First off, a massive well done to Red Bull for their superb one-two in today’s qualifying in Melbourne. All praise is of course due to Sebastien and Mark, both of whom did mega jobs to make the front-row an all Red Bull affair.
But that car is a Formula One driver’s dream. The drivers are practically thinking it round the corners, and the balance and stability it has is unbelievable. Undoubtedly they are among the stars of today’s session, as are Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg, all of whom did great jobs to beat their teammates. But there were some other stellar performances on the track today; performances that might have ended up off the radar.
These came from the guys outside the top 4 teams, drivers whose cars aren’t the quickest but who are draining every bit of performance they can from them. They’re fighting tooth and nail to make it to Q3 and snatch 9th on the grid. Or, on a day like today, something a tad better.
With Lewis Hamilton’s elimination in Q2 three drivers from outside F1’s powerhouses progressed to the top-10 shootout, and it is those three who really impressed in today’s qualifying. Take a bow Rubens Barichello, Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil.
We were leafing through the F1 Badger Formula One dictionary today and found this entry: Evergreen. Adjective of or denoting a Formula One driver who, after 17 years in the sport, still impresses us with his speed, charm and enthusiasm.
Yep, Rubens Barichello is the definition of an evergreen F1 driver. In today’s qualifying session he was best of the rest, grabbing a superb 8th position on the grid- right next to old chum Michael Schumacher. He made it to Q3 with a lap nearly three-quarters of a second quicker than that of much-vaunted teammate Nico Hulkenberg, then pipped Robert Kubica to 8th spot in the final session. In the end he was just three-tenths shy of Schumacher, a huge achievement for the Brazilian and his Williams-Cosworth team.
But, being a perfectionist, Rubens was left wanting more. “Eighth is a nice result, but I know everyone in the team aims a lot higher. I’m sure we will get there, but right now that is the limit of the car”, the Brazilian said after qualifying.
Some thought last season’s performances in the Brawn were a mere blip in the downwards spiral of Barichello’s F1 career. Wrong. Rubens is extracting all he can from that Williams and showing young Hulkenberg how it’s done. He’s a man still very much in love with Formula One, and long may that continue.
He was best of the rest in qualifying in Bahrain, but today Robert Kubica had to settle for second, behind Barichello. No shame in that though, and another performance that shows Kubica to be one of, if no the quickest driver outside the top 4 teams.
Kubica was quickest in Friday practice, and that Renault looks pretty useful in his hands. He’s said he’s happier with the team than he was at BMW, and it’s showing in his driving. Teammate Petrov fell in Q1, so Robert is very much the main man for the Enstone-based squad.
Having missed out on points in Bahrain Kubica will be hoping to put that right tomorrow, and he’s in a great position to do so.
Adrian Sutil also made it to Q3 for the second race in a row, and lines up 10th on the grid. But what do we know about Adrian? He crashes a lot; he’s a dab hand at the piano; and he uses more gel in his hair than the rest of the grid combined. Oh, and he’s also maturing in to a very quick F1 driver.
This year’s Force India looks good, and Sutil, now in his 4th year at the team, is in a great position to take advantage of that. Today’s result is a big boost to him and Vijay Mallya’s team.
But Sutil wasn’t happy with his performance, as evidenced by his post-qualifying comments: “I made two runs in Q3 and neither were particularly great as the soft tyres didn’t seem to get up to temperature. We’ve had a good pace through the weekend so we have a strong platform to go from but let’s see what will happen on Sunday”. More to come from Sutil then, let’s see what he can do tomorrow.
A couple of honourable mentions. Sebastien Buemi did a solid job in qualifying, taking 12th on the grid and convincingly beating teammate Jaime Alguersuari. A good day too for Lotus, who got both of their cars ahead of both Virgin Racing machines; the Norfolk team now adding a bit of pace to their superior reliability. And finally HRT, who are once again doing well just to get their cars to the grid. That sort of sympathy will run out soon though.
The battles at the front in this year’s championship are many, and they’re all so full of intruige that it’d be easy to lose sight of the drivers futher down the grid who put in as much in to their performance as any of the guys at the front. So, when they get the job done, Badger salutes them. Now let’s see if they can win a bit more of our praise in tomorrow’s race.