Sebastian Vettel may have run away with the Australian Grand Prix to open his championship defence in style, but another rising star stole the show after claiming points on debut - and with just one change of tyres to boot!
Sergio Perez has shown promise at various stages in his junior career, and again showed a turn of pace in pre-season testing, but would be the first to admit that he had not expected to run so strongly on his first outing in the top flight. However, after starting 13th, he made up for losing places in the opening part of the race by only requiring one pit-stop for fresh rubber and diligently worked his way back up the order, breaking into the top ten while the frontrunners made their first stop, and returning while many were forced to take on a third set of Pirellis.
Along the way, the young Mexican - who outshone fellow GP2 Series graduate Pastor Maldonado all weekend - had the temerity to briefly claim the fastest lap of the race and eventually finished seventh, eleven seconds behind Jenson Button and ahead of respected team-mate Kamui Kobayashi.
“It's a dream start for me, just to be in the points and have such a nice race with a good strategy - it's a debut that I will remember forever,” he admitted in an interview with the BBC
“To be honest, we never thought that we could do only one stop. In the briefing, we spoke about two or three stops depending on how the race was going, but then I did a very long stint on the 'prime'. I was very consistent, but then suddenly I dropped off a lot so I came in and, when I put the 'option' on, I thought it was going to be 10-15 laps, so I really pushed. Then I realised I could manage the tyres quite well, so we decided to go to the end with them."
Having completed a mammoth 35 laps on the softer Pirellis, the former British F3 racewinner also suggested that the racewinner had been a factor in denying him an even better result.
"I had Vettel in front of me for some time, which cost me sixth position to Button because I lost about eight seconds," he claimed, "When I was behind him, I tried to save the tyres because I was losing a lot of front end. Then he pitted, so I got past him and, after that, I managed the tyres quite nicely. I wasn't going to the limit either, as my pace was still three- or four-tenths away from what I could do.”
With Kobayashi following his rookie colleague across the line, team principal Peter Sauber admitted that the race had provided 'a dream start' for the Swiss outfit, although the genial F1 veteran was at a loss to explain his rookie's performance.
"I have no explanation for what Sergio did, and how he managed to do 35 laps with a set of used soft tyres [while] setting consistent lap times,” Sauber commented, "I would call this a dream start to the season, as we could not have expected this."