Two weeks after savouring his first experience amongst the millionaires of Formula One in Bahrain, Bathgate’s Paul Di Resta tomorrow gets his chance to pit himself against the world’s best in Melbourne.
The 23-year-old Scot will drive the Mercedes-powered Force India car for the first time in both today’s free practice sessions on the Albert Park circuit ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, and Di Resta hopes his performances will open the door to a full-time racing seat.
“I’ve been given this fantastic opportunity as reserve and test driver for the team, and it’s one I have to take full advantage of,” the Scot said today after completing a walk of the Australian track.
“I’ve got to impress these guys; that’s why I’m here. When I’m in the car for the practice sessions, I’ve got to deliver the right performance which will convince them to take a chance and put me in the car. Given the chance, I believe I can make that step.”
Di Resta will drive German team-mate Adrian Sutil’s car in Melbourne before switching to Italian Tonio Liuzzi’s car for next Friday’s practice sessions at Sepang in Malaysia.
“The team are making a big commitment by allowing me time in the car at the expense of the two race drivers,” Di Resta continued, “but that shows the belief they have in me that I can deliver.”
And the Scot, whose first trip Down Under was marked on Wednesday when he was upstaged by a seven-foot shark during a photocall on the beach at nearby St Kilda, couldn’t hide his excitement at getting ontrack.
“Bahrain was a brilliant experience because it gave me a deep insight into how the team works,” he explained. “A lot of the time was spent attending meetings, speaking with the engineers and learning how the team functions over a race meeting.
“I learned a lot about how to approach the car, deal with the systems and the procedures and also what the team needs from me in terms of feedback and support.”
And despite Force India’s encouraging performance in Australia, where Sutil qualified 10th with Liuzzi 12th, Di Resta is swift to dispel any thoughts that he will be looking to top the timesheets in tomorrow’s practice.
“That’s just not going to happen,” he smiled. “I’m here to do a job for the team. At the end of the day I’m not going to come out and try and set fastest times – it’s about feeding my information back into the race schedule, helping the team and learning as much as I can.
“If I set a good time, great, but we need to approach this as a team as well and work through our programme. Hopefully the time for me to race will come soon enough.”