Robert Kubica took part in his first Formula 1 qualifying session in over eight years on Saturday, but a puncture during Q1 left him at the bottom of the pile and at the back of the grid for the 2019 Australian Grand Prix.
“It wasn’t the best start of the season especially because I am last on the grid,” sighed the Polish driver, who clipped the wall on his final run.
“I made a mistake on the last run when I had a good feeling and could drive the car better,” he admitted. “I apologise for that, but that is how it is.”
Kubica’s problems ended up hampering Carlos Sainz’s final flying lap, and as a result the McLaren driver also failed to make it through to Q2.
“On my first attempt I did a very strong lap, even if we had an engine issue,” said Sainz. “We were improving a lot – good enough for top ten, top eight – when suddenly I found Robert in the last sector with a punctured car.
“There was nothing he could have done differently,” he added. “It was just bad timing, the wrong moment at the wrong time. We met each other at turn 14 and I had to back off and lose three or four-tenths.
“It is an incredible run of bad luck. We were on a good enough lap to be in the top eight.”
Sainz will start from 18th place on tomorrow’s grid, just ahead of an all-Williams back row.
“[It] was a real shame that [Robert] had a puncture on his final lap which meant we couldn’t get to see his ultimate time,” commented Williams’ senior race engineer Dave Robson.
Kubica’s misfortune also meant that he was unable to dodge the wooden spoon by challenging his rookie team mate George Russell. He ended up 1.7s slower than the young Briton.
“He was a good step up when he got the problem,” Robson pointed out. “I have every reason to think that he would have been very close to George come the end.”
Russell was happy to have come out on top against his experienced team mate, but there was no question just how far off the pace the FW42 had been looking all through the weekend.
Russell’s best time was still over a second off Sainz’s compromised pace, leaving the Williams team with a mountain to climb to get back on even terms with their rivals.
“All I can do is drive as fast as I can and I felt like I did that,” said Russell, who won last year’s Formula 2 title to secure his dream promotion into F1 over the winter.
“It felt like a really good lap, driving round a mega track at full beans,” he commented, his enthusiasm undimmed by the reality of Williams’ performance level.
“I got in three tidy laps and I am happy with my own performance but obviously we are a team and we want to push for more,” he said.
“The guys around me, the engineers, and myself, we did a really great job to get everything out of the package we’ve got.”
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