Last year, during his troubled first season back in F1 with Lotus, Romain Grosjean could be forgiven for being happy just to make the finish line in one piece. But in a hugely improved sophomore season with the team, even finishing on the podium is no longer quite good enough when there was more in the offing.

Grosjean had spent almost all of the first 37 laps of the Korean Grand Prix in second place to race leader Sebastian Vettel, but a safety car closed things up and allowed his team mate Kimi Raikkonen to get the jump on him at the restart.

"It's my fault, I went a bit wide in turn 15, not the end of the world I think," he said after running wide onto some astroturf that allowed Raikkonen to get past. Before Grosjean could counter-attack the yellows were out again: "I was going to use the DRS to get the place back and again, bad luck - turn 3 was yellow. It is what it is."

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After that Grosjean ran to the finish in third place behind Raikkonen, the team unwilling to intervene or impose team orders even though Grosjean felt he was the quicker of the two Lotus cars in clear air. Despite that frustration, he doubted that he could have done anything to catch the race leader.

"I don't know how much Sebastian left in his pocket. I figured it was pretty close," said Grosjean. "While I was close to him, I didn't want to close the gap too early, because you know that if follow a car by too much, we are all aware that the front tyre is the issue so you lose a lot of downforce from the fronts so you grain even more.

"So every time he was a little bit ahead I was giving a gap and then following the gap and I was surprised how our pace at one stage," he continued. "I thought the front tyres were going away but I was surprised our lap time was still improving, so I was catching a little bit back and I think the last stint would have been pretty epic without the safety car.

"That was basically the longest one on the tyres and we were going right to the end of their life so that could have been either the gamble to go for the lead, maybe both of us," he mused. "I don't know if we would have reacted but it would have been close and no more rubber on the tyres!"

Despite missing out on second place and the chance for that "epic" finish, Grosjean was still happy with the way that the race had gone on Sunday, right from the start when he had managed to challenge the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and get past at the hairpin on lap 1.

"I think it was pretty good fun!" said Grosjean in summary of this Korean Grand Prix outing. "We had a good start, good run for the back straight and then could go for the place with Lewis. Then I think he kept a little bit of KERS to go for turn 5 and I had to defend a little bit but it was pretty good at the start and then after the first pit stop again, same story, so yeah, it was a hard job.

"And then it was good to be very close to the Red Bull. They didn't go too far away so I think we had a good chance to catch them back but unfortunately for me - and luckily for Kimi, that's good for the team - the safety car came and we had to pit at the same time and the same tyre age.

"It seems that every time there will be a battle with Seb, there's a safety car coming," he pointed out. "Same as Germany unfortunately. We had the plan to pit quite early, just a few laps after the safety car came, trying to jump him and go for a very long last stint - but it didn't work because of the safety car.

"But basically the car was very good," he continued. "I mean at one stage we thought that we will switch to three stops because the front was going away, so I pushed a bit harder and then the team told me, 'Can you try to make it to two?' So I backed off a little bit but the car came back even better and I was looking consistently quick and so on.

"What is good is that Seb has not been flying away today," he pointed out. "We were always within four seconds of him and looking pretty well on the long stint. It's not a track that is favouring us with the front-limitation. We all suffer with front-right tyre graining and that was the problem, the main problem. We know we take care more of our rear tyres.

"Tried to push hard at the end, good to be back on the podium, good for the team and happy to be here," he added. "I think it was good to have a good start, to be able to fight at the front and it's good to have a strong qualifying, a strong race. I don't need any luck to be there."

Grosjean certainly sounds fired up about his prospects of maintaining his momentum at next weekend's race at Suzuka.

"It's looking pretty good. The car is suiting me more and more and I think we can still learn a little bit but there we are," he said. "Good to score a lot of points for Lotus, and let's go to Japan which is the most beautiful track of the world!"