PAUL DI RESTA heads into the Formula One mid-season break hoping his Sahara Force India team can rediscover its early-season form.
The 27-year-old from Bathgate battled all weekend in Hungary with his Mercedes-powered car which struggled for balance, and failed to maximise the new construction of Pirelli tyres.
The Scot’s woes began on Saturday when, having been eyeing a top-ten result in qualifying, he could only manage a disappointing 18th on the grid.
And after a blistering start to yesterday’s 70-lap race at the Hungaroring, when he stormed through from 18th to 13th by the end of the opening lap, it was a day to forget for the Scot.
“It’s certainly not the race you want right before you head into the four-week mid-season break,” said Di Resta.
“I always knew Hungary was going to be tough, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad.
“Initially qualifying went well, but when we put the set of new ‘soft’ compound Pirelli tyres on for our final run in Q1, for some reason we don’t get the performance gain we should have.
“Normally putting the softs on should improve the lap time by around 2.2 seconds. For some reason we only gained 0.6sec. When the team told me over the radio that we’d only managed 18th-fastest and were out of qualifying, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it.
“I genuinely thought we had a car capable of making it into the top ten.”
And despite delivering one of the best starts of his F1 career, Di Resta’s race gradually slipped into reverse, culminating with the team retiring the car on the penultimate lap.
“After the opening lap, it was all pretty difficult, and we struggled right through the race,” he said.
“We didn’t quite have the balance right. The second set of tyres didn’t last as long as we’d hoped, and generally it was really just a tough, tough day.”
But Di Resta, who is looking forward to recharging his batteries, is confident his team can turn things around before they arrive at Spa in four weeks.
“I know the guys in the team have a lot of ideas to discuss, all of which are aimed at improving our second half of the season,” he said.
“They’ve certainly done a terrific job up until now, and punched above our weight. But we’ve let it slip slightly as a team over these last couple of grands prix and we need to bounce back.”
The race was won by Lewis Hamilton, who collected his first win for Mercedes GP. The former world champion, who started from pole position, dominated the race to win in Hungary for the fourth time.
“We were on the back foot when we came in, not expecting it to be on pole and were surprised with that,” said Hamilton, whose 22nd F1 career win has closed the gap on world championship leader Sebastian Vettel to 48 points.
“I think this is probably one of the most important grand prix wins of my career. To go to a new team and win with Mercedes-Benz is a real privilege. The guys did a great job.”
Vettel had to content himself with third place in his Red Bull, behind the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen. Vettel’s team-mate, Aussie Mark Webber, came through from tenth on the grid to finish fourth, ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari.
Romain Grosjean received a 20-second post-race penalty for hitting Jenson Button’s McLaren during an overtaking manoeuvre. The steward’s decision still left the Lotus driver in sixth place, as he was 21.524sec ahead of seventh-placed Button when they crossed the line.