Michael Schumacher secured the first podium of his comeback with a hard won third place in Valencia.
He survived a scare after the race when he was investigated for using DRS in a yellow flag zone. However the stewards decreed that he had slowed enough, and after some deliberation it was confirmed that there was no penalty.
Schumacher started only 12th and had a difficult first stint on the prime tyres. The key to his good result was a late change to fresh tyres, 16 laps from the end.
Shadowed by Mark Webber, who made a similar call, he caught and passed several drivers who were struggling on old rubber, gaining also from a collision between Lewis Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado.
He admitted he didn’t realise how much progress he had made in the closing laps.
“Certainly I wasn’t aware I was going in the direction of a podium,” he said. “Even crossing the line I wasn’t aware at that stage. But, being pretty heavily involved for most of the race in some kind of battling and then having Webber all the time on my tail and needing to fight forward but needing to pay attention to the back, that was very exciting. But that’s what I’m here for – to be excited and those guys got me excited, no doubt. And hearing finally the message P3 – yeah, that’s a sweet finish.
“It is a beautiful feeling, not only being on the podium but the way it has happened. It was not at all expected. All weekend, I predicted this to be a difficult one for us and it started to be difficult yesterday in qualifying, mainly because of my own mistakes and to recover from where we are, getting to third position is just awesome.
“The team and myself have been criticised here and there, particularly lately, and this is the best way to answer criticism, to go back and deliver as we did today, and therefore I’m proud, thankful and very excited.”
Schumacher said strategy had ultimately worked in his favour.
“We obviously had a late decision converting from a one-stop to a two-stop strategy, which meant we had good tyres towards the end of the race, when other people either did a one or an early two-stop strategy, and therefore struggled by the end because they had no tyres left.”