Sauber enjoyed a strong day at the Japanese Grand Prix today. It was disappointment for Sergio Perez, who spun off whilst battling McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, but Kamui Kobayashi gave the Japanese crowd their dream with his first ever podium finish.

Kobayashi, whose future has been called into speculation recently, saw off a tough challenge from Jenson Button to finish third.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet, it is hard to believe – I achieved my first podium in Suzuka! It was a fantastic race and we have been working really hard to get to this point since we were lacking pace on Friday. But the Sauber F1 Team did a great job to recover from there,” he said.

“Starting from third obviously helped a lot and also the long run I did on Friday made me very confident for the race. 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. It means so much to me that it finally worked out. Maybe from now on things will be easier.”

“I had a very long last stint today and Jenson [Button] 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. 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.

Meanwhile, Perez, who has recently signed to replace Hamilton at McLaren for 2013, was apologetic about his error.

“I feel very sorry for the team. 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. Lewis went quite late to the inside and I had only room on the outside. But it certainly was my mistake. The race didn’t start too well for me either when Romain Grosjean caused a mess and I lost positions.”

“I can’t express how happy I am! A podium finish for Kamui in his home country is simply incredible. He did an outstanding race today, particularly in the final part when he was under huge pressure from Jenson Button. He didn’t make the smallest mistake and defended his third position in great style. Sergio was also in a position to score a great result, but unfortunately his attack on Lewis Hamilton didn’t work out. Great compliments to the team which made progress during the whole weekend and finally delivered a great and very emotional result,” Monisha Kaltenborn, the team’s CEO concluded.