It's been a long time since a Japanese driver stood on a podium at the end of an F1 Grand Prix - Aguri Suzuki in 1990, to be specific - and the adoring crowd at Suzuka were ecstatic that a little piece of history had been made before their very eyes.

Even before Kamui Kobayashi appeared on the podium, the chanting for "Kamui! Kamui!" was roaring up from the crowd. The only person in Japan more swept away by the emotion of the moment was the driver himself.

"It hasn't sunk in yet, it is hard to believe," said the 26-year-old. "I achieved my first podium in Suzuka!"

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"A podium finish for Kamui in his home country is simply incredible," said Sauber's CEO Monisha Kaltenborn. "I can't express how happy I am!

"He did an outstanding race today, particularly in the final part when he was under huge pressure from Jenson Button," she added. "He didn't make the smallest mistake and defended his third position in great style."

Kobayashi was helped by his excellent qualifying performance on Saturday, which meant that he was safely ahead of the fall-out from Fernando Alonso's spin in the first corner at the start of the race.

"Starting from third obviously helped a lot and also the long run I did on Friday made me very confident for the race," he said. "I had a very long last stint today and Jenson changed for fresh tyres later. My rear tyres where really bad in the end and I had a lot of oversteer.

"But regardless of this I had to push to defend my podium place," he continued. "Only during the final lap did I allow myself to really think I can keep him behind me, because then the best overtaking opportunity at the end of the straight was over, and then I saw all the fans and the raised hands. It meant a lot to me and I want to thank the Japanese fans."

Kobayashi gave his thanks to the Sauber team that had made it possible for him to feature so strongly in his home Grand Prix this weekend.

"The Sauber F1 Team did a great job to recover from there," he said. "The team has built a great car this year. You can tell this from the podium finishes my team-mate has had.

"At times I was close to that as well but I never had the luck," he added. "It means so much to me that it finally worked out."

Kobayashi also admitted that he had genuinely been racing to try and retain his seat with the team in 2012, which had been in some doubt in recent weeks.

"Maybe I need not fear the pressure and enjoy it," he said. "When I have pressure I am always good. Maybe I need every time some pressure."

Kobayashi's team mate Sergio Perez sparkled early with a stunning overtaking move on Lewis Hamilton into the turn 11 hairpin on lap 7, but then fell back behind the McLaren during the pit stops and when he tried a second strike on the man he's replacing in the Woking squad, it all ended in tears - or at least in the gravel.

"It worked well when I got passed Lewis Hamilton for the first time on lap six, but then it didn't when I tried it again," Perez admitted. "Lewis went quite late to the inside and I had only room on the outside. But it certainly was my mistake.

"I feel very sorry for the team," he added.