For just a few minutes during the Bahrain Grand Prix, the race leader wasn't world champion Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull - but instead, Paul di Resta in the Sahara Force India car.

That was because di Resta was making an extended first run on soft tyres that went well beyond what the other top teams were able to manage. Although Sebastian Vettel soon reclaimed the lead of the race and went on to victory, di Resta kept working at his two-stop strategy and pulled off an impressive sixth place of his own.

"The result today is massive for us," said the delighted Scot. "The team did an amazing job all weekend, the strategy came together and the pit-stops were perfect. We knew it would be a big ask to make only two stops."

It was almost a case of ignorance is bliss: the team dropped out of second practice on Friday after team members were witness to a civil unrest incident on the way back to their hotel on Wednesday, and that left them without a full set of data to analyse about tyre degradation.

It left them emboldened to put di Resta out on a two-stopper to see what would happen - and it worked, where others (such as Sauber with Kamui Kobayashi) fell short and paid the price.

The tyres were on their last legs by the end, naturally, and that meant di Resta was involved in the most thrilling finish of the day battling to keep sixth place from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

"My tyres completely went away on the final lap," he said. "I had Fernando very close behind me, but I saved a bit of KERS coming out of the final corner and managed to stay ahead.

"The car has been awesome," added di Resta. "We go away from here as a very happy team with a few weeks to reflect on things and determined to arrive in Barcelona in fighting form."

There was less to cheer about for his team mate Nico Hulkenberg, who battled long and hard but failed to make it into the points by the end, finishing in 12th place.

"I think my race was decided at the very start when I had some clutch issues and the anti-stall kicked in," he explained. "[That] really compromised my getaway and dropped me right to the back of the pack.

"From then on it was a long, hard fight back through the field, and it was hard work coming through the traffic. I made it to P12, but there wasn't much more I could do," he added.

For deputy team principal Bob Fernley, di Resta's sixth place was almost more than he could have been hoping for given the earlier events.

"Considering everything that has gone on this week, I am delighted to see such a strong team performance in today's race," he said. "Paul drove a superb race, lapping consistently and making the strategy work perfectly. This sixth place is well-deserved and matches his best result in F1.

"Before we leave Bahrain, I want to pay tribute to the team once again - and thank each and every one of them for helping make today's result possible," he added.