A number of drivers reckoned they could have finished seventh in Sunday's Turkish Grand Prix, but Scuderia Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi may have as good a claim as anyone.
The Swiss driver, along with STR team-mate Jaime Alguersuari, was unable to repeat his Chinese GP qualifying performance and lined up only 16th at Istanbul Park, but produced a canny drive in the race and, aided by good strategic calls from the pit-wall, rose as high as fourth during the various rounds of tyre changes.
Even as the order settled down for the run to the flag, Buemi remained in a strong seventh place, but the decision to ultimately only make three stops - which had promoted him nine places up the order in another race of little attrition - eventually backfired on the Faenza team, as a severe - and as yet undiagnosed - vibration meant that the STR6 proved almost undriveable as it succumbed to Vitaly Petrov's Renault on the last lap.
“In general, I am very happy with my race and I don't think I could have done better," Buemi insisted, "However, it's true that, in the final two laps, I lost two places and, if not for this, we could have brought home a seventh place finish. However, I could not even hold the steering wheel anymore because there was so much vibration coming through from the tyres. It was not due to tyre wear, so we will have to analyse carefully what happened, as I had not felt this before.
"All the same, it was a great race and I pulled off plenty of overtaking moves and I fought hard. We decided to do only three pit-stops, although it was clear that it did not cost that much time to make a pit-stop, so that was an interesting situation. Scoring points after starting 16th is reason to be pleased. We are continuing to develop the car and have more parts coming, which I hope can keep us fighting for points in the next few races.”
The result will come at a vital time for Buemi who, like his team-mate continues to race with the spectre of reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo looming over them. Team boss Franz Tost made no secret of the intention to give the Australian a full-time role next season - which, although he did not specify where in the Red Bull camp it would be, is more likely to mean an STR race ride - leaving Buemi and Alguersuari effectively driving for their F1 futures.
“There hasn't been a meeting, head-to-head, where I'm told 'this or that is going to happen', but I haven't fallen from the moon – he is there to be in the car sooner or later,” the 22-year-old conceded to French newspaper l'Equipe
, “My goal is to move forwards. The logic of a junior team is to have space for new drivers and identify the ones who are strong. Of course my [main] goal is to be in [the Red Bull Racing] car but, before that, I want to prove that it wasn't possible to have someone better at Toro Rosso. So I'm not thinking 'what if Webber stops, what if this, what if that?' - I can't influence that, only what I am doing.”
Team-mate Alguersuari managed to gain only one place during the race, and ostensibly due to the retirement of Paul di Resta at that, having made four stops in an effort to overcome serious tyre wear problems.
“As usual, I did my best, pushing hard from the beginning, but I suffered a lot from degradation on the rear tyres, especially in the final stint, and this meant I had a massive amount of oversteer, which is why I really had to come in for an additional fourth stop for fresh tyres towards the end," he revealed, "I don't understand why my team-mate suffered much less than me in this respect, so we need to look at all the data to find out why..”
Tost reckoned Buemi's ninth place was the Swiss youngster's 'best performance of the season so far' but accepted that, 'coming under pressure from the Lotus Renaults, who had much fresher tyres, he was unable to defend position on the final lap'. No reason has yet been given for the vibration which ruined Buemi's result or Alguersuari's excessive tyre wear.