Two races into his fledgling F1 career and approaching this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, Force India rookie Paul di Resta has conceded that he has 'exceeded what we thought we were going to do' with two points-scoring finishes in swift succession – not that he is 'surprised', he admits.
Although he took the chequered flag just twelfth in the Australian Grand Prix curtain-raiser in Melbourne, the double Sauber disqualification ahead promoted di Resta to tenth position – meaning he joined an exclusive club of drivers to have scored points on their top flight debut. Better still, the Scot went and reinforced that with an identical result in the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang last weekend.
Observers had tipped the reigning DTM Champion – and a man who defeated Sebastian Vettel, no less, to the 2006 F3 Euroseries laurels – to begin getting the better of his more experienced team-mate Adrian Sutil by mid-season, but as he leads the qualifying battle 2-0 and sits 1-1 with the German in terms of race day finishes, he is doing so already.
“I went in with an open mind, but we've exceeded what we thought we were going to do,” the 24-year-old confessed. “I wouldn't say I am surprised, but I am definitely feeling good about it and we'll stay focussed on that. I am learning off Adrian; he is very fast at the moment, and I will continue to try and learn off him but it is not going to be easy [to keep beating him] and it is not always going to go my way.
“I am looking forward to the race in China. It is quite a technical track, and one that I am keen to experience more as I had a small taste of it last year. It will be interesting to see how the DRS activation works with the rear wing in Shanghai; if it's going to work anywhere, that's where it will be because it has a very long straight. The corners are very long, with big radiuses. It should be a good weekend.”
Unlike in Australia and Malaysia, it will be Sutil who sits out FP1 in China in favour of FIF1 reserve driver Nico Hülkenberg – and di Resta hopes the extra cockpit time this weekend will be a real boon to his chances.
“Hopefully, I can work away and get up-to-speed a bit quicker,” he mused. “That's the bit I've not had this year. I've gone from FP2 into FP3 with the car I'm going to qualify with. That's meant I've gone in with something unknown, and it's not necessarily worked.”
Compatriots Sutil and Hülkenberg, meanwhile, are similarly eagerly anticipating the challenge ahead. The elder of the two countrymen has never scored around the state-of-the-art Shanghai International Circuit in four previous appearances – but he is aiming to make amends at the fifth time of asking.
“It is quite an interesting, modern circuit,” reflected the 28-year-old. “The track has unique corners, with very long right-handers where you really have to get everything right to gain an advantage. There are different lines you can take, so there are many ways to approach a lap, and the long straight where you can normally pass quite well. The weather can a little bit tricky with cold and sometimes wet conditions, but in general it is a grand prix I like.”