BMW-Sauber has all-but written off its chances of getting in amongst the points-scorers in today's Bahrain Grand Prix, after a desultory qualifying session has left both drivers to take the lights from back on the seventh row of the starting grid.
A general lack of performance allied to an inconsistent car balance were to blame for the poor showing, reckoned Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, with the pair separated by less than a tenth of a second in the final reckoning, but both more than three tenths away from making the Q3 top ten shoot-out.
For a team that had intended battling it out for Formula 1 World Championship glory in 2009 – and indeed one of only three to have tested in the desert kingdom prior to the start of the current campaign – these are desperate times indeed.
“We already knew before qualifying it would be difficult,” lamented Kubica, a title contender last season. “We lack overall performance. In Q2 I struggled with the grip of the new option tyres. Additionally, our radio didn't work so, as a result, it was quite hard to fine-tune tyre pressures and stuff like that.
“On top of that, we also had two small fires during re-fuelling in the pits. Although this didn't influence the performance, it didn't help. However, we now have to go on working in a concentrated and calm way.”
“This was quite a difficult qualifying for us,” agreed Heidfeld. “A lack of pace is obvious and, as we are waiting for our aerodynamic update for Barcelona, it is clear we are losing lap time in comparison to competitors who already have new parts. At least we knew this before qualifying.
“Also, the car's balance between the runs was very inconsistent. On my second run in Q2 I was quicker than on my first of that session, but not as quick as in Q1. I was really fighting hard and missed the apex in turn nine. It seems unlikely we can collect points in the race, but certainly we will not give up and we will try everything.”
Indeed, the Munich and Hinwil-based outfit has just four points on the board thus far in 2009, all courtesy of Heidfeld, following the German's opportunistic if somewhat fortuitous runner-up spot in the rain-lashed Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. Dr Mario Theissen is only-too aware that a turnaround needs to come – and it needs to come quick, with chief rivals McLaren-Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault all having seemingly leapfrogged the Bavarian concern in the pecking order.
“Qualifying was as difficult as expected after seeing the close gaps in free practice,” BMW's Motorsport Director acknowledged. “Just 1.5 seconds between first and last means every weakness will result in a loss of a few grid positions. On the decisive second run in Q2 both our drivers complained about the car's inconsistent balance, and because of that were not able to fight for the top ten.”
“Of course we cannot be satisfied with our starting positions,” added head of engineering Willy Rampf. “After an acceptable Q1, in Q2 we were – in comparison to most of the others – not able to improve on our times from the first part of qualifying. This was the case, although the track conditions had improved. The reason for this has to be analysed. From these positions it will be very difficult to score in the race.”