In the third part of our series comparing team-mates’ head-to-head records at the end of 2012, we’ve taken a look at something slightly different in analysing how the very close battle for supremacy played out at Force India between Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg.
Unlike the respective pairings we’ve covered at McLaren and Mercedes, di Resta and Hulkenberg’s time as team-mates has ultimately lasted just one year with the latter having decided to switch to Sauber for 2013.
Their head-to-head data is therefore limited to just 20 races – but it’s a comparison still very much worth making given that at the start of the year the match-up appeared one of the most intriguing on the grid thanks to the pair’s similar ages, F1 race experience levels and status as two of the rising talents in the sport.
A glance through the headline statistics below will underline that Hulkenberg ultimately ‘won’ the key duels although, across the full balance of the season, he and di Resta were certainly one of the most evenly-matched pairs on the grid with the German only shading the qualifying head-to-head (12 to eight) and race results (11 to nine), while both achieved a season-best race finish of fourth place.
However, what the plain stats fail to show is how the balance of power swung quite decisively between the pair as the campaign progressed.
Having taken a step back in his career on joining Force India by taking on Friday driving and test responsibilities for 2011, Hulkenberg struggled to get up to speed and match di Resta in the early months of the season on his return to a full race programme.
Although di Resta’s qualifying advantage was rarely more than a handful of tenths, Australia aside – when Hulkenberg actually made Q3 only to retire after the first-lap melee – di Resta qualified ahead at five of the next six grands prix (Monaco being the exception) with Spain the only time in the opening seven events that the German recorded a better race finish.
However, a turning point for Hulkenberg appeared to be reached at the European GP in June when he qualified ahead of his team-mate in eighth, and then finished fifth in the race. Over the remaining 12 events di Resta would only outqualify him three more times (consecutively from Spa to Singapore) and only once finish ahead of him when both cars made the chequered flag – in Singapore, when he was an impressive fourth.
Indeed that result proved the high watermark of di Resta’s year as after that, the only time he finished ahead of the sister car in either qualifying or race conditions was when Hulkenberg crashed out at the first corner in Abu Dhabi.
To underline the extend that Hulkenberg finished in the year in the ascendency, in the final six rounds he made Q3 four times compared to di Resta’s none and scored 32 points (50% of his overall total) to the Scot’s two.
That late-season spurt certainly told in the final reckoning, leaving the impression that the stronger driver is the one who left the team for Sauber.
Di Resta v Hulkenberg’s stats compared (highest respective tally in bold)
Faster qualifying time: Di Resta 8 / Hulkenberg 12
Average qualifying gap: -0.275s Hulkenberg
Q3 appearances: Di Resta 7 / Hulkenberg 9
Best qualifying result: Di Resta 4th (Italy) / Hulkenberg 5th (Germany)
Podiums: Di Resta 0 / Hulkenberg 0
Best race result: Di Resta 4th (Singapore) / Hulkenberg 4th (Belgium)
Top-five finishes: Di Resta 1 / Hulkenberg 3
Points finishes: Di Resta 9 / Hulkenberg 11
DNFs: Di Resta 2 / Hulkenberg 3
Best race result (inc DNFs): Di Resta 9 / Hulkenberg 11
Ahead in two-car finish: Di Resta 6 / Hulkenberg 9
Total points: Di Resta 46 / Hulkenberg 63
Final championship placing: Di Resta 14th / Hulkenberg 11th