Robert Kubica's 2010 Japanese Grand Prix Q3 lap (lost audio of Formula One qualifying lap; 2010)
On 10th October 2010, during Qualifying Session 3 (Q3) of the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix, Renault driver Robert Kubica set a time of 1:31.231. This was enough for him to start fourth on the grid out of 24 competitors, which was bumped up to third when McLaren-Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was demoted following a gearbox change. The lap has been considered one of the greatest qualifying laps in Formula One history among some racing experts and fans, with Kubica himself noting it as an "extreme" lap.
Heading into the Japanese Grand Prix, Kubica was receiving high praise for his overall performance. That season, he had managed to overachieve in a Renault R30, a car not especially regarded for its competitiveness. Among his strong results included a second at the Australian Grand Prix, and a pair of third places at the Monaco and Belgian Grand Prix. By the season's conclusion, Kubica had accumulated 136 points, enough to rank him 8th in the Drivers Championship. He was only a few points behind Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and had considerably outscored 9th place Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher. Additionally, his teammate Vitaly Petrov could only score 27 points all season, leaving him ranked 13th.
Such was Kubica's competitiveness in an unfancied car, it had led to some Formula One journalist to deem him a future World Champion. Among those included Mark Hughes, who claimed that Kubica may well have been the best driver in the sport at the time. Additionally, Renault Technical Director James Allison stated, "If we can give him a car that's even half capable of getting a championship he'll get one."
The Japanese Grand Prix Q3 lap
Aside from the podiums Kubica earned, Hughes also cited a lap Kubica completed during Q3 of the Japanese Grand Prix as another sign the Polish driver could become a World Champion. Kubica set the 11th and 9th fastest times in Q1 and Q2, granting him access to Q3, which decided the order of the top ten fastest competitors. For qualifying, Kubica opted for a set-up designed for maximum speed along the straights. To the surprise of even Kubica's biggest supporters, the Renault driver posted a time of 1:31.231, which would be the fourth fastest of that session, behind only the Red Bull-Renaults of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, and the McLaren-Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. Kubica himself was amazed and was unable to speak during televised interviews, having to take ten minutes away to contemplate what he had achieved. According to Renault sporting director Alan Permane, Kubica actually frightened himself with the lap, stating "Suzuka qualifying in 2010 was a lap like I've never seen from anyone else, ever. He came in absolutely white, having scared the life out of himself."
The lap time was 1.1 seconds faster than Petrov's, and 0.8 seconds quicker than his Q2 time. In an r/formula1 AMA, Kubica noted that while the Renault was easy to drive, it had floor issues during Q3, resulting in a loss of downforce. Thus, when he posted that time, he felt blown away from such an "extreme" lap. Kubica would start third in the race after Hamilton was penalised for a gearbox change. While he passed Weber on the opening lap, he only completed two laps before retiring after a wheel fell off. Ultimately, Kubica's Formula One career was cut short following a near-fatal rallying accident in 2011. He would however compete in the 2019 Formula One World Championship, driving a Williams-Mercedes.
Although the qualifying lap received acclaim, footage of it remained lost for many years. Although Kubica stated in his AMA that he was hoping to get Formula One to publicly release the on-board footage, this never came to fruition. However, on 9th May 2019, Padokowe Świry uploaded the full on-board footage of the lap, stating a fan found it on a Japanese website. The audio of the lap remains lost, however, as it was covered over by a compilation of three on-board laps.
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- BBC Sport where Mark Hughes claimed Kubica was the greatest Formula One driver in 2010, based on his performances including at the Japanese Grand Prix. Retrieved 4th Jul '22
- BBC Sport detailing Kubica's 2010 performance, his Q3 lap, and the rallying accident that cut short his career. Retrieved 4th Jul '22
- Formula 1 detailing the final 2010 Formula One Drivers Championship standings. Retrieved 4th Jul '22
- Formula1 detailing the qualifying results of the Japanese Grand Prix. Retrieved 4th Jul '22
- Autosport summarising Kubica's performance in qualifying and in the race. Retrieved 4th Jul '22
- Motorsport reporting on qualifying, noting Kubica was promoted to third following Hamilton being penalised. Retrieved 4th Jul '22
- r/formula1 AMA where Kubica discussed the lap and aimed to find the on-board footage of it. Retrieved 4th Jul '22
- One Stop Racing citing the lap as one of the greatest in Formula One history. Retrieved 4th Jul '22
- r/formula1 post analysing Kubica's lap. Retrieved 4th Jul '22
- Racing-Reference detailing the results of the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix. Retrieved 4th Jul '22
- Sky Sports reporting on Kubica returning to Formula One in 2019 with Williams. Retrieved 4th Jul '22
- r/formula1 discussing the on-board footage being found. Retrieved 4th Jul '22