The Sauber drivers were, as yesterday, complaining of car set-up issues in qualifying today, but will start the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix tomorrow from reasonable grid positions after a solid session.
Kamui Kobayashi will start the race twelfth after narrowly missing out on the pole position shoot-out, but the Japanese driver insist that he will be fighting hard for points in the season finale.
“I missed Q3 by just a fraction of a second, and it was definitely a possibility for our car on this track,” he said. “In general the car is much better than it was on Friday, and my lap was quite okay. But since we changed the brake material for free practice three, which is routine, I have had problems. The brake balance between front and rear isn't right. This obviously results in a lack of confidence and makes it difficult to put three perfect sector times together.
“Nevertheless I'm very much looking forward to the race tomorrow, and I believe I can score points from where I am starting.”
Nick Heidfeld qualified fourteenth, and said that tyres were to blame for his relatively low grid position. “We have improved the car a lot since Friday,” said the German. “Qualifying wasn't bad, but I am not completely happy. It takes a few laps to heat up the tyres. In Q1 I used a set of Prime tyres and then a set of Option tyres. Like last year, the difference isn't really huge here. Although it is hot, the tarmac seems to be very smooth and doesn't offer too much grip. It is not easy to get the car's balance right here.
“In Q2 I used a single set of the softer Option rubber. The last lap was okay, I had no traffic or mistakes, but I still could feel there was more grip to come from the tyres.”
Technical director James Key agrees that things had improved since yesterday’s challenging practice sessions and said that, overall, things he was pleased with the outcomes of today’s session.
“We seemed to head in the right direction for the set-up in free practice 3 after some good work by the drivers and engineers over night,” he explained. “We were fairly happy how the cars felt going into qualifying.
“There it was really all about the tyres, which spec to use and how long to stay out, because the warm-up was an issue, particularly with the changing conditions. The track temperatures and the length of the life of the tyres were the two factors we needed to trade off. So we tried longer runs in each session, and for us this was okay.
“Traffic was also a problem today, so to do more laps was sensible. It was a good lap by Kamui, he missed out on Q3 by just 1.3 tenths, but we have some fresh tyres for tomorrow.
“It's gonna be a fascinating race with the way the grid turned out today. We just hope for a good race on our side and some more points.”