Valencia - Even a record champion can lose track of where he is placed at the end of an eventful Formula One race, and Michael Schumacher could say nothing more than "Wow" when he was told he had finished third at the European Grand Prix.
Technical breakdowns on the cars of then leader Sebastian Vettel and second-placed Romain Grosjean, plus a penultimate-lap collision of Pastor Maldonando and Lewis Hamilton swept the seven-times champion of the Mercedes team onto the podium.
"I didn't think about a podium. I asked at the end where I finished and when they told me third, I couldn't believe it. You lose count," Schumacher said.
Mercedes motorsport chief Norbert Haug named the result "memorable" and Schumacher said "it's a great feeling to be back after such a long time. It is the best way to jump the podium unexpectedly."
It was the first top-three finish for Schumacher since he won his 91st career race at the Chinese GP in October 2006 when he was at Ferrari.
The long absence showed when he simply forgot to say a few words in German at the post-race news conference.
"I am not used to this any more," quipped the 43-year-old, who retired at the end of the 2006 campaign before returning for Mercedes in 2010 in what is now the final season of a three-year-contract.
Team-mate Nico Rosberg won the first race for Mercedes as a works team since the 1950s at the Chinese GP.
Schumacher topped qualifying for the Monaco race (although a grid penalty denied him starting from pole) but mainly made headlines with technical problems for four retirements in seven previous races, plus one accident, for a meagre two championship points.
But Schumacher said after the latest setback two weeks ago in Canada that he would not give up and also said the problems will be no deciding factor he considers his future beyond the season.
Things didn't look much better in Valencia as Schumacher had to start from 12th on the grid, but he recovered to eighth place once the safety car came out in the 29th lap after an accident and then shot up the rankings thanks to some passing moves and the misfortune of others.
"We were criticised a lot for the past races. But we now gave the best answer," Schumacher said after his 155th career podium behind Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus.
"I am proud, grateful and simply happy."
Results of the European Formula One Grand Prix here on Sunday:
1. Fernando Alonso (ESP/Ferrari) 1hr 44min 16.649sec, 2. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Lotus) at 6.421s, 3. Michael Schumacher (GER/Mercedes) 12.639, 4. Mark Webber (AUS/Red Bull) 13.628, 5. Nico Hlkenberg (GER/Force India) 19.993, 6. Paul di Resta (GBR/Force India) 22.866, 7. Nico Rosberg (GER/Mercedes) 21.176, 8. Jenson Button (GBR/McLaren Mercedes) 24.653, 9. Sergio Perez (MEX/Sauber) 27.777, 10. Pastor Maldonado (VEN/Williams) 34.630, 11. Bruno Senna (BRA/Williams) 35.961, 12. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Toro Rosso) 37.041, 13. Vitaly Petrov (RUS/Caterham) 1:15.800, 14. Heikki Kovalainen (FIN/Caterham) 1:34.600, 15. Charles Pic (FRA/Marussia) 1:36.500, 16. Felipe Massa (BRA/Ferrari) 1 lap, 17. Pedro de la Rosa (ESP/HRT) 1 lap, 18. Narain Karthikeyan (IND/HRT) 1 lap, 19. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/McLaren) 2 laps
1. Fernando Alonso (ESP) 111.0pts, 2. Mark Webber (AUS) 91.0, 3. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 88.0, 4. Sebastian Vettel (GER) 85.0, 5. Nico Rosberg (GER) 75.0, 6. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) 73.0, 7. Romain Grosjean (FRA) 53.0, 8. Jenson Button (GBR) 49.0, 9. Sergio Perez (MEX) 39.0, 10. Pastor Maldonado (VEN) 30.0, 11. Paul di Resta (SCO) 27.0, 12. Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) 21.0, 13. Michael Schumacher (GER) 17.0, 14. Nico Hlkenberg (GER) 17.0, 15. Bruno Senna (BRA) 15.0, 16. Felipe Massa (BRA) 11.0, 17. Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) 4.0, 18. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) 2.0
1. Red Bull 176.0pts, 2. McLaren 137.0, 3. Lotus 126.0, 4. Ferrari 122.0, 5. Mercedes 92.0, 6. Sauber 60.0, 7. Williams 45.0, 8. Force India 44.0, 9. Toro Rosso 6.0