Sergio Perez celebrates on the podium after finishing third in the Bahrain Grand Prix. (Photo: Getty Images)

celebrates on the podium after finishing third in the Bahrain Grand Prix. (Photo: Getty Images)

Sergio Perez earned Force India’s first podium since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix when he took a superb third place in Bahrain.

The Mexican had to overcome strong challenges from teammate Nico Hulkenberg and the two Williams drivers, and he was chased across the line by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

The result was a welcome reward for Perez after his troubled season at McLaren.

“It’s a very special podium for myself,” said Perez. “I had a really tough time, my time in McLaren where I never have a chance to fight for a podium in all my year. Really, coming into Force India and being able to, only in my third race, to be able to qualify fourth and then straight away being able to fight for the podium was a great feeling. An amazing podium.”

Perez’s job was made more difficult after the safety car allowed the pack to close up.

“The safety car made things really hard for me. It was looking quite comfortable before the safety car came in and once it came it was really difficult also to switch the prime tire on. It was extremely hard as we had a safety car for a long period. So I arrived into Turn 1 after the restart with my teammate. I just couldn’t stop the car, locked the front wheels. I tried my best to keep the position and we managed and then we had the Red Bull coming really quick at the end. Fortunately we managed to keep the podium.

“It was a really enjoyable race, a bit like karting days when you’re fighting in and out. But when you are sliding all the time and you have degradation, it was not so enjoyable towards the end of the race, but still, once you’ve crossed the finish line it was a great feeling for me.”