Robert Kubica admitted that fourth position on the starting grid for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne was more than he and BMW-Sauber had been expecting – but team-mate Nick Heidfeld's 2008 qualifying woes showed no signs of abating as the new season gets underway.
Neither driver had shown particularly well throughout practice at Albert Park, with Kubica especially complaining about poor grip levels. The pair also went different ways on KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems), with the Pole electing not to use it because of his weight disadvantage whilst his German team-mate joined Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes and Renault in trialling the technology for the first time during a grand prix weekend.
“I'm quite happy with fourth on the grid,” Kubica commented afterwards. “Looking at the first practice sessions of the weekend, this was more than we expected. We made progress with the car, and I was able to put in some really good laps. In particular, my lap in Q2 was very good.
“Unfortunately, on my second run in Q3 Nico Rosberg went wide in front of me in corner 14 and put some dust on the track. As a consequence my tyres lost massive grip in the final corners of that lap. Most probably I could have finished third, but still I'm satisfied with my performance.”
Heidfeld, by contrast, was rather less satisfied, but the 31-year-old received a boost when he was promoted from eleventh position to ninth after the session had concluded when both Toyotas were sent to the back of the grid [see separate story – click here
]. The man from Mönchengladbach lapped more than three tenths adrift of the sister F1.09 in Q2 – and that difference would prove to be costly.
“We have been improving the car in every session and in qualifying it was okay,” 'Quick Nick' related. “Also my final lap in Q2 was okay until the last sector where I just didn't get it right, and especially in the last corner I had too much oversteer.
“Eleventh is certainly not what I was aiming for after the winter tests were quite promising, but at least it is an advantage compared to tenth because I am now free to choose my fuel load. I am hoping for a good race and some points. Using KERS might be a small advantage just after the start, although here the straight before the first corner isn't really long.”
Though the overall result was not exactly encouraging in the light of the Munich and Hinwil-based outfit's traditional high standards and 2009 targets, in starting fourth Kubica has at least put BMW ahead of chief rivals Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes in the early pecking order – and hopes are high that the race could yield a strong result too.
“Robert had a fantastic qualifying and was up with the front-runners with both low and heavy fuel loads in his car,” enthused the Bavarian manufacturer's motorsport director Dr Mario Theissen. “His fourth on the grid is more than we could have expected after the free practice sessions.