Formula 1

Sauber drivers struggle in wet qualifying conditions

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Kamui Kobayashi and Nick Heidfeld qualified twelfth and sixteenth, respectively, for the Brazilian Grand Prix, but the Sauber duo both hinted that they would have preferred dry conditions for qualifying.

As it was, they had to cope with a surface that was drying unpredictably, wearing out intermediate tyres, but too slick for the wet compounds.

“I was very close to making it into Q3, but I could feel on my last lap the tyres were gone,” explained Kobayashi, who will start tomorrow’s race alongside Jenson Button. “The timing for the tyre change on my car was alright for me. Perhaps one lap later would have been ideal in terms of track conditions, but on the other hand it is good to go for safety in case of a yellow flag or anything else like this.

“In Q1, when it was wetter, I found the conditions were very good for the car and the tyres. I remained on the same set and in the end I was fifth, but obviously the result of Q2 is what counts.

“For tomorrow we expect dry conditions and I believe this is good for us.”

Although Kobayashi sounded reasonably philosophical when discussing his qualifying, teammate Heidfeld was a bit more frustrated. “I must admit I am a bit annoyed,” said the German. “Dry conditions would have suited our car better, but that's not under our control. What we could have done better was the timing in Q2. My tyre change was two laps too early, which meant I wasn't on the track when the conditions were at their best with a set of tyres in good shape.

“However, as I said, in dry conditions we can be strong here and the forecast for the race tomorrow says it will be dry.”

Sauber technical director James Key said that the C29 just wasn’t as competitive in the wet, but is expecting better performance in tomorrow’s race, which is forecast to be dry. “As predicted the rain came today,” said Key. “This morning we went through a programme trying to understand the different conditions and, in particular, the cross over between extra wet and intermediate tyres. We seemed to lose some competitiveness in wet conditions compared to yesterday. The main issue seemed to be warming up the tyres.

“We made some changes for qualifying, where it was crucial to hit the track and tyre conditions at the right time. Kamui did a reasonable job to get close to Q3, after he had some difficulties in the morning. Nick was a little less happy, and he also suffered from some traffic.

“It's unfortunate we didn't get through to Q3, but equally it's going to be a dry day tomorrow, so we should be more competitive and we will fight hard. Finally congratulations to Williams and Nico Hülkenberg on the pole position.”

Team principal Peter Sauber also offered a brief evaluation of qualifying and, like his technical director, was keen to congratulate the surprise pole-sitter. “It was a typical Interlagos weekend with an unexpected grid,” he said. “Congratulations to the Williams team and, in particular, to Nico Hülkenberg, who did a fantastic job to grab pole position.”

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