A 'very happy' Paul di Resta was left toasting what he described as his 'best race' since joining F1 this year in the Singapore Grand Prix – as a superb effort saw him take the chequered flag in sixth place, and help to strengthen Force India's grip on the same spot in the 2011 constructors' standings.
From tenth on the grid, di Resta left his opening pit-stop late indeed, not coming in for a tyre change until lap 19 and enabling him to rise up as high as third position in the process and engage in duels with the likes of Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber.
Going on to settle into sixth once the pit visits had all shaken out, the Scot engaged in a couple of scraps with the McLaren-Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, and ultimately came home for eight very well-deserved world championship points, crossing the finish line as the last driver on the lead lap for good measure. The finest result of his top flight career to-date, it was also, he reflected, the finest performance.
“My first Singapore Grand Prix was a lot of fun and I'm very happy with the outcome,” he enthused. “It was quite a long race, but because we were reasonably quick, after [the front-runners] had made their first pit-stops, we were in front [of them]. They had quite a bit of pace compared to me at that point because they had fresh tyres, and I wasn't going to compromise my own speed and my own track position, so I let them go, and I think doing that was the key. Everything seemed to go in order, and when we were in free air, we were very strong.
“I don't think the safety car really helped us – we were looking very strong before it came out and I still had a lot of life left in the super-soft tyres in the middle of the race – but it didn't really hurt us either.
“The team said, 'we need another eight laps out of them', which was easy enough to do and then when the safety car came out, I thought, 'this is going to cause a bit of a problem' – but then when we changed onto the 'Primes', we could just really manage the pace back to [Nico] Rosberg and there was plenty left. It was just a matter of bringing the car home with the tyres in order, and saving fuel just to be on the safe side.
“It's probably my best race of the season, but it's the result of all the hard work behind-the-scenes. The big thing is that we came here with an upgrade package that enabled us to gain performance in the race and gain tyre life – and we saw the benefits of that today. What it said on the tin, it's done, and after missing Friday, with no high-fuel runs going into the race, that was a complete unknown, it's a big credit to the team, and we worked very hard this weekend to try and achieve that.”
Despite starting ahead in ninth, Adrian Sutil in the sister VJM04 did not quite have the same pace as di Resta during the grand prix, and dutifully yielded to his faster team-mate shortly before half-distance before going to claim four points of his own by finishing a solid eighth.
“We have been aiming to get both cars into the points for a while now, so we can be very happy with where we finished,” acknowledged the German. “The points we scored give us some breathing space over Sauber in the championship.