Romain Grosjean has never won a Formula One race, but finishing sixth at the Australian Grand Prix felt like a victory.
The Swiss driver earned American team Haas their first championship points on debut in Melbourne on Sunday.
It’s a feat not achieved since 2002, when Mika Salo also came sixth at Albert Park for Toyota.
“Guys listen to me: this is a win for us, this is a win,” he said over the radio after passing the chequered flag.
“Welcome to Formula One, Gene (Haas, team owner). This is the day – this is history guys!”
Grosjean started from 19th on the grid, but took advantage of the others drivers’ pitstops and red-flag delay following a collision between teammate Esteban Gutierrez and McLaren-Honda’s Fernando Alonso.
The suspension allowed him to make – essentially – a free pit stop to change tyres, which he nursed until the end of the race. Most other drivers had to stop at least twice.
Grosjean also withstood pressure from Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas of Williams who were hotly on his tail.
“It feels like standing on the top step of podium,” he told Sky Sports.
“It’s been an amazing race and weekend. For all the guys, the work they have been doing, so much work.
“Since day one I told the guys the car has huge potential – but we needed a good result to see if that was true.
“We have plenty of areas we can improve but this result is a huge morale and confidence boost.”
The team showed some promise in testing, but their time was limited due to technical issues.
Weather was just as big a hindrance on Friday during practice in Melbourne.
They will leave Australia fifth on the constructors’ standings, four points behind Red Bull and two in front of Force India.
The only downside is the damage to Gutierrez’s car, but the upside is he escaped injured.