After a couple of strong performances in phases one and two of qualifying, Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi was left disappointed with ninth place on the grid at the Australian Grand Prix.
The Japanese ace displayed the latent potential of the new C30 as he vaulted into fifth and sixth places in the opening parts of the knock-out session, but was left to rue the effort he had put in when he was left without the optimum tyres for an assault on the top ten shoot-out. Although he clocked 1min 25.626secs, easily faster than he managed in any of the free practice sessions, the lap proved good enough only for the inside of row five, where Kobayashi will line up between Felipe Massa and Sebastien Buemi.
“Overall, performance-wise, we are not too bad, and now we see what we have done in the winter was okay," he reported, "Of course, there are still things to improve, but this is only the first grand prix and making it into Q3 is good. I only wish I had a set of new tyres left for Q3, instead of the used set of soft tyres, as then I think P6 would have been possible. However, I believe today is positive news and I'm very happy to give that to Japan.”
Rookie team-mate Sergio Perez also gave a good account of himself in his first-ever F1 qualifying session, despite having lost valuable track time during the morning's free practice. Although 13th on the grid, at the head of a group of three newcomers, was a solid return for the Mexican, like his team-mate, he felt that more had been possible.
“My first qualifying started quite well with P6 in Q1, and this was mainly because, in third free practice, I couldn't run on soft tyres and low fuel as we lost a lot of time due to a hydraulic problem," he revealed, "In Q2, we were a bit tight on time after the yellow flag and, then, on my last flying lap, I had traffic in the final sector and could not get the most out of the tyres. A better result was possible, and this is a shame, but generally I feel very comfortable and hope for a good race tomorrow - with some points at the end.”
Team principal Peter Sauber confirmed the air of satisfaction within the camp, claiming that Perez's performance had been a 'nice surprise', while technical director
James Key was delighted to see the C30 maintaining its pre-season form.
“We are obviously pleased that the progress we thought we made over the winter has been realised today in qualifying," he commented, "But this is just the start of a long season.
"Kamui did a great job to get us safely through to Q3 when, unfortunately, we had to run used tyres and, in the end, he did not find the ultimate performance. Sergio was excellent, considering this was his first F1 qualifying and he had missed a lot of time with a hydraulic problem in free practice three. On his fastest lap in Q2, he had traffic, but nonetheless we are very happy with the job both drivers did.
"What really counts, however, is the race tomorrow and it will be very interesting to see the unknown tyre strategies that could be employed.”