Kamui Kobayashi made it three points-scoring races in swift succession – on-the-road at least – for Sauber in F1 2011, with a battling tenth place in today's Chinese Grand Prix, even if he admitted that he was coated in dust and dirt by the time he took the chequered flag.
Having lined up just 13th in Shanghai – behind rookie team-mate Sergio Pérez – Kobayashi was in racy mood from the outset of the grand prix, becoming the first driver to make use of the deployment of DRS on lap three to fight his way into the top ten at the expense of Scuderia Toro Rosso rival Jaime Alguersuari.
Going on to do battle in or around the foot of the top ten throughout, the Japanese ace displayed the indefatigable, never-say-die spirit and determination that has earned him a legion of admirers during his fledgling F1 career to-date to overhaul Force India's Paul di Resta just three laps from home to claim the race's final marker.
“I am very happy that we were able to score at least one point today,” he acknowledged afterwards. “I had a really good start and was able to make up positions; this was obviously important after not qualifying as high up as I wanted to. When I was trying to get close to Adrian [Sutil] on lap 14, we came across another car and I think the driver did not see me. We touched, and this was when I got a hole in the car's nose.
“Technically, it was not a problem to drive with that, but practically, quite a lot of dust and dirt came into the cockpit – my white overalls looked awfully dirty in the end! I made my second pit-stop a few laps earlier than originally planned, but it turned out to be okay to do the remaining 26 laps on the hard compound – although I must admit that after overtaking Paul three laps before the end, those tyres where finished.”
Team-mate Pérez endured a particularly lively afternoon, picking up a drive-through penalty for a collision with Nick Heidfeld, and later a ten-second stop-go for having launched his C30 down the inside of Sutil almost banger racing-style into Turn One and running the German clean off the road. The Mexican eventually wound up 17th.
“My start as such was okay, but I had a very bad first corner and lost some positions,” reflected the 21-year-old. “Most importantly, I'm very sorry for the accident with Adrian – I am sorry for him and sorry for my team. At this time in the race I wanted to get the most out of my tyres, as I was under pressure from Vitaly [Petrov], so I was quite aggressive. Unfortunately, I lost the rear when I was already on the inside of Adrian and crashed into him. It is a real shame, because this weekend I felt a lot more comfortable with the car than ever before.”
Having picked up ten points on-the-road in Australia – prior to the double disqualification – and four in Malaysia a week ago, a return of just one in China was undeniably a disappointment for Sauber, but eponymous team principal Peter Sauber insists both drivers had more pace than they were actually able to demonstrate.
“It was an exciting race, and very difficult today for us to score points,” he conceded. “However, having said that, we are satisfied with this one point. Our car had more potential than this result shows, but both drivers got stuck in traffic for long periods during the race.”