JUNE 30, 2010
Sauber: Kobayashi has vindicated our decision
Peter Sauber says that Kamui Kobayashi's fighting seventh place in the European Grand Prix at Valencia has vindicated his team's decision to hire the Japanese rookie.
Kobayashi, who started 18th, elevated himself to third position when he elected not to stop under the Safety Car which came out after nine laps for Mark Webber's accident. Instead, he drove a 53-lap stint on Bridgestone's prime tyre, setting excellent lap times as he kept Jenson Button's McLaren - on fresher rubber - at bay, until he dived in for his supersofts four laps from the end. He rejoined ninth and then overtook both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Buemi with the benefit of his additional grip, to finish seventh and claim seven valuable points for the team.
"I can only think of one word for it -- amazing!" Peter Sauber said. "I was obviously thrilled by his two overtaking moves at the end of the race, but what impressed me most was how Kamui mastered his long stint on the hard tyres. At times he was setting some of the fastest lap times of any driver, but still managed to look after his tyres. He also drove very consistently and didn't allow himself to be put under pressure by Jenson Button. Signing a rookie is always something of a risk but on Sunday Kamui delivered confirmation that we made the right decision."
Sauber admitted that he was bemused by the team's qualifying performance when compared to its race showing. Kobayashi, in fact, joined the F1 new teams in being eliminated in Q1!
Technical chief James Key explained: "There are several reasons. When a driver finds himself in a competitive position like that he always finds something more in himself because he's following quicker cars. And Kamui did a very good job. The race also showed that the car works when it's in the right conditions, but the question we have and have had for several races, is why the car is more competitive in race conditions than qualifying?
"The drivers report that it is easier to drive in the race, and tyre degradation wasn't a problem either, so we weren't particularly hard on the tyres. We need to look into the data now that both drivers delivered a competitive race after a qualifying that was not up to our expectations. We need to pin down the differences in how the car is feeling and handling and see how we can apply that to qualifying.
Pedro de la Rosa, who ran a different strategy in Valencia, confirmed: "Changes we've made to the car helped us through slow corners and have improved the stability of the rear. That, in turn, allows the rear tyres to last longer. The upgrades for Valencia were certainly a step in the right direction, and that's very important, but in qualifying we still have a lot of work to do."
Sauber still lies ninth in the constructors' championship, but is now only four points behind Toro Rosso and 12 adrift of Williams."