Bathgate’s Paul di Resta returned to Force India duty today when he drove team-mate Tonio Liuzzi’s Mercedes-powered VJM03 in the opening practice session ahead of Sunday’s Malaysia Grand Prix at Sepang.
In 90-degree heat, the 23-year-old posted the 15th-quickest time of the 24 cars, just 0.936s slower than team-mate Adrian Sutil, but was left ruing a missed opportunity to go faster.
“Because of the heat the tyres don’t last very long and we missed the peak with them and didn’t set the optimum time,” Di Resta explained today. “By the time I went out to post my fast lap, not only were the tyres not at their best but the circuit had changed temperature too.
“You have to make the tyres last and as we were one of the first on the track, it wasn’t rubbered in yet. Adrian waited 10 minutes more and that was the difference, but that is one of the joys of learning.
“As I said yesterday, setting a fast time isn’t important for me; that’s not why I’m in the car. My role is to do a specific job for the team in relation to ensuring both Tonio and Adrian have the best race cars for the weekend.
“Me setting a fast lap time is not always going to be relative to what we are doing and where we are. It’s just getting myself in the environment, getting the track time and learning the circuits. The key for me is to get the best track time and not the best lap time.”
Di Resta’s fastest lap, set at the end of the session when conditions were at their worst, stopped the clock at 1min 36.891secs.
And the Scot, driving the Force India racer for only the second time at a grand prix weekend, admitted he felt more comfortable in the car and was really getting into the swing of Formula 1.
“There’s no question I felt far more comfortable, and less nervous, in the car today,” he continued. “I think that was why I was able to get up to speed relatively quickly.
“The whole session ran more smoothly today and even though I didn’t have any prior experience of the circuit I got into a relatively comfortable zone quite soon.”
The talented young Scot explained the team was trusting him with full practice programmes and treating him as if he were a race driver.
“The programme was exactly the same as if Tonio had been in the car, running through baselines and then understanding the tyres,” he continued, “which is a huge boost to my confidence.
“Hopefully the feedback I gave the team and the engineers will help Adrian and Tonio continue our record of having had a car start in the top 10 for each race and scoring in every grand prix this season.”