It was a welcome return to the podium for BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica at Valencia, but it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Polish star after a plastic bag managed to attach itself to his F1.08 mid race.
After a couple of races in the wilderness, the Canadian Grand Prix winner underlined to the world why he has managed to stay in touch with the championship leaders for so long after a sterling assault on Valencia’s new street circuit.
Almost inching out Lewis Hamilton at the start, Kubica was forced settle for third place in the procession where he built a cushion over Heikki Kovalainen and Kimi Raikkonen.
But when a carrier bag caught itself under the BMW’s sidebod interfering with the aerodynamics, it looked as though the Pole would have to relinquish his position as he battled to keep the F1.08 pointing in the right direction.
“On the telemetry data we could see that his car lost downforce, which was due to a plastic bag stuck to the floor of the car,” explained BMW’s Technical Director Willy Rampf. “During the first pit stop we removed it, and after this, everything was fine again.
Somehow Kubica managed to keep things together and kept his head to take third place at the chequered flag.
“I started pretty well but in corner 1 I went over the kerb and Lewis was closing,” he said afterwards. “In the second corner I was going to overtake Lewis, but I saw Felipe braking quite early. It would have been too much of a risk, as I could end up overshooting the braking point and crashing into him.”
“Over the next few laps I was consistently a bit slower than Lewis. Suddenly I saw a white plastic bag flying across the track, but could not avoid it and it went under the car. I couldn’t steer for two corners, which was extremely dangerous.”
“Fortunately most of the bag soon flew away, but my confidence was very low over the next sector, and I lost around three seconds. In the end I finished third. Eventually I think my good qualifying result yesterday was crucial for today’s result.”
Nick Heidfeld’s race was effectively over from the start when he lost ground at the first corner, which compromised his one-stop strategy.
“This was one of the worst races ever for me,” said the German. “To finish ninth in a car which is obviously good enough for third is a disaster. After qualifying I was pretty confident because we realised we could go well.”
“But in the race I had big problems with the harder tyres during the first two stints, and it was only better at the end with the softer compound. I lost one position after the start and later in the race I couldn’t gain any. The pace wasn’t there.”
BMW Sauber have looked out of sorts in the past few races, and with the bulk of resources going into next year’s car, questions were raised about the impact the Hinwil and Munich based outfit could have in the remaining races.
But the team’s senior management were buoyed by the overall pace of the F1.08 and the team’s chiefs are adamant they can continue to challenge for podiums.
“Certainly we enjoyed being back on the podium, with it being the fifth time this year for Robert. He drove a strong race,” said BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen. “During the early laps he had some trouble as a plastic bag was stuck on his car and affected its handling.”
“Apart from this both cars ran trouble free and the pit stops went well. Starting from eighth was not an ideal situation for Nick. We were hoping he would improve one or two places at the start, but in the heat of the moment he unfortunately lost a position and then the race was basically over for him.”