There were distinctly mixed feelings in the Scuderia Toro Rosso camp at the end of the Chinese Grand Prix, with Sébastien Buemi thrilled to have finished in the points for the second time in three starts in his fledgling Formula 1 career – but Sébastien Bourdais questioning whether the race should even have been allowed to take place in such torrential conditions.
On a water-logged track, the action got underway under a safety car for the opening eight laps in Shanghai, but once the cars were released Buemi really flew. Having already impressed in making it through to the top ten shoot-out in qualifying, the young Swiss GP2 Series graduate ran inside the points from the off, and in a superbly gritty display took the fight to no lesser names than former world champions Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen – and, proving that reputations matter little to him, expertly got the better of both.
At one stage in proceedings the man from Aigle even looked good for a top five finish, but an unfortunate brush with Red Bull stable-mate and race leader Sebastian Vettel under the second safety car necessitated a new front wing, and dropped Buemi down the order. Undeterred, he fought back to eighth place at the chequered flag, right in the wheel tracks of Toyota's Timo Glock – and adding to the seventh position he had already achieved in Melbourne with another performance that belied his tender years.
“I am very happy as the team did a super job so that we got another point to take away from here,” the 20-year-old enthused afterwards. “I am pleased that in three races, I have scored twice. Maybe I could have done a little bit better, but I'm happy all the same. We were very competitive in the early stages and I got past Raikkonen and Hamilton, but after that I struggled a bit. I think it was one of my hardest races ever.
“As for the incident with Vettel, it happened under safety car conditions; I didn't see him and I tried to swerve to the right, but it was not enough to avoid him. We changed the wing on my car and I'm glad I didn't spoil his race.”
Buemi came home three spots and just under 20 seconds ahead of more experienced team-mate Bourdais at the close, with the Frenchman angry at having had to compete in conditions in which drivers – himself included – were spinning off the circuit left, right and centre as a result of a complete lack of grip. That notwithstanding, the former multiple Champ Car king set the fifth-fastest lap of the grand prix, more than a second quicker than Buemi's best effort.
“I started 15th and finished eleventh, even with a couple of spins,” the 30-year-old summarised. “I've got mixed feelings, because I don't think we should have raced as there was so much aquaplaning. The fact that the cars have a lot less downforce this year aggravates the situation, as it's hard to get the car down onto the track surface. I could have spun 15 or 20 times and [Adrian] Sutil's crash showed what could have happened. The one positive thing is that it was probably a good show for the fans.”
“First, well done to Red Bull Racing,” added the small Faenza-based outfit's team principal Franz Tost. “Congratulations on doing a fantastic job with a one-two finish thanks to Sebastian and Mark [Webber]. On our side, we picked up another point thanks to Buemi, who drove a good race given the difficult conditions today, in what is only his third F1 race. Overall, it means we can head to Bahrain in an optimistic frame of mind.”