BUDAPEST:- On Friday, Paul di Resta was working as a television reporter at Turn Four of the Hungaroring, observing the action and joking about a sandwich.
Twenty-four hours later, he was the centre of attention after being pitched into the fray with 90 minutes’ notice as deputy when Williams’ Brazilian driver Felipe Massa was too ill to continue.
The Scot had never previously driven Massa’s Williams car and had not driven a Formula One car in earnest for nearly four years.
“Diving straight in, I am not going to lie I was scared, nervous, anxious,” he admitted, to his media employers Sky.
“I haven’t driven one of these cars for three-and-a-half years apart from 10 laps I did in a 2014 car — and you get thrown into qualifying, which is the deepest of all deep, jumping off a cliff and seeing how you can fight for survival.”
Di Resta was drafted in by Williams when Massa abandoned Saturday’s third and final free practice session complaining of dizziness.
He had been to hospital for tests on Friday evening, but had been released. All seemed to be well, but Massa felt no better and, as a result, Di Resta was called upon for his first appearance in a Grand Prix since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix with Force India.
Given no time to prepare, he qualified 19th, only 0.7 seconds off the pace of his Williams team-mate Canadian rookie Lance Stroll after completing 12 laps in Q1.
“These cars are top of their game and it is like being back at home driving the best balanced car you have ever driven,” he explained.
“The team prepared me as best I could in an hour and a half. I had a small lock-up but that is just the braking style and how the car is set up to try and save the tyres.
“I felt comfortable quite quickly, but when I got of the pit limiter I built myself up slowly and was improving half a second a lap so there is plenty of potential there.”
Di Resta said he felt he knew the circuit well having raced and won there recently in a German Touring Car Championship event.
It was the second successive race weekend at which the British Sky Sports team had faced a late staffing drama.
Commentator Martin Brundle was taken ill shortly before the start of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone earlier this month an event that had propelled Di Resta into his commentary role.