Bathgate’s Paul di Resta returns to Formula One action this weekend in the Spanish Grand Prix, and the 27-year-old is fired-up to bag is first podium finish.
Three weeks after finishing fourth in Bahrain, the Pirelli-shod Sahara Force India driver is looking to take advantage of the development work his team has been carrying out at their Silverstone HQ.
“The guys have been burning the midnight oil back at base to make sure the car’s even faster than it was in Bahrain,” Di Resta said.
“Of course we’re not taking anything for granted, but we’re certainly looking to move on from the excellent result we had in Bahrain.”
And the Scot, who has scored 20 points in the opening four fly-away races — despite not finishing in Malaysia where his car suffered technical problems — has been praised by team owner Vijay Mallya.
“The performances of Paul confirm just how much he has matured as a driver,” Mallya explained.
“He’s delivering consistently every week and we are reaping the rewards of all his hard work.
“He suffered a difficult end to the 2012 season, but he’s shown great mental strength and determination to regroup over the winter and recapture his best form.
“He’s pushing the team on and demanding the best from everyone, which is what we need.”
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel arrived in Barcelona looking to extend his 10-point lead in the world championship, having won two of the opening four grands prix.
“The start of the season has definitely been good in terms of results,” the three-time world champ said, “but now we need to make sure we maintain our levels of performance.”
And the German’s nearest rival, Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen, admitted he faces a tough challenge to stay on the coat tail of Vettel.
“It’s going to be hard to catch Sebastian if he keeps taking good results,” Raikkonen said, “so we need to start taking more points from him, but you never know what can happen.
“We’ll keep pushing to improve the car and see where we end up.
“It’s been an OK start and we’re in a better position that this time last year, but there’s a long season ahead and it’s too early to say if we can fight for the championships right to the end.”
At Ferrari, Fernando Alonso — 30 points behind Vettel — believes there’s still a lot of room for improvement from his team.
“We’re definitely behind the top teams,” the double world champ admitted, “but we’ve a number of fairly major updates coming this weekend which would boost our performance.
“We are not quite where we want to be yet, but we’re getting there. Of course, we also have to acknowledge the other teams have updates for this weekend. I just have to hope ours are better than theirs.”
Former McLaren ace, Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, has admitted he’s relishing the new-found ‘freedom’ he’s enjoying at Mercedes.
“I have been in a very controlled environment since I can remember and it’s not until the last couple of years that I’ve come out of that control,” the former world champ,” third in Malaysia and China this season, admitted.
“Now I make the decisions I want to. I’m my own man and that’s what I always wanted. I’m happier now. I can do things and I don’t have to report to anyone.
“Obviously I’ve got bosses at Mercedes, but no one controls me now. I’m able to be my own man.”
Hamilton starts this weekend’s race third in the standings, 27 points behind Vettel and just 17 adrift of Raikkonen.
Photographs: Copyright Red Bull F1, Ferrari F1, Sahara Force India F1