Hungarian GP: Sky F1's Paul di Resta describes return as 'absolutely unreal' after replacing Felipe Massa
Di Resta to start 19th on grid after late call-up to replace Massa; Watch Sunday's race exclusively live on Sky F1 - lights out 1pm
By Jonathan Green
Last Updated: 01/08/17 9:17pm
Sky F1's Paul di Resta says it was "absolutely unreal" to be driving a Formula 1 car again after being called up by Williams as a late replacement for the unwell Felipe Massa.
Di Resta, Williams' reserve driver, was due to be commentating for Sky F1 at the Hungarian GP but swapped the commentary box for the cockpit at just 30 minutes' notice after Massa withdrew from the race weekend after Practice Three.
In his first outing in a 2017 car, the Scot improved throughout his five flying laps - from a 1:22.289 to 1:19.868 - and will start 19th on the grid, just two places behind team-mate Lance Stroll.
Di Resta's Q1 time was just seven tenths of a second slower than Stroll and quicker than either the Canadian or Massa had managed in the three practice sessions, albeit on low fuel.
The 31-year-old will now make his 59th Grand Prix start, and his first since the 2013 Brazilian GP with Force India, and is expecting to improve further on Sunday.
"It's weird I was ironing my shirt at 10:55am, talking about what we were going to talk about pre-show," Di Resta told Sky F1's Simon Lazenby and Damon Hill.
"I'm not going to lie, I was scared, nervous, anxious. I've not driven one of these cars for three-and-a-half years, apart from 10 laps I did in a 2014 car, and then you get thrown into qualifying which is the deepest of all deep ends - it's like jumping off a cliff and seeing how you fight for survival.
"Honestly, I felt quite comfortable quite quickly. As soon as I let go of the pit limiter it was kind of there and I was improving by half a second a lap. There is still plenty of potential there.
"These cars are top of their game and it's like being back at home driving the best balanced car you've ever driven. The team prepared me as best as they could. It was absolutely unreal."
The Scot is expecting a tough physical test around the Hungaroring on race day but is hopeful of making up places.
"I go in with no pressure. You want to be going forwards, I've got a rate of development and to see how my fitness is over 70 laps around here in the heat," he said.
"The 2017 car didn't surprise me. I was expecting it to be a bit quicker than I was. The race is a different story. I don't know where the tyres are and I've never driven the car on high fuel so that will be another shock into Turn One.
"I would say Hungary is top of my list for the hardest Grand Prix I've done, one of them in 2012. I started my summer holiday a little earlier than I should have, expecting everything to be OK this weekend, but you prepare the best you can't get the G force. You need to relax within your body so you're not tense. It's just about seat time.
"I got into a reasonable rhythm but I was a bit too early on the brakes. I've got to get my head around the steering wheel and the formation lap."
Analysis from 1996 world champion and Sky F1 pundit Damon Hill
"It's not quite me leaping in the ring with the heavyweight champion of the world but it's not far off.
"It's a huge ask to give a guy no track time and literally half an hour before he's due to go out, put him in the car.
"He didn't make any mistakes, got faster and faster and he's not last. It sounds like faint praise but it's not, it's a superb effort so well done to him.
"He's an experienced driver. It looked like he'd been doing it a very long time but he'd only been in the car 15 minutes.
"The race is a different thing. You get more of a chance to settle in and he will pick up speed as he goes along. The one issue will be how able he is to withstand heat and endurance."
If you are using skysports.com you can comment below to get involved in the debate, but please adhere to our House Rules. If you wish to report any comment, simply click on the down arrow next to the offending comment and click 'Report'.