Peter Sauber has hailed F1 rookie Kamui Kobayashi after the Japanese driver put in a fantastic performance today during the European Grand Prix at Valencia in Spain.
Kobayashi, who made his compulsory pit stop late on, ran third for a good portion of the race and then he made the most of new rubber to haul himself up to seventh, overtaking double F1 world champion, Fernando Alonso on the penultimate lap, before then diving by Sebastien Buemi in the final corner.
Pedro de la Rosa also went well in the sister car and he finished tenth initially, only to lose the place post-race when he was handed a 5-second penalty for speeding under safety car conditions [see separate story - click here
]. He was eventually classified in 12th.
“What a fantastic race, particularly considering where we were on the grid [having only qualified 16th and 18th],” said Sauber. “The team and the drivers did everything right today. Pedro delivered a very solid performance and scored one point [before he was penalised], and Kamui was absolutely amazing. The lap times which he put in while he was in third were stunning. They prove how much potential there is in this car. Congratulations to the whole team and the drivers!”
Technical director, James Key was also happy: “It was a very good result for the team and an excellent race from both drivers who managed to bring the cars home.
“Given our qualifying performance yesterday, we decided to split our strategy, and the plan was to go as far as possible for Kamui on the harder compound. For Pedro we chose a more standard approach. He started on the option tyres and stopped during the safety car period at exactly the right time. He was able to complete the race on the prime tyres, which lasted very well.
“With Kamui we decided to leave him out and keep a very close eye on his lap times and also the traffic behind him. His performance in the race when he was holding third was absolutely outstanding. He was putting in some very quick lap times, and holding [Jenson] Button behind him without coming under much pressure. We should be very happy with this result. It was a great effort from the team and the drivers.”
Kobayashi meanwhile conceded that his heroics in the final two laps could well have backfired, although thankfully for him and the team they didn't and he fought his way up to seventh.
"Before the race we had decided to use separate tyre strategies for Pedro and me. I started on the harder ones and didn't pit when everybody else did," he said. "It was great racing there at the front, but it was not easy either because I had Jenson Button close behind me all the time, and also I had to look after my tyres. I was careful not to overdrive them. After my pit stop I had only four laps to make use of my fresh tyres. At this moment I had better grip than anybody else, and I felt I had to make the most out of it. Of course it was a risk to overtake Alonso and Buemi. If it hadn't worked out and I had crashed I would have been in trouble."
de la Rosa, speaking before
news of his penalty, added: “It was a great race from the team. The strategy paid off and the car was really good under race conditions. For most of the race I was stuck in traffic. The last 12 laps were very difficult for me because I had a big flat spot on my front right tyre, and the vibrations in the car were quite bad. I didn't say this over the radio to the team, as I wanted to save them from bad news during the race because we have had enough of that. I am very, very happy for the entire team that we scored these points today. It is a great team and they deserve to be happy.”