SPA // Sport's ability to turn joy to despair is well documented, yet even so the staff of Sauber were left shaking their heads in disbelief last night as the team's first front-row start for 16 years vanished before Kamui Kobayashi had even reached the first turn in the Belgian Grand Prix yesterday.
Kobayashi had achieved his best qualifying result of his career on Saturday at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps with second place and in doing so became the first Japanese driver to start an F1 race on the front row, with his teammate Sergio Perez two places farther back.
However, overheated brakes produced a slow start off the line and then the 25 year old ended up caught up in the opening-lap wreckage as Romain Grosjean, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso all came together, with the incident also ending Perez's race.
"This is a terrible race result after we had been doing so well in qualifying," Kobayashi said.
"There was nothing I could do when a car came flying into mine after the start. I had to pit once for some repairs and then again after seven laps because of a slow puncture."
The side pod of Kobayashi's car was heavily damaged in the crash, but he continued to race unaware of the extent. It was only after finishing 13th that he was able to fully appreciate the damage.
"During the race, I didn't really know how bad the damage to the car was, but I could see a tyre print on the cockpit all the time," he said.
"Later in parc ferme I understood why I was so slow, as the side pod and some other bodywork had gone."
Monisha Kaltenborn, the marque's chief executive, lamented her team's lack of fortune, but said they must remain upbeat.
"We have to take the positive out of this weekend that if we don't make mistakes and get the right qualifying we can be right in front, and that has to be our target again for the next race," she said.
Both Sauber drivers saw their starts hindered by Pastor Maldonado, the Williams driver who was lined up behind them.
The Venezuelan was deemed to have performed a jump start and was given a five-place grid penalty for the next race in Monza next weekend.
He was also given a second five-place grid penalty for his involvement in a collision with Timo Glock, the Marussia driver, which ended his race.
Maldonado acknowledged he made an error on the grid, but said he is keen to get behind the wheel again at the Italian Grand Prix next Sunday and make amends for his brief outing in Spa.
"I made a slight mistake at the start because the clutch slipped out of my hands before the red light switched off," he said.
"We then got caught up in the first corner incident and that compromised our race.
"I'm disappointed because we could have scored some good points here, but it's not long until the next race, so we're looking forward now."