as a wealth of other single seater series, like Formula Superleague, Formula Ford, Formula Nippon, and the American single seater series', Indycar Indy Lights etc. Theres never really been much crossover between the different driving series.
Whilst WRC and MotoGP champions Sebastian Loeb and Valentino Rossi have flirted with F1 tests, more often than not, those tests seemed like an indulgence rather than a genuine attempt to shift disciplines - even though Rossi set decently competitive times on his Ferrari test.
So, whilst other news sites are focusing on the fact that Paul Di Resta will be the third British driver on the grid, and that he's been the test Driver for Force India for the last year, I'm choosing to lookat something that I feel is a little bit more significant:
Force India just promoted a Touring Car driver to a potentialy Front-Running F1 seat. Lets face it, Force India have come on leaps and bounds over the last couple of years. They came within inches of claiming thier first win at Spa in 2009, and but of Tonio Liuzzi's somewhat rusty performances in 2010, would probably have convincingly beaten Williams to 6th place in the Constructors title.
But lets be honest, Touring Car championships - even one as Aero Focussed as DTM - is a very different style of driving to Formula One. Whilst Di Resta has a good pedigree of Single Seater racing, he hasn't race a Open-Wheeled car in anger for four years.
What he has been doing is overtaking, fighting for leads and getting door to door in the kind of close racing that only a touring car driver can. Di Resta won the DTM title this year, finishing five points above fellow Brit - and Mclaren test driver - Gary Paffet. These two drivers are back by Mercedes and are learning a kind of driving that GP2 and any other single seater series simply can't teach - as David Coulthard has proven in his own DTM foray and how Johnny Herbert proved in his BTCC debut last year.
GP2 drivers are, supposedly, the future of Formula One - yet the drivers coming through those lower formulae are not necessarily good enough for the big leagues. Hulkenburg, Hamilton, and Timo Glock have done well, But other drivers such as the GP2 front runner Romain Grosjean, Lucas Di Grassi, Nelson Piquet Jnr, Vitaly Petrov (His performance at Abu Dhabi aside) and Karun Chandok, all of whom showed promise in GP2 were barely recognisable in the top tier. Conversely, Kamui Kobayashi, who was at best an also-ran in GP2 has been probably the most exciting F1 driver of 2010.
So, when Paul Di Resta sits in that Force India car on the grid in Bahrain he isn't just representing The British or his team. he's representing a potential new route into Formula one. And lets face it - a touring car driver needs to know how to fight for a position so maybe we'll see a few more fights on the grid come 13th March.
But for now, take a look at what you've got waiting for you: