Paul di Resta admits that he is likely to struggle when it comes to qualifying for the European Grand Prix after completing only seven laps on the opening day of the event.
It was the Scot's turn to sit out the morning practice session in favour of reserve Nico Hulkenberg but, when the German crashed only a handful of laps into a front wing evaluation, it put the entire Force India team on the back foot, with repairs to the #15 machine's driveshafts lasting well into the afternoon session. As a result, di Resta only got out on track with a fraction of the day's running remaining, and did well, in the circumstances, to climb as high as 14th on the timesheets.
Despite that, the F1 rookie admits that he faces a tough task when it comes to qualifying, with just an hour of practice remaining on Saturday morning. Although he ran in morning practice, reprising the Hulkenberg role, in 2010, di Resta admits that the Valencia street circuit is far from easy to learn, particularly as it continues to evolve from dusty dockside roads into a rubbered-in race track.
“I feel for Nico, because I'm sure he feels pretty low at this point,” he told speedtv.com
, “It was obviously not his intention to do that, but that is the risk of what we do. It was unfortunate, what it broke. It was a lengthy time to change it. But we are in the situation we are. It's hard when you haven't done many laps – three timed laps going into Saturday morning.
“I wouldn't say it's an easy track, not when you've not done a lot. I would say it's one of the more difficult tracks I've driven this year, to get the car to suit it. This was the one track where I learned the least over the laps [in 2010], because it gradually got worse and nothing could be tested. [Now] it's [about] how risky do you want to be, changing things on set-up? Effectively you're going to be improving yourself, and the track's going to evolve. The biggest disadvantage is not doing a long run to get your start on aero balance for Sunday afternoon, and tyre wear.
“I think the biggest thing is preparing me. The car has shown, with Adrian, reasonably good performance this weekend. I think we've just got to get me prepared and get me as confident as possible. I think the biggest thing is I've not even done a run on a prime tire. Only time will tell how it will turn out. I'll sit with my engineer tonight. There are already areas I've picked up on in the three laps that we should be assessing.”
Hulkenberg had briefly topped the times before he slapped the wall at turn twelve, a victim of the unpredictable surface.
“I was one of the first drivers to start a proper run this morning when the track was quite green," he confirmed, "Unfortunately I locked the rears under braking quite early in my run, the car turned left into the wall and caused quite a bit of damage. It all happened so quickly, at 300 km/h, and there was no chance to react and catch the car. I'm really sorry for the team and I've also apologised to Paul because it limited his time in the car this afternoon.”
While di Resta focused on general set-up and installation work during his brief time on track, team-mate Adrian Sutil spent his day evaluating new aero components and tyres.
“It was a pretty positive day for me," the German commented after completing 51 laps across the two 90-minute sessions, "We had quite a lot of work to get through to evaluate our new aero parts, but that went well and the balance of the car felt okay from my first run.
"We worked a bit to improve things, such as the stability under braking, which is especially important here. As usual, I ran both tyre compounds in the afternoon so that we have good data for tomorrow. The soft tyre was very consistent and the degradation was not too bad, so I think it's probably the better race tyre.”