Robert Kubica pulled another sensational qualifying performance out of the bag to underline his status as one of the hottest properties in the driver market in Montreal.
The BMW Sauber driver is going to have his work cut out to convince the F1 community that he is not a championship contender – a belief held publicly by both Kubica himself and his BMW management – when he produces laps like the one that bought him P2 in qualifying today.
The Polish sensation dethroned Lewis Hamilton from the top spot in the dying moments of Q3 with an impressive 1m 18.489 around the temporary street circuit. While Hamilton responded with the lap of his life to re-take pole position, Kubica was left satisfied with his front-row starting slot, which crucially puts him ahead of the Ferrari pairing, albeit on the dirty side of the track.
“I’m very happy with second,” enthused Kubica. “Certainly it will be a tough race tomorrow on this track. Unfortunately I shall not be starting on the clean side. McLaren particularly looks very strong and I shall also have pressure from the Ferrari, but we have to see who is on which strategy.”
He added that he was lucky not to fall victim to the problems with the track surface that caused Mark Webber to spin at the end of Q2.
“It was a very difficult qualifying with the track breaking up in some corners, which is a disaster,” explained Kubica. “It was easy to make mistakes with these conditions. When you missed the racing line by just ten or 20 centimetres you were on the marbles with very low grip.”
It his the second time this season that Kubica will start from the front-row of the grid. The first was in Bahrain when he stormed to his first career pole position. The 23-year-old’s consistent presence at the sharp-end of the grid is doing his profile in the driver market no end of good with rumours abound that Ferrari are hot on the heels of his services.
Nick Heidfeld in the sister BMW Sauber was once again unable to match the pace of his Polish team-mate, the German lapping the Montreal circuit over a second slower than Kubica and winding up eighth overall.
“It was obviously better than two weeks ago,” reflected Heidfeld pointing to his disastrous qualifying effort in Monaco when he failed to progress to the shoot-out for the first time in the year. “In Q2 I was just one tenth of a second behind Robert, but I’m not happy with my lap times in Q3.”
“It is a start, but I still have a lot of work to do. Today it was extremely difficult to choose between the tyre compounds. First I thought the harder Prime would be quicker, but in the end I went for the softer Options.”
“Normally the track conditions get better and better during qualifying, but here they became worse. We had an awful lot of marbles on the track. This has always been an issue here, but normally this has been in the race and not in Qualifying.”
BMW’s director of motorsport Mario Theissen was delighted to see Kubica battle his way to the front-row of the grid, and was similarly satisfied with the performance of Nick Heidfeld, hinting at a different race strategy.
“Starting from the front row is an excellent result for Robert and our team,” said the German. “The result was achieved under very difficult track conditions. Gusty winds, a constantly changing tyre performance and a track that was getting slower meant it was only for Robert that everything was perfect for the last run.”
“Nick also had to fight the track conditions. It was a good run that got him into Q3. It will only be at his first pit stop tomorrow when we shall see what he can do from eighth.”
“This was excellent from Robert,” concurred BMW Sauber’s technical director Willy Rampf. “We expected to be major players on this track, however, Robert’s second place surprised us.”
“Nick was strong in the second part of qualifying, but even from eighth he could still have a good result. Today, the big challenge was to choose the right tyre compound for each session. In addition, there was more wind which affected the balance of the car. We are looking forward to the race and a good result.”