Paul di Resta has sent out a message to his Force India team: “Give me a faster car and I’ll get a podium. The Scot drove an impressive race in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, leading at one point and spending much of the grand prix in the top three. However Di Resta was passed by the Lotus of Romain Grosjean, who was on fresher option tyres, in the closing stages and had to settle for fourth.
Despite just missing out on the first podium finish of his career, Di Resta told JA on F1 after the race that the team is working at it’s maximum, however they must keep pushing and find more resources if they are to keep fighting for big points.
Force India moved above McLaren to fifth in the constructors’ championship as a result of Di Resta’s fourth place. The team have been competitive all season and could have been higher in the standings had it not been for faulty wheel nuts which spoiled both drivers race.
A fantastic result in Bahrain Paul and you equalled your best result in Formula 1 but you were so close to a podium. What’s your emotion right now?
“At the end of the day, I’ve got to congratulate everybody in the team. I think our performance has been good. We’ll go away with positive notes from it. We got caught out by somebody [Grosjean] who didn’t qualify where they should have, had four new sets of tyres and did a three-stop strategy which would have been the fastest way for any car if you had the tyres. They had the tyre life to do it.
“But there were strengths in the grand prix which we picked up on. Maybe we could have been a bit more aggressive at times. But it was a solid job when you can take advantage of the misfortunes of what the Ferraris had but essentially beat McLaren on outright pace. It’s crucial for us to pick up those points against out competitors.”
Having had a debrief with the team, can you see anywhere in race that could have been different for you to get that podium?
“Maybe the last tyre choice but I would definitely have made the same choice again given the information we had. You can always say when you’re doing a two-stop that you’re compromised because slower cars got in front of us with their first pit stop, and when I came out from my first pit stop, I was stuck behind them for 12 laps losing time – but you just have to bite your teeth and get on with it. It was definitely the right strategy for us.
“Another day, we’d probably get a podium out of it but the thing we can say is if we had faster car, we would have been in a position in front of Raikkonen and we would have beat him. But you’re racing cars that are qualifying on pole and winning races. Given the misfortune that we had in Malaysia in the heat, we’ve got to take a great amount of positives from the first four races but not forget that the team needs to work hard to bring updates because if they want this podium they’re going to have to work for it probably more than we [the drivers] do at the moment.”
“It is and given that we lost a grand prix [Malaysia] that we were very strong at, it’s all there. But we know McLaren are going to bounce back. They’ve got a huge amount of resource, they don’t lie down. But we’ll keep pushing as much as we can. It’s going to be an enjoyable couple of weeks but we’ll arrive in Barcelona with a lot of work to do – and we need to repeat it. We’ll be praying that the sun is out and shining quite hard.”
Do you think you just got more out of the car this weekend or is performance track specific?
“I think this is where we would probably have been in Malaysia. We can tell the car is performing well when it’s hot. We can’t put our finger on it. We were strong in the race in China when it was cooler and not so quick in qualifying when it was a bit warmer. When you get the car in the right operating window, it makes a big difference and we’ve seen that through the fluctuation up and down the grid.
“We were a second off pole on Saturday but the car that qualified pole finished ninth. It’s good, it’s good racing but it’s difficult. There’s a lot of freedom and you can’t always predict where it’s going to be. I think everybody is getting on top of the tyres and understanding them but Pirelli are going to change them a bit so that will throw another question mark into the mix I think in Barcelona [for the Spanish Grand Prix on May 12].”
When you get on a plane home, what will be your overriding emotion?
“I’m not getting on a plane home soon, I’ve got to go to India first. But I’m obviously a lot happier. After the second stop, we were racing [Mark] Webber and at points, we were pulling away from the Webber-Hamilton battle. I think Grosjean just got clear of them through having new tyres. You’re going to be vulnerable to someone on a new set of medium tyres. If we had them, we would have fitted them and he probably wouldn’t have passed us.
“In terms of our stint pace compared to Raikkonen, would he have got past us with the same age tyres? Probably not because we had both done the same amount of laps at end of race [on the tyres] and we were doing the same pace. But it was simple, he had fresher, softer tyres and when the car’s a bit lower and the temperature drops it falls into the window of that strategy.”
What are your emotions after finishing fourth?
“I think I’ve got to be happy with it. You always want to get on the podium but it will come soon enough. It will make us work a bit harder. It’s 12 points taken with both hands but looking at every session this weekend, our performance was 100% what we could have done, so to go away with all those boxes ticked, credit to all the boys who are working hard after two long weeks.”
Deputy team principal Bob Fernley said there was naturally a bit of disappointment on missing out on a podium – do you feel that as well?
“Yeah I do. The team want a podium. I said ‘give me a faster car and I’ll get a podium’. If they work harder in the design office and essentially get a bit more resource in there, there’s no reason why we can’t do that. As a team, we’re performing to our maximum capacity – it’s just about getting that little bit more to get you a bit more comfortable at end of races and get you in position in qualifying every week which gives you credits to do that.”
“The team is punching above its weight at the moment. It’s a midfield team. You can’t say we are a team the same as McLaren. I’ve been part of this team and it’s grown but it takes years and years to keep comfortably doing it. I would say it will take a few more years to do it. But if we can get this car in the operating window, it’s strong. We’ll be doing what we can in the engineering office to do that weekend in and weekend out.”
You’ve bounced back after a disappointing end to last year. Did you feel like you had a point to prove?
“Not so much a point to prove but I think I had convinced myself that nothing was going right at the end of last year and nothing was going to go right. Anything that could have gone wrong went wrong. This season was a fresh start. And I think we’ve performed to what we could have. I don’t see any more that we could have done. We’ll keep doing it. In Melbourne, we had a strong race, in China we had a strong race. We were on for one in Malaysia before the problems and we had another good weekend in Bahrain.
“We just have to keep rolling on, that’s what I say to the boys. We’ve got some new bits coming for Barcelona which are quite exciting if they work. It could turn it around. But not all the other teams are sleeping so I’m not going to get myself carried away. I’ll go away and think about it for a couple of weeks and get training. It’s exciting going back to Europe, I can get the family back on board and let them come and enjoy it and have a bit more support from it.”
Do you think the pecking order will change with all the teams bringing update packages to Barcelona?
“I think the one that is probably going to be the big one is McLaren and where they are going to be and if their updates make a huge difference. But we’ve got bits on the car which haven’t worked properly so we’ll be trying to optimise them as well as bringing new stuff. I think these cars are so close to their potential that it’s so hard to find those small bits.
“It was probably us concentrating so hard in winter testing, particularly in the last test in Barcelona where we didn’t bring any new bits and focused on understanding what we had, that has made the difference. We left Barcelona with a good car and I think we can go back there with higher temperatures and the car should hopefully be in a bit more of a sweet spot.”