Paul di Resta fires up his Mercedes-powered Sahara Force India in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend determined to secure a first-ever podium finish.
The 27-year-old, who has scored in six of the last seven grands prix — the other saw him forced to retire his car after safety fears over its wheelnuts — is looking forward to getting on track ahead of Sunday’s race.
“The British Grand Prix is always one the, if not THE, highlight of the year for me,” said the West Lothian driver, currently eighth in the drivers’ championship with 34 points.
“The atmosphere at Silverstone on British GP weekend is like nowhere else in the world. It never fails to amaze me how many fans battle with the conditions to come and watch us race.”
And Di Resta, already being linked with a switch to Red Bull next year after Mark Webber’s announcement that he is to race sportscars with Porsche in 2014, is eager to race.
“We’ve shown all year that we have a fast car, and we’ve come here after two really good recovery performances in Monaco and Canada,” the Scot went on, making a subtle reference to the team’s botched qualifying decisions.
“I know if we can manage to put three good days together, we’ll be right up at the sharp end come Sunday.
“Qualifying is going to be crucial here. In the last two races we’ve emphasised we have a terrific car in race trim, but we’ve been starting too far back on the grid, like 17th.
“If we can manage to start in a position which is a true representation of our speed, well into the top 10, then there’s definitely the possibility of a good result this weekend.”
And the Scot — who is also know to have caught the eye of Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali, who is eager to find a replacement for Felipe Massa next season — is hoping this year will be third time lucky.
On his debut in 2011, he qualified sixth but dropped backed after his pitcrew botched a tyre change. He eventually finished 15th.
And 12 months ago, he was forced to retire midway through the race after damaging the floor of his car.
“Yeh, that was a real low point of the season,” Di Resta continued, “but I genuinely believe we’ll deliver a much better result this weekend. Everybody knows Silverstone is pretty severe on tyres, but so far this season we’ve proved that our car is kind to the Pirelli rubber. That should work to our advantage.
“I’ve also no doubt that this is the best car I’ve ever driven in F1, simply because it’s an evolution of what we finished last year with.
“It’s quick, and if we can just get our act together, who knows? The last time we got three days right, in Bahrain, we finished fourth. Get it right this weekend and I might just be on the podium on Sunday: and wouldn’t it be terrific to get my first podium of my F1 career at Silverstone?”
In the fight for the world championship, Webber’s Red Bull team-mate, three-times champ Sebastian Vettel, heads into the race leading his nearest rival, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, by 36 points.
And despite the gap, the Spanish double world champ hasn’t written off this season’s title.
“Last year when we left Monza, I was something like 40 points ahead of Sebastian, and yet it wasn’t enough,” Alonso said.
“Hopefully this season I can do the same to him. After all, this is only the eighth of 19 races.”
Former champ Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, has heaped praise on his Mercedes team which has outperformed the struggling McLaren outfit he left at the end of 2012.
“When we started this season people were saying, ‘well you never expected this, you never expected that’,” Hamilton, who has produced one pole position this season but has yet to win, explained.
“I honestly had high hopes coming here, and when I saw the developments that were going on, and saw the trace of where the car was looking, I had to take it with a pinch of salt.
“I had to take a leap of faith — and it seemed to be a good leap of faith because it has turned out quite well.
“The car is great this year,” he said. “The guys have done a remarkable job with what they have done here.
“To turn a car that was that bad, to now being a very competitive car, is just remarkable.”