Sauber technical director James Key says that improving the team's performance in qualifying is key to its chances of building on the result gained by Kamui Kobayashi in the European Grand Prix.
Making the most of strategy and the early Safety Car period, Kobayashi was able to run in third place for a large part of the race before eventually taking the flag in seventh - late moves on Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi having allowed him to make up two places in the closing laps after his final pitstop.
That was despite Kobayashi starting the race down in 18th place on the grid for the second successive race and Key admitted that improving the qualifying pace of the car was important if the team was to challenge for points on a more regular basis.
“There are several reasons,” he replied when asked why the C29 had performed so strongly in the race. “When a driver finds himself in a competitive position like that he always finds something more in himself because he's following quicker cars. And Kamui did a very good job.
“The race also showed that the car works when it's in the right conditions, but the question we have and we had for several of the last races is why the car is more competitive in race conditions than qualifying. The drivers report that the car is easier to drive in the race, and tyre degradation wasn't a problem either, so we weren't particularly hard on the tyres. We need to look into the data, now that both drivers delivered a competitive race after a qualifying that was not up to our expectations.
“We need to pin down the differences in how the car is feeling and handling and see how we can apply that to qualifying.”
Kobayashi agreed that qualifying has been the achilles heel for the team this season, alongside a lack of reliability, but said his confidence had been given a boost by his performance in Spain.
“It's very clear that our weakness lies in qualifying,” he said. “If we can secure a better position on the grid for the races, we'll be able to score points more often. In Valencia, especially, there was a pretty big difference in track conditions between qualifying and the race. In the race, the asphalt offered a lot more grip, and that helped us. The track became more and more grippy and, at the same time, braking stability and traction improved as the car got lighter.”