Lost in safety car scandal: Schumi’s worst finish, Kamui’s passing, Williams’ resurgence

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Believe it or not, there were other drivers in Valencia on Sunday besides Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso (and Mark Webber).

First off, a bit safety-car related is the fact the Michael Schumacher had his worst-ever finish in a grand prix (finish, right, not including DNFs). Here’s his reaction:

“What a race. We would like to have clarification about the safety car situation as the red light on the exit from my first pit stop destroyed a race which otherwise would have offered us very good possibilities. Our point of view is that as the safety car had passed the pits without having the cars lined up behind it, there should not have been a red light. There was a green light for a moment and then suddenly it went red again. We believe that this was not correct. Our strategy was right in that context as we took the opportunity which could have given us a finish even close to the podium.”

He was running third at the time, after leaping ahead of some of those who pitted following Mark Webber’s crash, which maybe can quiet some of the attacks on him. That he ended up having such a bad finish, even if it wasn’t his fault, won’t help, though. Major up and down weekend for him.

But now on to the major ups — Kamui Kobayashi and Williams.

Kamui! Wow. Some amazing passing to claim seventh spot, and he was joined in 10th before all the five second penalties by team mate Pedro de la Rosa.

But for my money, Kamui is one of the big stories of the race. His passes on Fernando Alonso on the last lap and then Sebastien Buemi in the last corner were the moves we were expecting from him. If Sauber is getting the car sorted, I wonder if Kamui might not have a role in how some of the teams finish this year. Maybe not the top teams, but he could alter how Force India, Williams and maybe even Renault finish (not to mention Sauber!).

Here’s the team. Nice to see Peter Sauber sounding enthusiastic again, and he sure applauds Kamui:

Kamui Kobayashi: 7th
C29.02 / Ferrari 056
“Before the race we had decided to use separate tyre strategies for Pedro and me. I started on the harder ones and didn’t pit when everybody else did. It was great racing there at the front, but it was not easy either because I had Jenson Button close behind me all the time, and also I had to look after my tyres. I was careful not to overdrive them. After my pit stop I had only four laps to make use of my fresh tyres. At this moment I had better grip than anybody else, and I felt I had to make the most out of it. Of course it was a risk to overtake Alonso and Buemi. If it hadn’t worked out and I had crashed I would have been in trouble.”

Pedro de la Rosa: 10th
C29.04 / Ferrari 056
“It was a great race from the team. The strategy paid off and the car was really good under race conditions. For most of the race I was stuck in traffic. The last 12 laps were very difficult for me because I had a big flat spot on my front right tyre, and the vibrations in the car were quite bad. I didn’t say this over the radio to the team, as I wanted to save them from bad news during the race because we have had enough of that. I am very, very happy for the entire team that we scored these points today. It is a great team and they deserve to be happy.“

Peter Sauber, Team Principal:
“What a fantastic race, particularly considering where we were on the grid. The team and the drivers did everything right today. Pedro delivered a very solid performance and scored one point, and Kamui was absolutely amazing. The lap times which he put in while he was in third were stunning. They prove how much potential there is in this car. Congratulations to the whole team and the drivers!”

James Key, Technical Director:
“It was a very good result for the team and an excellent race from both drivers who managed to bring the cars home in the points, which we needed and the team deserved. Given our qualifying performance yesterday, we decided to split our strategy, and the plan was to go as far as possible for Kamui on the harder compound. For Pedro we chose a more standard approach. He started on the option tyres and stopped during the safety car period at exactly the right time. He was able to complete the race on the prime tyres, which lasted very well. With Kamui we decided to leave him out and keep a very close eye on his lap times and also the traffic behind him. His performance in the race when he was holding third was absolutely outstanding. He was putting in some very quick lap times, and holding Button behind him without coming under much pressure. We should be very happy with this result. It was a great effort from the team and the drivers.”

And then Williams. The team was close to having two points finishes until Nico Hulkenberg’s car gave out on him. Here’s the team’s reactions:

Rubens Barrichello:
It was great fun out there today and the car was behaving well throughout the race. We really seem to be heading in the right direction with the development of the car and I hope that this improved performance continues for the rest of the season.

Nico Hulkenberg:
It was going really well and points were definitely possible today. I was running in tenth before the safety car came out. It wasn’t good timing for me because I had called in a flat spot on my tyre half a lap earlier and wanted to pit but by then it was too late. Combined with having to stack, I really lost all my places there. When the safety car came in I couldn’t keep Alonso behind me, but after that it was quite a processional race up until something caught fire on my car. That obviously ended it for me.

Sam Michael, Technical Director:
That was a good performance today by both cars, and definitely a step forward. Unfortunately, an exhaust failure cost Nico a possible point today and we will be investigating the cause back at the factory. The team is now looking forward to its home race at Silverstone and consolidating the step in performance we’ve made with further upgrades for the FW32.

Although Force India is still 23 points up on Williams, I think Adrian Sutil (who finished a strong sixth) and Vitantonio Liuzzi might need to start checking their rearview mirrors.

Oh! In Sutil’s there are Williams. But… in Liuzzi’s… is that Paul di Resta?

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