After a dismal qualifying performance, which saw both cars go off and out in the opening phase, Kamui Kobayashi ensured that the Sauber team left Spa-Francorchamps with a handful of points after coming through to eighth in an eventful Belgian Grand Prix.
Promoted to 17th on the grid by the various penalties that were handed out overnight, the Japanese ace was among the few to opt for intermediate tyres following the rain-induced melee at the Bus Stop on lap one, but quickly rose back through the field to be sitting in eighth place by lap 17. One lap in seventh came and went as Adrian Sutil recovered from his tyre stop, but Kobayashi looked destined for six points as he moved back into the top seven ten laps from home, only for Nico Rosberg to have other ideas, passing the Sauber on the lap 42 restart.
“It was a very difficult race but, for me, everything worked out fine," Kobayashi reported, "The team made very good decisions in choosing the right tyres at the right time, and the pit-stops went well. For parts of the race, the track conditions were changing every lap, and that was not easy, but, especially after yesterday's qualifying, I am very happy I made no mistakes, brought the car home and scored four more points after starting the race 17th.“
Team-mate Pedro de la Rosa also looked set to score again but, having slithered out of a possible Q2 spot on Saturday, the Spanish veteran did the same while sitting in tenth place late in the race. Having been relegated to last on the gird after the team decided to change his engine overnight, de la Rosa had done well to be in the top ten, but pushed too hard in the tricky conditions late on, and had to escape the gravel trap in order to finish the race in twelfth spot.
“It was a very interesting race and, after I had to start last, I should not complain about finishing twelfth - but, two laps before the end, I was tenth and just in the points," he sighed, "I was on full wet tyres, but the rain was not heavy enough and there was not enough water on the track to stop destroying those tyres. They went off quite quickly and, when I tried to catch Vitaly Petrov, I made a mistake, went into the gravel and lost two places."
Despite the error, de la Rosa insisted that the team had made the right call to fit the full wets rather than the intermediate alternative.
"For me, it was the right move to go for full wet tyres," he confirmed, "We had to take our chances today. It was more or less the same at my first pit-stop, when we
fitted intermediates, but then had to change back to slicks. But, as I said, we had to take our chances.”
Interestingly, team boss Peter Sauber made no mention of de la Rosa in his post-race summation, but praised 'another strong and mature performance' from his team-mate amid rumours that former Mercedes test driver - and long-time Sauber favourite - Nick Heidfeld may be poised to rejoin the Hinwil team. How that would fit in with the German's recently-confirmed Pirelli testing role remains to be seen, although he would bring vital extra knowledge should a deal be agreed for 2011.
“I'm very pleased we scored some points today after a very difficult day yesterday, especially as it was a race with a lot of changing weather conditions, and the right calls had to be made at the right time," technical director James Key said of the Belgian round, "We had three spells of rain all together, but the team made the right decisions, and Kamui did an excellent job by controlling the car in these difficult conditions and bringing it home in eighth.
"With Pedro, we tried a slightly different strategy at the end of the race, with full wet tyres because there was a chance of heavier rain. This seemed to work initially, but it looks as if the tyres went off quite quickly, and Pedro couldn't hold on to tenth. All in all, though, a reasonable recovery given the situation we faced yesterday."