Going into the last couple of laps at Albert Park, neither Daniel Ricciardo or Paul di Resta would have anticipated scoring points in the Australian Grand Prix but, following Pastor Maldonado's accident, that's exactly what happened.
The Venezuelan had been leading a spirited pursuit of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso when he hooked a wheel over a kerb and was fired into a wall, ending his race. Without the need for a safety car, however, the final couple of laps were able to play out as usual, leading to Nico Rosberg and Sergio Perez making contact as the Mexican attempted to pass his rival. The brush of wheels was enough to leave Rosberg with a puncture, and a sitting duck for those behind.
The two incidents opened the door for those running just outside the top ten to become unexpected point-scorers and the final lap of 58 provided fans with a late treat as no fewer than four cars battled over the places. Toro Rosso rookie Jean-Eric Vergne joined team-mate Ricciardo, Perez and di Resta in going neck-and-neck to the line, the Frenchman briefly being elevated to tenth, before di Resta squeezed his Force India ahead when it mattered, having gone from 13th to tenth in the space of a lap.
"It's a shame that, at the end, I tried too hard and lost too much ground," Vergne sighed, "That's racing, I learned a lot on my first F1 weekend and there are still 19 races in which I can score points. The car seems to be working well and we were competitive all weekend, so I'm looking forward to getting back on track in Malaysia in a few days.”
While the rookie believed that his over-exuberance may have been the cause of a point slipping through his fingers, however, di Resta had another explanation.
“It wasn't looking too promising until the last few laps, when my engineer told me that I was catching the cars ahead of me," the Scot reflected, "Fortunately I had saved quite a bit of KERS for the last corner, which helped me get a good run on Vergne and beat him to the line for tenth.
"It was a pretty exciting final lap, and it's a good way to start the season, but it's clear we have a lot of work to do because we were struggling for pace at the start of each stint, which hurt my overall race pace. Even so, considering where I started and the weekend we've had, I don't think I can be disappointed to have come away with a point.”
The Force India driver was not too far behind Ricciardo, who christened his first race outing with Toro Rosso by coming back from a lap down to claim ninth place.
"At the start, I got caught up in the accident and, at the moment, I don't understand how it happened or who was to blame," he said of the incident that left him at the back of the field and grateful to see the safety car with 20 laps to go, "I made a decent start and moved to the outside, but there were too many of us there. I hit the left front quite hard against a Williams and had to come in to change the nose. I had to race with a bit of damage after that, so it's good to finish ninth, but I think I could have done better because the car was very strong, given how fast it was even with the damage I had to carry through the whole race. With the car pulling to one side, it was not easy to come back, but I never gave up, pushing all the time.
“I don't really know how that happened on the last lap. I saw blue flags and a lot of cars in front and I was sure I could make up at least one place because it was chaos. I was a bit lucky to be the last one in that group because I could have a clear picture of the other cars going off in front. Then I had a chance to attack Jean-Eric. He defended into Turn 13 and I thought I could make the switch back and I did, which put me in P9. The last few laps were crazy and I was pushing like hell. I'm extremely happy and it's great to score my first F1 points here at home in Australia, where the crowd has been just fantastic all weekend long.”