Robert Kubica reminded Formula One’s powerhouses in qualifying at Valencia that BMW Sauber are still every bit a threat to their dominance in 2008, despite arriving at the Spanish port city on the back of a disappointing run of results.
Since their dazzling 1-2 victory in Canada earlier in the year, BMW Sauber have struggled to keep the pressure on rivals McLaren and Ferrari, even falling into the cluthes of mid-field teams such as Toyota and Renault.
Hungary was a particularly difficult race for the team with Nick Heidfeld unable to progress beyond the first round of qualifying, and Robert Kubica struggling to match the pace of the Renault and Toyota drivers.
But a stunning assault on Valencia’s new street circuit from Robert Kubica – the Pole relishing every inch of the 5.4km circuit – put BMW Sauber firmly back in the hunt for a podium, and even a victory.
“This was a very good Qualifying for the team and me,” reflected Kubica after planting his F1.08 on the second row of the grid two tenths shy of Lewis Hamilton.
“After some unlucky races lately the pace of the car here in Valencia is not that bad. However, there is still a small gap to Ferrari and McLaren. Qualifying went pretty smoothly, with only the weather a bit unstable.”
“In the end there were only some rain drops in the second qualifying session, but this did not affect the result. The choice of tyres was pretty clear for me by yesterday: I went on the harder compound in Q1 and on the softer compound in Q2 and in Q3.”
Under pressure driver Nick Heidfeld in the sister BMW scrapped into Q3 by the skin of his teeth and wound up eighth overall, marking a significant step forward for the Hinwil and Munich outfit since their Hungarian disaster.
“On this new and demanding track Robert had a great qualifying again and fought his way through to P3 on the grid,” commented BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen.
“Nick improved in the second part of qualifying and made it into Q3 with the third best time overall. His last lap wasn’t perfect as he lost some time in the second sector.”
“Anyway, eighth is good. What these positions are worth we shall see tomorrow during the first pit stops. We had no technical problems during qualifying.”
Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber’s Technical Director concurred: This was a very exciting qualifying. In the first part there were some rain drops, and in the second part the times were close.”
“It’s positive that we were able to get both cars into the top ten qualifying. Nick drove a very fast lap in Q2 and was able to qualify easily for Q3. Robert also had a very strong performance.”
“Starting from P3 he is in a very good position for the race, and Nick will also have his chances. I’m pleased all the hard work we have done since the race in Hungary has paid off.”