He may have made his presence more than felt in the Formula 1 World Championship this season – threatening to challenge for the drivers' crown all the way to the Chinese Grand Prix only a fortnight ago – but it seems Robert Kubica's stirring efforts could fade out with a whimper rather than go out with a bang after he was able to qualify no better than 13th at Interlagos.
Somewhat ironically, given BMW-Sauber team-mate Nick Heidfeld's well-documented qualifying woes in 2008 – troubles so severe they very nearly cost the experienced German his seat at the Munich and Hinwil-based outfit next year – it is Kubica who has been in the wars of late, failing to make the top ten on two consecutive occasions, and three times in the last five races.
In both China and Brazil it has been a lack of grip that has been the culprit, meaning that whilst Heidfeld was able to comfortably progress through to Q3 around the Autodromo Carlos Pace in São Paulo, Kubica was less fortunate, and will consequently begin the season finale from an unlucky 13th place.
“This is obviously not the best position for tomorrow's race,” reflected the 23-year-old Pole, arguably the revelation of the 2008 campaign. “This is the second weekend in a row that I have been struggling with the overall grip of the car. Starting from so far behind will make the race very difficult for me.”
“Qualifying was okay for me,” countered Heidfeld, who will take the start from eighth. “In Q3 I thought in the end I could have improved more than the three tenths of a second I managed from the harder to the softer compound, but I have to say it was a good lap and I just couldn't do any better. I really hope for a good race tomorrow.”
The outcome of the session has almost certainly also put a terminal end to BMW's hopes of depriving McLaren-Mercedes of the runner-up spot in the constructors' standings at the last, and the Bavarian concern's motorsport director Dr Mario Theissen admitted he was frustrated to be ending what has undeniably been an overwhelmingly impressive campaign on such a low note.
“Traditionally on this track the time differences in qualifying are very close,” the German acknowledged. “Sometimes five or six cars are within one tenth of a second. A driver who is not able to fully exploit the potential there and then will find himself on the back of the grid.
“We are not happy with our result and, especially for Robert, the situation is not easy for the race. He has been suffering from a lack of grip throughout the whole weekend, and we did not completely solve the problem in qualifying. Nick did better and set the eighth-quickest time. Only tomorrow when we get to the first set of pit-stops shall we see what we can do from here.”
“We cannot be happy with our qualifying,” concurred technical director Willy Rampf. “Robert did not make it beyond Q2. Ten cars were within three tenths of a second, so with only the slightest mistake one is out. Nick did better. Our goal is now to make up a few positions.”