As if Paul di Resta didn’t have enough to cope with ahead of his first official drive for Force India on Friday ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, the 23-year-old from Bathgate came face-to-face with a seven-foot shark.
The young Scot, who will take over German team-mate Adrian Sutil’s car for Friday’s double practice session in Melbourne, had a memorable introduction to Australia during his first PR appearance for the team on St. Kilda beach.
“First time in Australia; first time on an Australian beach; first PR outing for Force India, and I get upstaged by a shark,” the relieved Scot laughed after the shark had been monitored by a police helicopter.
“I’d only been on the beach, literally, for a couple of minutes when I saw the shark. It was one of those double-take moments. Initially I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was quite a big shark to be fair. Big enough to worry about it.
“I was the first one to notice it. Tonio [Liuzzi] said to me, ‘it’s not a shark, don’t be stupid’ – well about 30 seconds later even he realised what it was. It swam for a good 10 minutes, and enough to call the police and get a helicopter in to see it!
“It was within about six feet of us – and it was stuck. I think a Dutch commentary guy was going to go in and push it out. Rather him than me!”
After recovering from his ‘Jaws’ experience, Di Resta admitted he’s genuinely excited about getting on the track on Friday and pitching himself against the world’s best drivers. And he’s determined to show the team enough to convince them to give him a race seat for 2011.
“Hopefully I can show the team I’m capable of being in a race car soon,” he explained. “This year I’m going to gain a lot of experience on the tracks so if a race drive should come up, then I can jump into the car without thinking about it too much.
“It also gives me a different view over the grand prix weekend, with me in the car. It works for me in many different ways. I am just excited to be in the car and that is where I am focused right now.”
And Di Resta, who will also lead Mercedes’ assault on the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) for a fourth season between grand prix weekends, isn’t fazed by the new demands he faces.
“For three years now I have been involved in a factory-run team, where development is the key; building new cars, going forward and working to deadlines,” the former European Formula 3 Champion continued.
“I went into DTM when I was 19 and had to learn pretty fast, but it has all been positive, and helped me tremendously. Each year I go on, I say, ‘was I ready for F1 back then?’ Well, now I am; and you grow with maturity.
“Mercedes-Benz has been a key factor in achieving that out of me, and helping me deal with it in the best possible way. I love my relationship with them and I hope it continues whichever way we go.”