Paul di Resta has exceeded expectations when he was called in last-minute to replace an unwell Felipe Massa – but the race ahead may push him to his breaking point.
When he was called up last-minute to replace an unwell Felipe Massa at Williams, Paul di Resta went through several stages of emotions: elation and being called in to take a spin around the Hungarian circuit, and a sudden yet palpable sensation of crisis upon realizing how much he would have to learn in such a short period of time.
The British driver had been tapped as close to the wire as possible when Massa had believed he would be capable of participating in the Hungarian Grand Prix. As that timeline hasn’t come to pass, Di Resta has jumped into the cockpit for a round of ultra-quick adjustment following next to no preamble.
— WILLIAMS RACING (@WilliamsRacing) July 30, 2017
Despite qualifying 19th, the stand-in driver has put in an incredibly quick and capable performance in the Williams FW40, although he concedes that his greatest challenge for the Hungaroring Grand Prix will be the physical one:
“I’m trained, but you’re tense and you need to learn to relax and let the muscles relax. It’s like any winter, the first day you come back – you think how did I ever drive these things and find it so easy.
Even when I had the winter off and drove a DTM car, the first day you hurt because you’re hanging on, using every muscle.
I probably had my hardest grand prix round here in 2012, it was hot, so I’m not expecting it to be easy tomorrow.” – Paul di Resta
While di Resta, like every other driver during the weekend – will be doing his utmost to put in a good performance, he has confided that his primary target will be a “sensible pace”:
“You could find yourself burning tires up very quickly, within two laps, and being out of position because you don’t know how much slip angle to put in them – it was something I was always quite on the good side of before.
My style seems to have carried over into this car so far. But I don’t know where the cars going to develop, how much front wing I want to carry for the first stint, what tyre to start the race on.
I’ll leave it up to you [the team] and I will just get in the car and do what I’ve got to do and the best job I can physically do is turning the steering wheel – you do everything else to make it what you think is best. – Paul di Resta
— WILLIAMS RACING (@WilliamsRacing) July 29, 2017
This will be Di Resta’s first appearance out on the grid since his Force India days – and who knows. The substitute driver may find some heads turning his way if he’s able to keep up this level of performance.