Qualifying - selected team and driver quotes 03 Oct 2009
Local hero Kazuki Nakajima on failing to make it through to Q2 in front of his home crowd for Williams; Toro Rossos Jaime Alguersuari on his high-speed crash; and Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel on seizing the advantage in his fight for the title. All 20 drivers and senior team personnel report back on the action
Sebastian Vettel (1st, Q3 - 1m 32.160s):
I did my best not to get distracted today; it was a strange session with a lot of incidents. The most important thing is that all the drivers are OK. In Qualifying, its usual that youre looking for the limit, as its about just one fast lap time, but Turn Nine, where the people went off, is quite difficult. If you go too wide on that kerb youre basically just a passenger, as you cant get rid of the speed. Theres not much run-off, so the wall is close and people hit it. For the other cars, sometimes youre lucky and the red flag is called just as youre about to warm up your tyres, but sometimes its called when youve started your flying lap. The car worked fantastically today and we were quickest in Q1, Q2 and Q3. The most difficult was probably Q3, due to running with race fuel and only having one lap. Its not easy through the S-bends and the tyres dont really last for a second lap. Im very happy, were back to full strength since Singapore and have now put the car on pole. A good day today, now lets see tomorrow.
Mark Webber (20th, Q1 - no time):
You think of the preparation that goes into a weekend like this, so to not have the opportunity to do the race from a decent grid position is very tough for all of us especially the guys in the garage. It wasnt a big crash by any means, but it did too much damage to the chassis, so we have to change it. We dont have spare cars these days, so thats the outcome and its a shame. We made a few changes to the car for the final run and I lost control when it bottomed-out through Turn Eight.
Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal:
A great performance by Sebastian and the team. We were fastest in all three sessions and have a healthy fuel load for the race; well wait with interest to see the fuel figures later today. So, a good start for Sebastian. Its unfortunate for Mark not to be able to take part in qualifying when the car has proved so competitive here. Its important tomorrow that we attack the race from both ends of the grid.
Fabrice Lom, Renault, principal engineer track support:
A fantastic result - especially on this track, which requires a lot of power from the engine and a very good chassis - and we have both! Pole position is the best we could do today, so lets wait for the weights and see if we can turn it into a win. It was such a shame for Mark. He was in very good shape, but unfortunately lost the car - although were rebuilding it now to give him the chance to fight back tomorrow. Qualifying proved this is a difficult track, as a lot of people lost their cars in the same place.
Jarno Trulli (2nd, Q3 - 1m 32.220s):
"Obviously I feel for Timo because we could both have been starting at the front of the grid today. It was good to hear quickly from the team that he is okay; just a bit upset he isn't in the top six with me. It was a crazy qualifying session in general with all the red flags and I am really happy with this result, especially in front of all our Japanese fans. The whole team has done a great job this weekend with our updated package to give me this chance to qualify on the front row. They have provided me with a car to fight at the front and I want to say thanks to them. My priority in qualifying was to keep my concentration because I knew we had a good chance to get a strong result. I think my lap time was the maximum I could get out of the car so I am very pleased with it. Now I am looking forward to the race tomorrow when obviously my aim is to finish on the podium in Toyota's home Grand Prix. I hope the first lap is clean and then I will do my best to get a great result."
Pascal Vasselon, Toyota senior general manager chassis:
"All in all it was a very good day for Jarno which confirmed our package works really well on this kind of aero-dominated track. We saw already this morning that he was on for a great day and he had a really strong qualifying. We are obviously disappointed to miss out on pole position by less than a tenth of a second but confident our strategy will be very competitive tomorrow. For Timo it has been a different story. We are frustrated of course that he didn't qualify where we expected but happy that he is okay because that is always our priority. It was a heavy impact but the data shows no sign of anything unusual on that lap."
Lewis Hamilton (3rd, Q3 - 1m 32.395s):
We didnt expect to be as competitive as we were this afternoon. Our car was tricky this morning and we had to make some significant changes between sessions. It was impossible to extract the best from the car, especially through the first sector. We didnt have much time to develop a dry set-up so we went into qualifying hoping that the changes would work - and they did. Ive said it before, but I really love this circuit, its so much fun and has such history and character; I feel honoured and overwhelmed to be driving where the great drivers of the past have raced. I would love to win here tomorrow, and Ill do everything I can to do so: Ill drive my heart out. Although the Red Bull will be very hard to beat, theres a long run down to Turn One and our KERS is working better than ever. Sebastian has more to worry about than I do, too. Hell be looking at the world championship, Im just here to have a good time and score some points for my team to help us move further up the constructors championship table.
Heikki Kovalainen (9th, Q3 - no time):
I went a bit too fast into Turn Eight, over the kerb, and the car broke out and I couldn't get it back on the track. So it was game over. Todays three accidents prove that everybody is pushing the limit as much as possible as the running time in the dry was very limited. The car felt good, the balance was okay and we should be in good shape for tomorrow. I now hope that the damage on my car wont be so bad that my mechanics have to spend the night repairing it.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal:
After very limited dry running prior to todays qualifying session, Lewis did a great job to qualify third. As a result, starting from the clean side of the track, assisted by KERS Hybrid, he should be able to make good progress off the start line tomorrow. We werent happy with his car this morning, but he and his engineers worked patiently yet determinedly in the gap between todays sessions, and the results were clear to see. Heikki ran wide at Turn Eight when pushing hard in Q3, and lost the car and the lap as a result, but these things happen when youre really on it - and, to be fair to Heikki, hes made very few such mistakes this year. Besides, with a carefully crafted strategy, backed up by some forceful driving on his part, he should be able to make up some places during the course of tomorrows race. So, in summary, having bagged a dozen world championship points in Singapore last weekend, our intention is to score heavily again here in Japan.
Norbert Haug, vice-president Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
What a qualifying session - three times red flags, and finally P3 for Lewis who, again, did an excellent job on this challenging track that he has never driven on before. Lewiss lap time for third place on the grid after three pole positions in the last four Grands Prix is less than two and a half tenths down on Sebastian Vettels pole time whom I sincerely wish to congratulate for his first place of today. However, it is quite a long way into the first corner here at Suzuka and I am sure Lewis is planning to give the two guys ahead of him a run for their money tomorrow once the race has started. Heikki suffered from an off in Q3 after a very solid performance during his first Suzuka weekend, being quickest yesterday and today and being also fully competitive until his unplanned excursion. After three very hectic and challenging qualifying sessions, the most important news is that Timo Glock is safe after his accident. Everyone in our team wishes Timo well, and I am sure the whole paddock - and especially his German fans back home - have the same feelings.
Adrian Sutil (4th, Q1 - 1m 32.466s):
It was always a good feeling to go to a track you know, where you feel good and the confidence is there. Our car has performed well on these type of circuits in the past and we've had a strong weekend so far but we did not expect to be able to race in the top five, so fourth is a really great position for the start tomorrow. It was a long session, with so many red flags that we had to cancel a few laps and come in and then try to focus again. Finally it was okay and on the last few laps the car felt great. Third was also very close, just a few hundredths away, but unfortunately Lewis just took it right at the very end of the session! We had a really hard weekend in Singapore and it's nice to be back: it's just fantastic for the team. Tomorrow it will be a tough, long race but I'm just going to focus on what I have to do. I will do my best.
Vitantonio Liuzzi (19th, Q3 - 1m 32.087s):
We had a few issues in the morning in free practice with the gearbox and we couldn't test everything we needed to, including the soft tyres, which cost us a lot. The guys did a great job to change the 'box and get out again for qualifying but we had a lot of understeer in qualifying and it was not 100 percent as a result. To make it worse I have not been feeling at my best today so it's a combination of everything really. I hope for more tomorrow for sure.
Simon Roberts, Force India chief operating officer:
It's a great result for Adrian and a real boost for the team after a difficult Singapore Grand Prix weekend. He drove a fantastic qualifying, often with just one chance to get it right and under a lot of pressure, and his efforts were rewarded with another good starting position. We're very hopeful for tomorrow; we feel we have a good strategy, Adrian knows the track well and feels confident around here. It was unfortunate that Tonio could not progress beyond Q1 but with the limited time available to change his gearbox between sessions he didn't quite get the lap together. But well done to all the team for turning it around so quickly and I'm sure Tonio will come back stronger in the race tomorrow.
Rubens Barrichello (5th, Q3 - 1m 32.660s):
"I'm happy with my qualifying today considering the pace that we have here in Suzuka. We didn't have particularly competitive sessions in Q1 and Q2 and it was difficult to predict where we might end up. However my car worked well on race fuel loads and in terms of the championship, I'm pleased to be ahead of Jenson on comparable fuel loads in the final session. It was tough today and you had to maintain your concentration despite all the incidents and delays. Suzuka is a fantastic track, one of the best that we race on, but today shows just how tricky it is to drive."
Jenson Button (7th, Q3 - 1m 32.962s):
"It wasn't the easiest of qualifying sessions with so little practice yesterday and all of the interruptions. Three red flags during qualifying is very unusual and I hope that everyone involved is ok. It wasn't too stressful as we had all the information that we needed and just had to keep calm and focus on our next run. The car was working well in the first two sessions and definitely felt better on low fuel. With fuel onboard in Q3 I struggled with rear grip through the first sector and that's where I lost the time on my quick lap as the car was working well through the rest of the lap. We expected this and knew that we would have to make the best of the situation."
Ross Brawn, Brawn team principal:
"Today's qualifying was quite chaotic with long delays in the final two sessions and I'm pleased with how the team reacted to the changing circumstances and kept calm throughout. We were realistic on our expectations prior to qualifying and it is evident that our major area of concern comes in the first sector where our car seems to struggle with the change of direction required through the S Curves. Both drivers did a good job to combat this issue where possible.
Nick Heidfeld (6th, Q3 - 1m 32.945s):
Im happy with my qualifying performance. I had a really good lap in Q3. I wasnt too optimistic for qualifying because in free practice this morning I struggled a bit with the set-up and had to go for a compromise. In Q2 I saw the yellow flags and lifted my foot off the pedal and raised an arm to indicate I had reduced speed where I was required to. I was a couple of tenths slower. Obviously it was a very strange qualifying. I have never known one before with so many accidents and I hope Timo is ok.
Robert Kubica (13th, Q2 - 1m 32.341s):
My qualifying was totally disappointing. All my flying laps in the second session were destroyed by red or yellow flags. In the entire fifteen minutes we were not able to do one quick timed lap. Qualifying for tomorrows race in 13th is far from ideal. Suzuka is a fantastic track but overtaking isnt too easy here. It is how it is. I hope Timo is ok. I wish him all the best.
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport director:
I have not witnessed a qualifying with five accidents despite perfect weather conditions. First and foremost we hope that Timo Glock has not suffered any serious injuries. Several red flags also influenced our qualifying result. In the second session both Robert and Nick had to cancel their quickest flying lap. Nick narrowly made it into the top ten qualifying, while Robert had to retire after the second session. After the final break during the last qualifying session Nick managed to qualify in sixth. This is a good starting position for tomorrows race.
Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber head of engineering:
It was an incident packed and almost 90 minutes long qualifying with three red flags. The whole operation was handled without any mistakes by our crew. Nick being sixth is in a good position for tomorrow´s race. We are satisfied with that and well prepared for the race. Robert was unlucky when he had to slow down in his last and decisive run in Q2 due to a yellow flag. He lost some valuable time there. We all hope that Timo is not seriously injured.
Kimi Raikkonen (8th, Q3 - 1m 32.980s):
I dont think we could have expected much more today. We know what our potential is and we have to accept that. Here, the situation is definitely better than in Singapore, but we continue to struggle, especially with a lack of aerodynamic downforce, which makes itself felt especially in the first sector. Overall, the car is working well and its nice to drive on such a demanding track as this, where the slightest error is heavily punished, as we saw today. Its a shame I didnt have new soft tyres for Q3, but we had to use them earlier to avoid being knocked out: all in all it was a good qualifying. Tomorrow, we will try and have a good race: it will be difficult to fight for the top spots, but we will try and we can count on having a good strategy.
Giancarlo Fisichella (16th, Q1 - 1m 31.704s):
I am very disappointed not to have made it through to Q2. We only had this mornings free practice to prepare the car in the dry, but I think all the same, I improved my performance level, growing ever more confident in the F60. On my final timed lap, I made a mistake which probably cost me the time I needed to get into the next part. Tomorrow, the aim is to get into the points: I know it will be very difficult, starting from the eighth row, but with a good strategy, maybe I can do it.
Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal:
We have to be realistic and recognise that this reflects our actual performance level. Kimi produced another great showing, getting the most out of a car that, partly due to our strategy regarding next year, is definitely not among the quickest. Theres also a slight feeling of regret that, but for a few hundredths of a second in Q3, he might have been able to start from a bit further forward. A shame for Giancarlo who, despite the improvement he showed today, just missed out on going into Q2, which he would have deserved. Tomorrows race will be very long and tough. Kimi starts with a good fuel load on board and, also thanks to the KERS at the start, should be able to end up with a good result. It will be harder for Giancarlo, given his grid position, but you never know what can happen in the race.
Chris Dyer, Ferrari chief engineer:
A really close fought qualifying. Another great performance from Kimi, at every stage of the session. Its a shame that, for just a few hundredths in Q3, he could have got a better grid position. We were the only ones to get to the final part without any new soft tyres, as we didnt want to take any risks in Q1, but we are happy with how things went all the same, partly because we have a lot of fuel on board and think we have a good strategy for tomorrows race. Its a bit disappointing for Giancarlo who missed out on Q2 by a whisker: he is improving day by day and we are sure that tomorrow, he will make another step forward and therefore have a good race.
Sebastien Buemi (10th, Q3 - no time):
"I'm not happy, as I made it through to Q3, but after crashing the car I couldnt take part. A great shame as this would have been my second Q3 of the season and the car was super today. I was reasonably comfortable so maybe I didn't need to do that last lap. In Q1 after I crashed, I managed to bring it back to the pits and have it repaired, so after the second accident, I felt I had to try and bring it back again, as you dont know from the cockpit how bad the damage is. At that point of the track, the kerb is really high and if you touch it at the speed you are doing there, you just fly over it. I hope to make good use of the performance level of the car in the race, to repay the team for all the work they have to do now."
Jaime Alguersuari (15th, Q2 - no time):
"Before the accident, I was pushing hard on the hard tyre. I lost control and went into the wall. It was quite a heavy impact. The car looks very bad, but I'm fine. I felt confident in the fast Turn Nine, so I was going for it, until I went a little bit too fast on the hard tyre and once I was on the grass, I had no grip. The kerb there is far too high for the speed you are carrying at this point. I hope it can be repaired so that I can start from the position in which I qualified. We knew today would be difficult, with this morning being the only dry practice, which made qualifying tough, especially as it is the first time I have been here. Obviously, it's bad to crash, but in general, I feel we are moving forward, so I hope I can have a nice race as long as I can settle into a good rhythm. Sorry for giving the guys so much work to do now!"
Laurent Mekies, Toro Rosso chief engineer:
"The most important thing is that both our drivers are fine and we hope the same goes for the other drivers who crashed this afternoon. A day of mixed feelings, as on the one hand, we showed good performance both in the wet yesterday and in the dry this morning, and on the other, both cars are damaged. Another good point is that Jaime made it to Q2 for the first time in his short career, which is an achievement. Sebastien has been quick since yesterday and he was on course to produce an excellent qualifying. Then he went off the track in Q1 and the entire team did a fantastic job to put the car back together again, so he could complete Q1 and move to Q2. With the car repaired as best as possible in the time available, he made it through easily into Q3, but went off on his second timed lap and we could not repair the car for Q3. A lot of work ahead of us now. On the positive side, our performance has clearly moved up a notch this weekend, with our upgrade putting us in a better position. I am impressed with both drivers given the limited time they had to learn the track, with only P3 in the dry."
Nico Rosberg (11th, Q2 - 1m 31.482s):
"It was a dramatic qualifying session with numerous accidents and so many people going off which just show that this is a really unforgiving track. I'm not overly happy with my performance today but I didnt feel particularly comfortable in the car. The first part of qualifying was ok, but I never found the same level of grip after that. Of course, I would have wanted to do better than 11th place, but it at least gives us the opportunity to choose our strategy tomorrow."
Kazuki Nakajima (17th, Q1 - 1m 31.718s):
"We didnt really get the grip in the dry conditions or get the most out of the car today. I'm really disappointed. Yesterday was a pretty good day in the wet, but it just didnt go right in the dry. It's very nice to be at home in front of so many fans, I just hope to be able to do better for them tomorrow."
Sam Michael, Williams' technical director:
"That was a strange session with so many red flags. Kazuki just missed out on Q2 by a narrow margin, then Nico just missed out on Q3 after two false starts that ended up in red flags with no lap time on the board. With the remaining time we had, we decided to go out earlier than usual on another set of primes but it didnt put us through. Both drivers have the choice of fuel strategy now so we'll put all our efforts into that to get the best possible result that we can."
Fernando Alonso (12th, Q2 - 1m 31.638s):
It was a very strange qualifying session. The track conditions were good and all the drivers were pushing hard, but there were lots of incidents, amongst them Timos was the most serious and I am glad he is okay. Its a shame to have missed Q3 as the yellow flag came out in the final stages of Q2. I was called by the stewards because I had a green second sector under yellow flags. I explained that coming out of Turn 14, I had little visibility because of the dust left from Buemi spinning into the gravel then I saw debris of a wing in the middle of the track, which I avoided and at that point I saw the yellow flag and immediately slowed down and came carefully into the pits. Tomorrow, for the race, I hope we can improve our position and score some points.
Romain Grosjean (18th, Q1 - 1m 32.073s):
With the rain yesterday, we only had one hour of dry practice to get ready for todays qualifying session. As a result, I havent been able to do much running on a track that I havent been to before, so that was a shame. We will see what strategy we can deploy tomorrow in order to give ourselves the best chance to have a good race.
Bob Bell, Renault team principal:
To be honest it was a disappointing session. Obviously Romain struggled to make it through Q1 and ultimately wasnt comfortable enough with the car. We were pretty optimistic about getting Fernando into Q3, but unfortunately the situation with Buemis accident and the yellow flag meant that he had to back off during his second run and so he missed out on Q3.
Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development:
"Today was a big challenge for all drivers. The weather was dry, meaning that yesterday's information from a wet track was not much use. This meant that teams only had the one hour of FP3 to accumulate the same data they would usually gain over four hours of practice. The track improved, as we would expect with the first dry running of the weekend, but this made set-up a challenge and we saw an interesting order at the end of FP3. The difficulty continued in qualifying, with two red flag periods in Q2 and one in Q3. It seemed that the older surface of the west track gave less grip for braking which may have caught out some drivers. Sebastian Vettel did well to get pole today and we hope that Timo Glock was not badly hurt in his accident. Obviously we do not have as much data as we would have if Friday had been dry, but this is one of the challenges of motor racing. The soft tyre is definitely the quicker tyre, and it does not appear to have too bad degradation levels, meaning that it could be the preferred race tyre. The hard tyre takes longer to warm up than the soft, but we do not have sufficient data to know exactly the lap time difference between the two tyres. That said, I'm sure we will see an exciting race here at Suzuka."