Bathgate’s Paul di Resta survived a thunder and lightning storm, torrential rain and an early spin induced by the Williams of Pastor Maldonado to finish seventh in the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The 25-year-old Scot, who started from 14th on the grid, delivered another faultless race to score for the second grand prix in succession this season.
“It’s great for me, the team and everyone associated with Sahara Force India,” Di Resta said afterwards. “We struggled a bit during Friday’s practice and qualifying, but once again we delivered when it really mattered, in the race.”
While Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, pictured below, held of the Sauber of Sergio Perez to win his first grand prix since Silverstone last year, Di Resta was involved in a race-long battle with his main midfield rivals.
But within seconds of the race starting, the dark skies above the 3.4-mile Sepang opened to deliver a deluge of torrential rain. After just nine laps, the race was red-flagged.
“Within a few minutes the circuit was flooded in sections and everyone was aquaplaning,” the Scot explained. “It was the correct decision to stop the race on safety grounds.
“There was so much spray being thrown up by the cars in front that it was like racing in a car wash at 180mph.”
While the rain continued to fall, Di Resta and many of the other drivers took shelter in the pitlane, and the Scot passed the time by chatting with his team-mate, Nico Hulkenberg.
“There’s not really much else you can do in this situations,” Di Resta continued. “You’re never really sure when the race is going to restart, so you’ve just got to relax.
“At the same time though, it’s crucial you retain your focus because at any second conditions can change and you have to get ready to go racing again.”
Once the race did get under way, again behind the safety car, Di Resta worked his way steadily back through the field.
But the Scot admitted he was fortunate to still be in the race at the restart.
“I got tapped by Maldonado just before the race was stopped,” he explained. “The impact sent my car spinning and though I was able to get back on-track, I lost three places.”
But once racing, Di Resta again showed why he’s one of the most talked about and promising young drivers in F1. Staying out of trouble, and managing his Pirelli tyres, the Scot worked his way into the top 10.
“The team made all the right calls in relation to tyres,” he said, “and I was able to take advantage of the problems a couple of the guys in front of me had in the closing laps.
“Seventh is a great result for the team: it’s the second best result of my career after finishing sixth in Singapore last year.
“We’ve scored in both opening races, plus Nico scored today after finishing ninth, so it’s crucial we maintain this momentum into the next block of flyaway races in China, and Bahrain.”
At the front, Alonso and Perez pulled away from the field and after the final pitstop, the Mexican was hauling in the Prancing Horse at almost a second a lap.
But with just five laps remaining, and the gap down to under a second – and shortly after he’d received a message from his team instructing him not to risk losing the 18 world championship points for second – Perez made a mistake. The Sauber driver ran wide and dropped five seconds: race over. The Mexican got back behind the Ferrari towards the end but Alonso cruised across the line 2.263secs ahead.
Alonso now leads the world championship by five points from Lewis Hamilton, who finished the race in third.