Kamui Kobayashi gave Sauber a timely lift in qualifying for this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix around the Istanbul Park Circuit with a top ten performance for only the third time this season – though not for the first time in F1 2010, experienced team-mate Pedro de la Rosa was not so fortunate.
Having endured a nightmare of things in Monaco a fortnight ago, Sauber arrived in Turkey needing
a result – and 'Koba' duly delivered, lapping ninth-quickest in Q2 before settling for tenth in Q3 having already used up all of his 'Option' tyres, thereby matching his grid slot from Barcelona earlier this month. de la Rosa, for his part, departed the fray after the second session, just over four tenths of a second shy of the Japanese ace and by the same token, just over four tenths shy of making the cut.
“I'm really happy to be in Q3 for the third time,” enthused Kobayashi. “Especially after Monaco, this is very important for the team. We are back on the pace we had in Barcelona. For me, driving here was much better on Saturday than on Friday, as set-up changes as well as conditions played a role. In Q3 I could not fight because we hadn't a fresh set of option tyres left, as we had already used them all. However, we kept working hard and apparently it pays off.”
“Overall we have made progress,” concurred an understandably disappointed de la Rosa. “The balance of the car in general was very good. It was actually best on the harder 'Prime' tyres, therefore I could not get the extra grip out of the softer 'Option' compound.
“My last lap, I have to say, wasn't brilliant – I lost some time in the final sector. I believe we have quite a consistent car for the race, because our long runs in free practice were good. Also, I regard it as an advantage to have a grid position on the clean side of the track, as with all the dust here this really makes a difference.”
For a team that is known to be struggling both financially and from a performance perspective, to get one of its two cars into the final top ten shoot-out was undeniably a good result – and now what remains is to convert that form into the Hinwil-based outfit's first points of the campaign on race day.
“Looking at our performance, it's obvious we are back on-track,” affirmed the Swiss concern's eponymously-named team principal Peter Sauber. “This is a great achievement for the drivers and the team. Kamui's P9 in Q2 in particular is a fantastic result. Looking at who was behind him in Q2, he can really be proud of his lap. Congratulations to everybody in the team.”
“That was a good day for the team,” echoed technical director James Key. “We made some good progress in the areas we knew we needed to improve from yesterday, which seemed to work pretty well. In the morning session Pedro was much happier with the balance of his car, and that was reflected in the lap times. We still had some work to do with Kamui's car, however we did a few changes between FP3 and qualifying which also paid off.
“It's great to be back in Q3, which is what we hoped for. Kamui did a great job, as he put in an excellent lap and really picked up his pace in qualifying. It was also a very good session from Pedro, but it was a great shame he couldn't make it to Q3, because by rights he could have been there. He had a set of new 'Options' left, which sadly Kamui didn't, so his lap was compromised. Overall, both drivers showed a strong performance, and we can look forward to a good race tomorrow.”