Having secured its best double qualifying performance since Montreal – also coincidentally the scene of its breakthrough victory in Formula 1 courtesy of Robert Kubica – BMW-Sauber has forecast a challenging inaugural Singapore Grand Prix ahead on Sunday.
Both Kubica and team-mate Nick Heidfeld looked solid throughout the hour-long session held under spotlights around the all-new Marina Bay Street Circuit, and indeed for some time it was the experienced German – under fire for his generally poor qualifying form in 2008, and under pressure to retain his seat at the Munich and Hinwil-based outfit next year – who featured ahead.
Though ultimately his Polish team-mate gained the upper hand, fourth and sixth places at the close – two tenths of a second apart, albeit each a second shy of Felipe Massa's unchallenged pole position time – was a satisfying outcome.
“My qualifying was quite ok,” 23-year-old Kubica remarked. “I'm happy with P4, but not with my final lap – I was struggling a little bit with the overall grip. In the last stint of Q3 I had hardly any grip in the first sector; I lost quite a lot of time there. Felipe Massa was in front of me on his 'out' lap; perhaps the tyres didn't reach the right temperature.
“However, the race will be a completely different story. It will be a very tough one. The track is very bumpy and very demanding, and tyre degradation will be a crucial factor.”
“I'm quite happy as I had a good lap,” added Heidfeld. “Right from the first practice sessions on Friday we have made several changes, and most of them were right. The car has improved and I have familiarised myself with this circuit and also improved.
“Tomorrow a good start will be crucial. Overtaking is extremely difficult here because the track is so narrow, and off-line [it is] dirty and even bumpier. This could become the most demanding grand prix of the year.”
Both BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen and the squad's technical director Willy Rampf shared their drivers' views – as well as their hopes for a strong double score on race day to keep the team, against all conceivable odds, in the chase for the constructors' trophy.
“That was a very good performance by both of our drivers under difficult conditions,” underlined Theissen. “We had to be prepared all the time for yellow flags out on the track. Apart from that it wasn't obvious which tyre would be quicker; because of that, in Q1 and Q2 we went out twice and used both types of tyres.
“In the end Robert made it to P4 with the harder compound, and Nick qualified sixth with the softer ones. We have very good grid positions to start the race from.”
“It was a very exciting qualifying,” agreed Rampf, “and with fourth and sixth we are well-prepared for the race. Under these tricky conditions both drivers did a very good job to get a perfect lap. Even if overtaking will be quite difficult, we are expecting an exciting race tomorrow.”