Monday, November 29, 1999

Kubica hails Renault return to front row

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Poland's Robert Kubica celebrated Renault's return to the quick end of the Formula One starting grid on Saturday after he qualified on the front row for the Monaco Grand Prix.The French manufacturer, world champions in 2005 and 2006, failed to win a race last year and ended the season in turmoil with a suspended permanent ban from the sport after a race-fixing scandal.Although Fernando Alonso took pole in Hungary last July, before the scandal broke, and finished third in Singapore, the team's future was up in the air until a takeover was agreed in December with Luxembourg-based businessman Gerard Lopez.Since then, Kubica has helped revive their fortunes with some determined drives and Saturday's qualifying was his best grid placing of the year so far."It's a great day for us," he told reporters. "Five months ago the team was not sure whether we would exist and we are here in Monaco on the front row."Kubica finished second in Australia, fourth in Malaysia and fifth in China and is now a challenger again for what would be only the second win of his career.In Spain last weekend he had qualified only seventh, well adrift of Australian Mark Webber's Red Bull on pole. Webber was again on pole in Monaco but the gap was reduced to less than three tenths of a second this time."If the same car (Webber's) is one and a half seconds quicker in Barcelona, there is no reason why we should qualify in front of them," Poland's first and only F1 driver said of his performance."I was already surprised by our pace in free practice and qualifying but miracles don't happen from one day to another."Of course when you are so close you are a bit upset but we have to be realistic and it was a great day for all of Renault."Kubica, always at home on a street circuit and winner in Canada in 2008 with BMW Sauber, was confident for the race."Generally the characteristic of the car is similar to two days ago and to this morning, actually this morning I felt the car was a bit better with changes more for the race," he said."I was scared with a lot of fuel we would have too much bottoming, so we put up a bit the ride height and raised the car a qualifying we were slightly at a disadvantage but I think for the race it will be a bit better."Of course in Monaco the race is a bit different, it is not about race pace but bringing the car home, pitting at the right moment, getting out of pitstop without traffic," said the Pole.(Editing by Alison WildeyTo query or comment on this story email
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