Robert Kubica achieved his highest qualifying position in five races for the European Grand Prix in Valencia this weekend – suggesting his title bid is not completely over – whilst BMW-Sauber team-mate Nick Heidfeld was left raging about Timo Glock.
Kubica currently sits 13 points adrift of Formula 1 World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton with 70 remaining up for grabs between now and season's end, but his challenge has faded somewhat since he topped the standings in the wake of his breakthrough Montreal victory in June.
In the intervening four grands prix, the Pole has failed to finish higher than fifth – and has indeed generally been out-performed and certainly outscored by Heidfeld – but he has looked in good form all weekend around the new harbour-side street circuit in Spain's third city, and pulled a strong lap out of the bag when it mattered most to demote defending F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen to fourth position at the close of Q3.
“This was a very good qualifying for the team and me,” the 23-year-old underlined. “After some unlucky races lately, the pace of the car here in Valencia is not that bad. However, there is still a small gap to Ferrari and McLaren.
“Qualifying went pretty smoothly, with only the weather a bit unstable. In the end there were only some rain drops in the second qualifying session, but this did not affect the result. The choice of tyres was pretty clear for me by yesterday – I went on the harder compound in Q1 and on the softer compound in Q2 and Q3.”
Heidfeld will begin the race from five spots further back, more than a second adrift of Kubica after almost failing to make it through into Q2 when he was inadvertently baulked by Glock, the young German ironically a former test driver for BMW.
The incident marked the second consecutive qualifying session in which Heidfeld has stumbled across the Toyota ace, and though, unlike Hungary, this time thankfully it did not lead to him missing the cut, he still had some harsh words for his countryman.
“Qualifying eighth is not perfect,” the 31-year-old reflected afterwards, “but I think it was about the maximum possible today as the fuel load comes into play. In Q1 I thought it was déjà-vu when Timo Glock was in my way.
“Our team informs us on the radio how many seconds behind us a fast car is, and when we have to let somebody overtake. Apparently this isn't the case in every team.