Paul Di Resta has admitted he was ‘scared’ at how well he’d perform in Hungary after being called up as a last-minute replacement for Felipe Massa when the Brazilian was struck down by illness ahead of qualifying.
The Scot was handed Massa’s seat at Williams after the 11-time Grand Prix winner suffered a recurrence of the symptoms he’d first experienced in FP2 during Saturday morning’s final practice session.
But despite having not driven an F1 car in anger since 2013, Di Resta didn’t put a foot wrong as he qualified 19th – something he says was by no means a given.
“I’m not going to lie, I was scared, nervous, anxious,” he revealed. “I've not driven one of these cars for three and a half years, apart from ten laps I did in a 2014 car and then you get thrown into qualifying which is the deepest of the deep I think - it's like being thrown off a cliff and seeing how you can fight for survival.”
Despite having to adapt to a car optimised to Massa’s liking, Di Resta, who has been Williams’ reserve since 2016 but spends the majority of his time driving for Mercedes in the German DTM touring car series, said he was pleased with how quickly he got up to speed.
“Honestly I felt quite comfortable quite quickly,” he said. “When I let go of the pit limiter out there I just built myself up slowly and was improving by half a second a lap, so there's lots of potential there.
“Ultimately the team prepared me as best they could in an hour and a half. I was very safe in the high speed [corners], safe in the exits and I didn't really use the rear tyres as you should.
“I got into a reasonable rhythm, but I was a bit too early on the brakes, equally the car was rotating a bit too quick for me in certain corners so I wasn't quite taking enough out of it. Even the throttle stroke is so much longer than I'm used to [in DTM] so it was a case of how much can you push the throttle without spinning the rears up with all the power.