BATHGATE’S Paul di Resta narrowly missed out on his maiden Formula One podium when he powered his Mercedes-powered Sahara Force India to fourth in the Bahrain Grand Prix. The race was won by three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull.
Di Resta, who last week celebrated his 27th birthday, equalled his best-ever F1 result by finishing fourth, a result he achieved in S ingapore last year.
However the Scot, who was cruelly denied his first top three place when the Lotus of Romain Grosjean swept past him with just five laps remaining as his car’s tyres went off, was delighted with his performance.
“Overall, that’s probably the strongest race I’ve run in my Formula One career,” a beaming Di Resta said afterwards.
“Everything basically worked the way we’d planned, and while obviously it’s disappointing to have just missed out on the podium, there are so many positives I, and the whole team, can take out of the race.
“I made a really good start, and basically held my line straight ahead while the guys in front of me ducked and dived trying to fend each other off.
“As we headed into the tight right-left opening couple of corners, I was able to position my Sahara Force India on the outside of Felipe Massa’s Ferrari at Turn One.
“That meant I had the inside line to the left-hander, and I’d moved up to fourth place.
“Our pace through the opening stint was good, and it was always our plan to run a two-stop strategy.”
The Scot was race leader for five laps — he led the corresponding race 12 months ago on his way to finishing sixth — and then came tantalisingly close to sealing his first F1 podium.
“We knew our strategy might well leave us prone to faster cars at the end of the race,” he admitted, “and we knew once Grosjean pitted for fresh rubber that he’d have the pace.
“Unfortunately there was nothing I could do to fend him off, especially in Bahrain, where the track’s so wide, there’s almost no way of keeping a faster car behind you.
“Now we have a three-week break before we head to Barcelona for the start of the European season.
“I know we have a few wee tweaks and aero packages coming which should make the car that little bit faster, but the main thing just now is we’ll enjoy this result.”
Vettel, meanwhile, carried out an audacious overtaking manoeuvre on Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso on the opening lap of the race to set up another dominant win.
After sweeping past the Spaniard, he muscled his way past the Mercedes of polesitter Nico Rosberg, then delivered another flawless race.
The German ace backed off over the closing laps to eventually win by 9.1 seconds ahead of Grosjean’s Lotus team-mate, Australian Grand Prix winner Kimi Raikkonen.
“I didn’t expect that,” Vettel, who now leads the championship by ten points ahead of Raikkonen, admitted.
“I think it was pretty dominant, which was certainly not the expectation. I knew it was crucial to get in the lead early, if I could, as then I could have a margin to look after and manage the tyres from there. I felt I could pull away.”
Raikkonen, meanwhile, conceded his car simply wasn’t fast enough to challenge Vettel for the win.
“I think overall we did not have the speed to beat Red Bull this weekend,” the Finn said.
“On Saturday we could have been a few places higher in qualifying but we could not have challenged their speed at the front. So it was a good result. We got good points and didn’t lose too many to Seb.”
It was a miserable day for Alonso and his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa. While the Brazilian’s car suffered two right-rear punctures and finished 15th, the DRS flap on Alonso’s car jammed open, forcing him to pit twice. He battled back to finish eighth and has slipped 30 points behind Vettel in the title race.