Paul di Resta was thrown into the deep end after taking over Felipe Massa’s FW40 ahead of qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, but the Scot showed good pace to qualify nineteenth.
The thirty-one-year-old is competing in his first Grand Prix since the end of 2013 after stepping into the Williams Martini Racing team when Massa withdrew due to illness, and he managed to complete eleven laps in the session, improving with every lap and getting within eight-tenths of a second behind team-mate Lance Stroll.
“It’s been a busy 18 hours, getting prepared to drive in case it did happen but unsure if it was going to,” admitted di Resta. “I was nervous and anxious.
“You’re unsure of how your ability is going to be when you get out there. I was ironing my shirt at 11 o’clock this morning preparing to be presenting on TV. But honestly, I quickly felt quite comfortable in the car. There was nothing that took me by surprise, it’s just the more laps you can do, the better it is.”
Di Resta admitted it was a big ask of him to get up to pace in such a limited amount of time, but he did manage to out-qualify Marcus Ericsson, even though he did not have anything optimised, using the settings that Massa was using before he pulled out.
“Getting thrown straight into qualifying is the deepest of the deep ends,” said di Resta. “To do it in four laps is a big ask, but honestly I didn’t expect to be so close straight away.
“I’ve carried on everything Felipe has done up until this session like the brake settings, the set-up and the steering wheel switches are all his, so of course it could be more optimised. But there is more ability to progress in me, gaining the speed and confidence in the car.”
The former Sahara Force India F1 Team racer thanked both Claire and Sir Frank Williams for giving him the nod to race in Hungary, but he was more than happy and willing to take the opportunity, and he now hopes to repay them with a good race on Sunday.
“These cars are the most special thing you’ll ever drive,” said di Resta. “It’s a tough ask to go straight into qualifying, but that’s what it’s about and you take these opportunities. Thank you to Williams for the opportunity, thank you to Claire and Sir Frank.
“To get the opportunity to get in the car and do it, with the team having the faith in my ability, I will hopefully be able to repay that. The team have been great. I’ve been here a year and a half waiting for this, so it’s a good job I’ve been attending all the meetings and paying attention!
“Today has been very special. I felt back at home in a Formula One car, and the team prepared me as best they could. We go into tomorrow with a long and difficult day ahead, but at the same time one that I’m very much looking forward to challenge and to see how it goes.”