Sébastien Buemi admitted to being over-the-moon with his eighth-place finish on his Formula 1 debut in the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne this weekend – but team-mate Sébastien Bourdais failed to impress his Scuderia Toro Rosso employers after being given a second chance in the top flight this year.
Buemi had looked all-at-sea during Friday practice around the Albert Park street circuit, regularly missing apexes and looking every inch an accident waiting to happen, as many in the paddock surmised that he had been given his F1 break rather too soon.
However, defying his critics, the young Swiss ace produced a solid performance in qualifying to comfortably out-pace Bourdais and – when the various penalties had been taken into consideration – he found himself in an entirely unanticipated 13th position on the starting grid.
From there the GP2 Series graduate maintained his composure – as many of his rivals succumbed to the 'first day back at school' nerves and collided with either each other or the tyre walls – and, showing all the maturity of a seasoned veteran, made his way steadily and impressively up the order to spend much of the middle part of the race inside the points. After fending off Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton for a while, the late collision between Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica promoted the 20-year-old back up to eighth – and very pleased with his performance he was too.
“First race, first point, so I'm very happy,” Buemi enthused. “Maybe we had a bit of luck with the accidents, but even without that we were not too bad. Our strategy worked well, and I am very happy with the way my race went. I made a mistake when I was alongside [Felipe] Massa, hitting the limiter button, but when he put the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) on you could really see the advantage it brings.
“I am pleased with what happened today, because to get a point in the bag at the first race takes some pressure off. The team did a fantastic job considering that we have not had much testing time with the car before coming here. It's a dream really, and not the result I expected on Friday. It shows we have good potential.”
Namesake Bourdais, for his part, was rather less satisfied with his own result, taking the chequered flag just behind the sister STR3 in ninth after struggling for pace and balance all weekend – describing his car as 'feeling like a caravan' and grappling with a number of issues race-long.
“I had a very tough first part,” the record-breaking former multiple Champ Car king related, “as after just three laps the option tyres were graining. Several cars passed me, so the team called me in and the second stint was not too bad. When the safety car came out, it was clear we had to fuel to finish. A few more safety cars would therefore have helped, as I did a final stint of 36 laps.
“In the early part the car felt a bit like a caravan with all that fuel weight on-board. I had a very big moment where I was lucky not to crash, and then I had a seatbelt come loose and I had to find a way of locking myself into position in the car. I think we should be a bit stronger in Malaysia next weekend.”