Bathgate’s Paul di Resta sent out a warning to his Force India team-mates Adrian Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi after he made an impressive Formula One debut ahead of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.
Undaunted by the fact he was restricted to one opportunity to impress his team bosses, the 23-year-old reserve and test driver scorched round the demanding Albert Park circuit to finish 11th quickest in today’s opening practice session.
“Yeh, I’m pleased with that,” Di Resta, who finished just 0.272secs behind Liuzzi and is targeting promotion to a full race seat, smiled. While this was the Scot’s first time participating under the intensity of an F1 weekend practice session, the 29-year-old Italian has contested 45 GPs.
And Di Resta, who finished immediately ahead of 12th-placed Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes, admitted he could have gone faster, despite the fact the wall-lined Aussie street circuit is one of the most intimidating on the calendar.
“Melbourne is not the easiest track to go out and be quick in your first attempt,” he explained. “There is not much room for error and the basic approach was to start at the bottom and work my way up.
“The last lap was my fastest lap, simply because I was getting more comfortable with the car plus the track was getting quicker due to the conditions. If we could have got some more laps in, I know I would have gone faster still.”
And given that the Scot’s previous experience of the Mercedes-powered Force India car in pre-season testing was restricted to wet running, this was his first time driving the car on a dry track. No one should underestimate Di Resta’s achievement.
While the rest of the 23 drivers who took to the track today have grand prix experience — seven-time world champ Schumacher has contested 249 GPs, while Rubens Barrichello, 16th-quickest in his Williams, has 285 under his belt — this was the Scot’s debut. It was a point not lost on Di Resta.
“I know I’m the new boy and I was a bit nervous before the start of the session. Everybody has driven in F1 more than me, so they are going to be up to speed quicker,” he continued. “It is difficult and I know it is going to be a tough challenge.
“I’m coming into the weekend, I’m only driving in one session and I need to make the best of it. In many ways it’s like a qualifying session. I’ve got to deliver right from the start; then try and improve run by run.”
And while Di Resta sat out the afternoon session, returning the car to German team-mate Sutil, his thoughts had already turned to Malaysia where he will drive the car again next Friday.
“I’m looking forward to it already,” he explained, before watching McLaren team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button top the timesheets in the rain-interrupted session.
“I found myself champing at the bit to get back out this afternoon because getting out of the car and having lunch, sitting and thinking about it a bit more gives you a bit of time, and it becomes more natural when you jump back in it.
“But I’m happy with what I achieved. I just want to take every lap, go about it as best as I can and try and improve run by run, and try and gain experience to go forward. That’s what I’ll be doing next week in Malaysia.”