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Kobayashi signing justified after Valencia - Sauber

ESPNF1 Staff
June 30, 2010 « Formula One targets greener future | »
Kamui Kobayashi kept Jenson Button at bay in Valencia © Getty Images
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Peter Sauber believes his decision to take on Kamui Kobayashi this year has been justified by his recent performance at the European Grand Prix.

Kobayashi finished seventh and scored six points in Valencia, after adopting a completely different strategy to the rest of the field. He decided not to pit during the safety car period and was running third for most of the race, putting in fast lap times that eventually allowed him to leapfrog much of the midfield.

After his stop he emerged in ninth but then overtook Fernando Alonso's Ferrari and Sebastien Buemi's Toro Rosso in the remaining laps. Sauber, who employed Kobayashi on the strength of two races with Toyota at the end of 2009, said his decision had been vindicated.

"I can only think of one word for it [his drive] - amazing," Sauber enthused. "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; on Sunday Kamui delivered confirmation that we made the right decision."

He added that Kobayashi's quick lap times while running in third place were proof that Sauber's 2010 car could be competitive when everything is working well.

"These kinds of lap times are only possible if both the driver and the car are quick; there's no other way. The C29 has a huge amount of potential, but it doesn't make it easy for our engineers and drivers to fully exploit this potential every time. When I compare our qualifying performance in Valencia with the lap times in the race, I can't work it out."

Kobayashi said the car was enjoyable to drive but still fell short in qualifying.

"It's very clear that our weakness lies in qualifying," he said after lining up 18th on the grid in Valencia. "If we can secure a better position on the grid for the races, we'll be able to score points more often. In Valencia, especially, there was a pretty big difference in track conditions between qualifying and the race. In the race, the asphalt offered a lot more grip, and that helped us. The track became more and more grippy and, at the same time, braking stability and traction improved as the car got lighter."

Technical director James Key revealed the car would be updated of the coming races, as the team tries to iron out its fluctuating form.

"We are currently in the process of splitting our resources as best we can between the current car and the C30," Key said. "We are a private team and we don't have unlimited resources to do everything we want. For Silverstone we have some front wing updates and modifications around the middle of the car. Then for Hockenheim we will have a rear end update which includes a diffuser step as well. The numbers in the wind tunnel are progressing well. At the same time we are focusing on Spa and Monza for lower downforce and drag configurations. And there will be further steps towards the end of the year."