Today’s qualifying session in Malaysia wasn’t just about Mark Webber’s fantastic pole position, Nico Rosberg’s continued domination of Michael Schumacher and McLaren and Ferrari’s total inability to judge the weather. There were also a number of seriously impressive performances from drivers outside the spotlight at Sepang, and Badger’s picked some of them out for a bit of well earned praise.
If Adrian Sutil could get to the end of more races you have to think he’d have amassed more than the 6 career points he has to date. The German regularly achieves great qualifying results only to exit on race day, sometimes with mechanical problems but more often as the result of a crash.
That qualifying pace was on show again today as he achieved a superb 4th on the grid in his Force India. Adrian was rightly thrilled afterwards.
“It was a great qualifying again for us. I think we did a great job in those conditions and every session we did the optimum. I am so happy to be in this position now”.
Teammate Tonio Liuzzi has impressed a lot of people with points scoring finishes in both Bahrain and Australia, and so Sutil needs to up his game. He’s put himself in a good position to do that tomorrow, and will look to keep ahead of the Williams cars and hang on to the guys in front of him as much as possible. He’s one of F1’s better wet weather drivers, and if it rains again tomorrow he could be on for some serious points. That is unless he chucks his car in to a gravel trap before the chequered flag.
The Incredible Hulk? Not just yet, but today’s performance from Nico Hulkenberg suggests that there might be something of the superhero about Williams’ latest find.
The pre-season hype surrounding Hulkenberg was pretty huge, with the phrase ‘quicker than Lewis Hamilton’ banded about by some of the mechanics that had worked with both men in GP2. It’s a tad unfair to compare the two, what with Nico joining a solid but unspectacular mid-pack team whilst Hamilton leapt right in to a title challenging McLaren.
Added to the hype Nico endured a lackluster start to the season. In Bahrain he qualified 13th and finished 14th, losing time along the way with a spin; in Australia he was 15th on the grid and completed all of 2 corners before being eliminated by Kobayashi.
But today he was mighty impressive. Progressing to Q3 for the first time he sealed 5th spot on the grid, 2 places ahead of teammate Rubens Barichello. Rubens is no slouch in the wet, and Hulkenberg has done a top job to be ahead of the Brazilian. If he manages to beat Rubens in tomorrow’s race we might start to see the mild mannered German’s transformation in to The Incredible Hulk.
After a nightmare weekend in Australia Kamui Kobayashi bounced back today with his best F1 qualifying result to date.
The Japanese racer had a mare down under, mostly due to his Sauber’s front wing. He lost it more than once in practice and then on lap one of the race, causing an almighty shunt that he was lucky to walk away from uninjured.
Today he was right on it. 6th quickest in Q2 comfortably sent him through to the top-10 shootout where he set the 9th quickest time- just 6 hundredths of a second slower than Michael Schumacher. With hugely experienced teammate Pedro de la Rosa qualifying 12th Kobayashi can be very pleased with his effort today.
The wet conditions no doubt helped him. Japanese drivers often excel in the wet, learning their skills from a young age in a country that has more rainy race days than Silverstone in the winter. Nevertheless he found the conditions tricky.
“It is not easy to drive in the wet because of aquaplaning, which obviously will get worse if it rains tomorrow because of the heavy cars for the race start. But I am determined to score points tomorrow”.
So tomorrow Kamui just needs to keep the car on the track- and if the weather’s anything like today that wont be easy- and try to bring it home for some points. Peter Sauber won’t want his driver taking any risks, but we wouldn’t mind seeing a few more banzai moves from Japan’s fastest man.
After Q1 it became clear that either Timo Glock or Heikki Kovalainen would make it on to this list, and Heikki just edges it, having out-qualified Timo by a quarter of a second. The Finn will start tomorrow’s race 15th in his Lotus- a great result for the green and yellow cars on home turf.
Okay, he’s there because quicker cars got it wrong, but whose fault is that? Lotus called qualifying correctly and deserve to be ahead of the McLarens and the Ferraris on the grid. They’re the quickest and most reliable of the new teams, and with Tony Fernandes’ business brain and Mike Gascoyne’s technical ability they look good for the future. Sure, they’ll probably get passed by a few cars early on tomorrow, but this is still a big moment in the team’s development. Boss Fernandes was in jubilant mood after qualifying.
“To get 15th place in our home country, in front of our home crowd is amazing. I’m over the moon and just so excited”.
We shouldn’t leave Virgin out though, as getting to Q2 is a huge achievement for them as well. They didn’t have a great session, with Lucas di Grassi suffering technical problems that leave him last on the grid, but like Lotus they made the right call in getting Glock out on track early. It’s just a shame their fuel tank isn’t big enough to get to the end of the race.
So those are Badger’s picks for the stars of qualifying from outside the top teams. Got any names to add to the list? Get involved and let us know who impressed you today.