Robert Kubica insists that he is ready to take the Monaco Grand Prix fight to Red Bull Racing, even though he admits that the RB6 usually has a speed advantage over his Renault.
Citing the equalising effect of the notorious Monte Carlo street circuit, the Pole claimed that the difference between the two teams would not be as pronounced this weekend, despite having seen polewinner Mark Webber waltz to an easy win in Barcelona a week ago.
"In Monaco, the race is a bit different," he pointed out, "It's not about race pace, but about bringing the car home - pitting at the right moment, rejoining from the pit-stop without traffic and bringing the car home. Of course, race pace helps but, even if you are one second slower, one second quicker, it doesn't really matter. What matters is to pit at the right moment, a double-quick pit-stop and get out in front of everybody. That's how it works in Monaco."
Kubica, despite having paced the final practice session, appeared a surprise contender for pole position in the final phase of qualifying, only to be pipped by Webber in the closing moments of the ten-minute shoot-out, Although disappointed not to have secured top spot for the regie
, the Pole insisted that he was thrilled to have claimed a place on the front row for the most overtaking-critical event of the season.
"If the same car is one-and-a-half seconds quicker through Barcelona, there is no reason why we should qualify in front of them, so somehow I was surprised by our pace during free practice and qualifying," he maintained, "But miracles don't happen from one day to the other so, all in all, when you are so close, you are a bit upset.
"But we have to be realistic and, therefore, this was a great day for all at Renault. I think, five months ago, the team was not sure if it would exist, but we are here in Monaco on the first row. It has been a good effort for us, for the team and for myself, and we have to say thanks to all the guys at the factory and on the racetrack - mechanics, engineers, everybody who is working for our team."
Although admitting that the Red Bull was the faster car, Kubica admitted that he could have had pole had he not made a mistake on his last run.
"We took a different approach and saved two sets of new option [tyres] for Q3, so I had first go with a bit more fuel.," he revealed, "I think we couldn't have done better, but the final lap was not ideal. I pushed very hard on the first lap as you never know about traffic, and I knew Mark was in front [on track] by a couple of seconds, so I didn't know what he would do. I tried on the first lap then, second lap, I started very quick - I think [it was] the fastest first sector - but, unfortunately, by the second half of the lap, the tyres were already gone, so I struggled in the last sector and just managed to repeat my lap time."
Starting second also means starting on the 'dirty' side of the grid, but Kubica is confident that he can at least hold position into Ste Devote.
"It is helpful here that it's not a long way to the first braking point so, dirty side or clean side, we will see tomorrow," he admitted, "For sure, there's a bit of a difference but, to be honest, I think it's so small that we shouldn't worry too much. Our starts, especially at the beginning of the year, were very good."