Robert Kubica has conceded that Renault won’t enjoy the dizzy heights it rose to on previous street circuit events such as Monaco and Valencia, and put this down to the team slowing its rate of development on the 2010 car as it gears up for next season.
The Pole qualified a relatively lowly eighth on the grid for Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix, when many had expected that he would be a podium, or even race-winning, contender in the lead-up to this round of the championship season.
“We need to stay realistic at this stage of the season because the top three teams are still pushing very hard to develop their cars, while we only brought a small upgrade here,” he said after qualifying.
“Mercedes and Williams have also been at a very similar pace to us for several races, so we knew we would be fighting in the second half of the top ten today and that meant it was difficult to achieve much more than P8,” he added.
“The car is lacking overall grip, and sliding front and rear, but I was quite happy with my lap. Our timing meant we only did one timed lap in Q3, so it was all or nothing, and I think I got nearly all the potential out of the car.”
Unless some safety car interventions or strategic nous come into play, Kubica could be the only point-scoring representative in the squad, with team-mate Vitaly Petrov thoring away another Q3 berth when he rear-ended the barriers at Turn 5 during Q2.
The Russian driver qualified 13th-quickest, but will be promoted to 12th by dint of a five-place grid penalty to Nico Hülkenberg.
The accident will be of no help to burying the constant speculation that Petrov could be dumped by the squad at season’s end, with the GP2 runner-up suffering yet another Saturday mishap that has been an alarming feature of his maiden F1 season. The rookie has suffered similar accidents in Malaysia, China, Monaco and Belgium.
“I had gone through Q1 on the prime tyres, and was pushing hard on the options when I went too deep on braking for turn five, lost control of the car and hit the wall with the right rear wheel,” a rueful Petrov said after qualifying.
“The corner was still damp from the rain this afternoon, like it has been most of the weekend, and it just caught me out: it was my mistake. I know that it’s going to be a tough race tomorrow, especially because overtaking is so difficult here in Singapore.”