Romain Grosjean's second shot at being an F1 driver continues to go from strength to strength, the Lotus driver having immediately followed his first points with a maiden podium.
The Frenchman, who has yet to qualify outside the top ten in his four 2012 races with the Enstone equipe
, could have been a frontrunner in both Australia and Malaysia had it not been for early incidents, but bounced back to take sixth place in China, before achieving his best top flight performance yet in the Bahrain Grand Prix, when he chased team-mate Kimi Raikkonen home for a Lotus 2-3 behind Sebastian Vettel.
The results have gone a long way to justifying team principal Eric Boullier's decision to ditch Bruno Senna and Vitaly Petrov in favour of an all-new line-up, and for giving Grosjean a second chance after he proved unready first time around in 2009. This time, he returns as reigning GP2 Series champion, and has generally proven a match for his more experienced team-mate, but appearing on the podium still took his breath away.
"For sure, it's great, but it's a strange feeling so far - I think I will be delighted tonight," he told journalists immediately after the 57-lap race, "I'm very, very happy to be on my first podium - it's quite a good feeling I have to say! I was saying first points, then top five, then podium, but I jumped one step. The next step will be victory but that will take time.
"For now, I think we can be happy and have a week off to enjoy the time - but also to work a little bit at the factory to find the six or seven second gap there was to Sebastian. Our podium feels pretty good, and I think it will feel even better when I'm on the 'plane home and can take one or two days to relax - before going to the factory and working and trying to get a better car for the next race."
Lightning starts have been a feature of Grosjean's four races to date this season, and Bahrain was no exception as he went from seventh on the grid to sit fourth at the end of the opening lap. That provided the platform for his podium challenge as he quickly despatched both Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton to emerge as Vettel's early challenger.
I think we are doing some pretty good starts since the beginning - Malaysia, China and here, we have some very good starts," he acknowledged, "I think it was important for me to be straight up to the front.
"I have to say that I really enjoyed the first stint, the car was fantastic on the option [tyre] and I could overtake Mark and then Lewis. I thought I would come back a little bit on Sebastian, but then we chose to go for the prime on the second stint. I had a choice between scrubbed primes and scrubbed options for stint two because I made a mistake in Q2, where I went wide and used an extra set of options. If I had one new set of options, I think I would have put it on and maybe got closer to Seb. It appears that there were a little bit less grip [on the scrubbed prime], and it was more difficult [to drive]. Kimi passed me, then the tyres went away.
"However, I think the last two stints were pretty good, as our car was feeling good, and the team can be proud of what they did because, with this season so tight between cars, it's very difficult to be at the front and we had two cars on the podium. I have to be happy with third place - it's a first podium, we have two cars here and that's fantastic."