Paul di Resta got his first season in a Formula 1 race seat off to a strong start with 14th on the grid in Melbourne - two places ahead of his Force India team-mate Adrian Sutil after the German's wild spin.
AUTOSPORT heard di Resta's thoughts afterwards as he built up to the biggest race of his life so far.
Q. How did your first qualifying session as an F1 driver feel?
Paul di Resta: I think I would have been pretty satisfied with 14th given our relative performance over the winter. This weekend we've gone in a good direction, almost better than predicted, and I managed to get 14th.
It surprised me a bit how much the track developed. It's the first time that you get onto low fuel and with the track improving all the time, so you're a little bit behind where you need to be. But given more runs, that came and there was just a bit of a mistake on my last run in Q2 - we only used one set to save a set for the race. Luckily enough it didn't hamper the position because I don't think we would have been close enough to beat a Sauber but we can take some positives from it.
Long-run wise we've looked closer to our competitors with the extra fuel on board, conserving the tyres doesn't seem to be too bad. We're in a reasonable position for tomorrow.
Q. Was it nerve-wracking?
PDR: I wasn't as nervous as I thought I was going to be, but I was definitely nervous because that's what gets your adrenalin going. You've got to be nervous to perform or else you're not in the right job. Everybody gets nervous, but it was all under control and I think I probably made mistakes on each run, but that's just experience of trying to get that last bit out of the car.
Q. What's it going to feel like waiting for the start?
PDR: You need to be under control, that's for sure. Definitely a lot is going to go through my head up to that point but at the same time it's a new experience. I've done a race sim, but not around other cars.
I think it is just a case of keeping your nose clean and then see how our performance is. Up to this point, I'm quite satisfied with how I have done so far. So hopefully that continues.
Q. You outqualified Adrian Sutil - is that a good way to start?
PDR: Yes, it is. I've been relatively competitive against him. He obviously spun, but at the same time you have got to finish the lap. I made a mistake as well, but got away with it and lost three tenths or something. It would have been quite close between us, and it shows that we are both working and going in the same direction. You've got to stay focused because I've got more guys than just Adrian to beat.
Q. Were you surprised at the outright pace of the Red Bulls at the front?
PDR: Probably not, given what they've been like this weekend. The biggest surprise for me, and for everyone, is what McLaren and Lewis Hamilton achieved. They have done a damn good job and Lewis has got it on the front row.
Q. You were about eight tenths off making Q3. Are you confident that with some car improvements you can be within striking distance of the top 10 in a few races?
PDR: We are a bit closer than eight tenths. If you take everything into account it's about four or five tenths, so it's reachable. Certainly there is new stuff coming that should give us big performance gains.
Q. Melbourne has high attrition. If you keep your nose clean do you have a chance of points?
PDR: I don't know. It's in the future. It's just about getting it off the line and going forward if you can.
Q. Is this just another race to you, or is it a big thing to be starting an F1 race?
PDR: You've got to treat it as another race. Yes, I'm a Formula 1 driver but I'm here to race for myself and for Force India.
Q. Is a two-stop race possible?
PDR: There are different variations. The degradation doesn't seem quite so high so it depends what risks people want to take and how it pans out.
Subscribe to Autosport Plus
Register for free