Force India may have been hoping to get at least one car into the final phase of qualifying at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but Paul di Resta was still pleased to make the cut.
With the final two parts of qualifying held over to Sunday morning due to the excessive rain in Melbourne on Saturday, and tricky conditions still confronting the teams, making it through to Q3 was still something of a lottery, with positions changing almost by the lap, particularly around the cut-off point. Both di Resta and team-mate Adrian Sutil were outside the top ten with a few minutes remaining and, although both subsequently posted times good enough to move the right side of the trapdoor, only the Scot survived as Ferrari's Felipe Massa provided the killer blow to Sutil's hopes.
“The track conditions were much better this morning, but it was still tricky and I didn't feel that comfortable on the damp track,” the German admitted, “The key to Q2 was the timing of your lap and we probably changed a bit too early to the new intermediates because there was only one quick lap in those tyres.
“I had time for another lap, but my tyres were going off and I could not improve. Even so, I'm quite happy with the session and it's not bad to end up twelfth in my first qualifying session back with the team. I can feel there is more to come and I felt good in the dry conditions on Friday, so I hope we carry that into the race.”
di Resta's progress pitted him against the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes, so only perfect timing on a still unpredictable surface was likely to yield a surprise result. With a dry line eventually dictating the use of Pirelli's supersoft slicks, however, the Scot was restricted to ninth spot, albeit ahead of the lone remaining McLaren of Jenson Button.
“We came here with intentions of reaching Q3, so it's a good way to start the year,” he acknowledged, “I think we got most things right today, especially the timing of the switch to a fresh set of intermediates towards the end of Q2. Ninth position is a good place to be starting and it's on the cleaner side of the track too.
“It's difficult to predict much for the race, just as it's hard to predict the weather, but we're in a strong place to start. Our long runs on Friday looked competitive and consistent, so we will go into the race with maximum attack and aiming for points.”
Deputy team principal Robert Fernley shared di Resta's optimism, whatever weather Melbourne decides to throw at the race.
“We're feeling pretty positive with our qualifying showing this morning and our performance level is about where we expected,” he confirmed, “The conditions remained tricky with a damp and drying track, but we managed to get Paul through to Q3 and that was a clear objective.
“The weather forecast for the rest of the day looks uncertain, but our strong showing on Friday gives us every reason to be optimistic this afternoon. Points should be in reach for both cars and will remain our objective.”