Kazuki Nakajima admitted that he was thrilled to achieve a career-high qualifying position of fifth around his 'favourite track' of Silverstone ahead of Sunday's British Grand Prix – and now he aims to convert the performance into his first points of 2009 to-boot.
The Japanese ace may never hitherto have begun any higher than tenth in 26 previous appearances in the top flight – and has lined up between tenth and twelfth on all-bar one occasion this year to-date – but he has been on the leading pace from practically the word 'go' this weekend, lapping fourth-quickest in FP2 on Friday afternoon and second to team-mate Nico Rosberg in FP3 on Saturday morning.
Then, almost unnoticed as all eyes focussed on Adrian Sutil's accident and Lewis Hamilton's qualifying disaster, Nakajima snuck in under the radar to post the fastest time right at the end of Q1, almost seven tenths of a second up on Rosberg, and after similarly outpacing the German in Q2, he went on to stun paddock observers with a scintillating effort to steal P5 in Q3. Though aided to a certain extent by a relatively light fuel load, it was nonetheless an immensely impressive showing.
“Fifth is the best qualifying result I've had so far,” enthused the 24-year-old, “so I'm really happy. After yesterday's practice, I thought we could be quite strong today because the car is working really well here. We seem to have taken a step forward, so many thanks to the team as they've brought a really good upgrade package to this race. To be sitting in fifth position on the grid and racing on my favourite track tomorrow is great, and my goal will be to have a solid race and score some points for the team.”
Making it a good day for former multiple world champions Williams at its 'home' circuit, Rosberg slotted into seventh, just two spots and a little over a tenth of a second behind the sister FW31 despite carrying one of the heaviest Q3 fuel loads – maintaining his uninterrupted run of top ten starts in 2009 and making the outcome comfortably the team's best double qualifying result of the season thus far.
“On the one hand, I'm pleased because we've made progress with the car and are looking competitive,” mused the son of 1982 F1 World Champion Keke Rosberg, a man who went into the sport's record books with a 160mph average speed qualifying lap at Silverstone back in 1985. “On the other hand, it wasn't the perfect day for me today because I didn't manage to get the best out of the car in Q3.
“I'm still really pleased with where we are with the car, though. The team has done a fantastic job, even on this track which is normally one of the most challenging for us. Being in fifth and seventh shows we're up there and, with a strong strategy tomorrow, we should score points. It was a good job by Kazuki, who's been quick all weekend here – I'll try to catch him tomorrow!”
“That was a satisfying qualifying session from the team,” summarised the Grove-based concern's technical director Sam Michael. “Our development programme of the car, and the direction we're taking, is going well.
“Kazuki's performance in qualifying today was the best of his career so far and he did it well, carrying over the speed he showed in practice and then in the earlier qualifying rounds. Nico also did well, and his strategy will pay off in the race. Our focus now is on tomorrow and getting the best strategy in-place in order to score points with both cars in our home grand prix.”