Qualifying - selected team and driver quotes 31 Oct 2009
Fernando Alonso on failing to make it through to Q2 for his last race for Renault; Heikki Kovalainen on his early exit following gearbox problems and his McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton on clinching his fourth pole position of the season. All 20 drivers and senior team personnel report back on the action from the Yas Marina Circuit...
Lewis Hamilton (1st, Q3 - 1m 40.948s):
My pole lap wasnt too aggressive. I was very smooth, and it just kept getting better and better. KERS Hybrid and the engine have been fantastic all season - and today was no exception - but its the chassis that has really come good lately and weve brought them all together this weekend to create the perfect package. Even more encouragingly, this is all a work-in-progress for next year - and winning tomorrow would be a perfect way to end the season and raise our expectations for 2010. It should be an exciting race - I just want to go out and do the job tomorrow.
Heikki Kovalainen (13th, Q2 - 1m 40.983s):
What a disappointing outcome to my qualifying. I got stuck in second gear during Q2 and that was it. I already had minor problems with the gearbox yesterday when it jumped out of gear, so its frustrating when you have a car you can easily take into Q3. But Im looking at the positives: the balance of my car has been good throughout the entire weekend, and its been great to drive on this fantastic circuit. You can absolutely guarantee Ill be giving it my all in the race tomorrow and Ill be fighting from the first lap to the very last.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal:
Lewis did a brilliant job, demonstrating prodigious speed, to secure pole position in dominant fashion in Abu Dhabi this evening. We were relatively aggressive in terms of his fuel strategy, but weve certainly been more aggressive in a few other qualifying sessions this year and theres therefore no doubt that his pace here is very genuine. Heikki, too, would have figured at or close to the front had he not been hampered by a gearbox problem not of his making, but you can be well sure that hell be pushing as hard as ever tomorrow to make good progress from his P13 grid slot. Tomorrows race will be an arduous one for drivers and team members alike - hot and tiring - but well be aiming to end the season on a high by delivering a disciplined, focused and hopefully victorious performance, in an effort to secure third place in the 2009 constructors world championship.
Norbert Haug, vice-president Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
What a great lap from Lewis. This was his fourth pole in the last seven Grands Prix since Valencia and certainly a very important one on this fantastic new race track here in Abu Dhabi. Hopefully we can continue in that direction tomorrow. Our race simulation laps showed yesterday that our speed is there. Sorry for Heikki who could not make it into Q3 due to a gearbox problem, but tomorrow is another day for him as well and he can still have a good finish in the points. The organisers and the hosts here did an unbelievable job to build up this very impressive venue - another good reason why it would be very special to fight for a victory tomorrow at this inaugural GP of Abu Dhabi.
Sebastian Vettel (2nd, Q3 - 1m 41.615s):
I think both Mark and I were surprised by the gap to Lewis. Hes been quick all weekend and the McLaren seems to be generally very strong here. We could see in Q1 and Q2 that it would be difficult to match their pace, so I think this was the maximum we could do today. Im very pleased so far, it should be a good race. The car is working well here; it just seems that our KERS button, which we have on the steering wheel, isnt working! But, lets see. I think we have a good race pace and the car is getting better and better. Im looking forward to tomorrow.
Mark Webber (3rd, Q3 - 1m 41.726s):
A good day for the team - Im happy to be starting near the front of the grid and we have a good chance tomorrow for a strong result. Im surprised by Hamiltons time, McLaren have done a very good job, no question about it, and it seems that this track suits them. Were going to have our work cut out to beat Lewis tomorrow, but were going to give it our best shot. I think the KERS gives them a good advantage but, even without that, they clearly have a good car here. But, its a long race and anything can happen.
Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal:
Firstly, what a fantastic venue. Abu Dhabi has done an amazing job and the track is a brilliant addition to the calendar. It was a good final qualifying session of 2009 - both cars comfortably made it through in to Q3 and both drivers delivered really good laps. Second and third is a very strong team result. Lewis is on pole by a reasonable margin, but we hope we can push him hard in the race tomorrow. It should be a really exciting finale to the season.
Fabrice Lom, Renault, principal engineer track support:
A good team effort. Coming here, we didnt think this track would suit us so well, so its a good result. Second and third is the best we could do today I think, especially when we see Hamiltons pace - hes very, very quick, so congratulations to him for his pole position. Well try to make life hard for him tomorrow and score the maximum number of points to end the season on a high.
Rubens Barrichello (4th, Q3 - 1m 41.786s):
"It was a good qualifying session for us today and I'm quite happy with fourth position and what we have achieved. The car is still very competitive but the Red Bulls and McLarens seem to be ahead of us here. It's been challenging to get the right set-up throughout the weekend as the sessions are taking place in very different track and ambient conditions. The car seems to improve towards the end of the day with the cooler temperatures so we can hope that the track comes towards us tomorrow. It's very close with Sebastian for second position in the championship and I'll be going to be flat out for the best result."
Jenson Button (5th, Q3 - 1m 41.892s):
"The car has felt good here all weekend and the first two sessions went well in qualifying today. Unfortunately in Q3 when we were running with high fuel and new tyres, I started to get massive vibrations every time that I hit the brakes which made the steering wheel shudder. With such a smooth circuit any kind of vibration just leads to understeer which made the car quite a handful to drive. It's frustrating as we had the potential for a better performance today and should have been challenging for the first row behind Lewis. Hopefully we can solve the issue before the race and I'm looking forward to a good fight tomorrow."
Ross Brawn, Brawn team principal:
"We went into qualifying in pretty good shape this evening having confirmed some of our conclusions on the tyres during the practice session this afternoon. The qualifying hour went to plan in Q1 and Q2 although we struggled, like many others, with traffic and achieving clear laps when the tyres were at their best. Unfortunately in Q3, Jenson suffered with a significant vibration on his last set of tyres which we are now investigating and this compromised his performance. However fourth position on the grid for Rubens and fifth place for Jenson is a good result. We should be in reasonable shape for the race tomorrow and are looking forward to the challenge of finishing the season on a high."
Jarno Trulli (6th, Q3 - 1m 41.897s):
"It was a difficult session because it was an extremely hard fight in hot conditions; the lap times were really close despite it being a long circuit. I felt I got it right in each session and I am happy with sixth place. It's fun to be fighting at the front of the grid so it was a nice experience again for me. Obviously you always want to be even higher but we have done a good job so far this weekend and we deserved to be in the top six. The car feels strong and I think we are looking pretty good for the race so I'm looking forward to the fight."
Kamui Kobayashi 12th, Q2 - 1m 40.777s):
"I was hoping to be in the top 10 here but it was my first time in Formula One to qualify in dry conditions, so I needed to get used to it. Free practice has gone well all weekend and the car felt good. Qualifying wasn't easy but in the end I was only a tenth or so away from the top 10 so for my first time qualifying in the dry it's not bad. I have been trying to focus on my race pace this weekend so I am quite confident for tomorrow. I will try my best and I hope to fight for the points again; we'll see what we can do."
Pascal Vasselon, Toyota senior general manager chassis:
"This qualifying was all about tyre compound selection and warm-up management, as well as avoiding the traffic. Generally we got it right even though of course we hoped to be a bit higher on the grid with both cars. Jarno was fighting for the top three all through the session and Kamui did very well for his second qualifying in Formula One, his first in dry conditions. All in all it was a reasonably good result, our fuel load is competitive so we should have interesting race tomorrow. This is obviously the last race of the season and we definitely want to end on a high; we are in pretty good shape to do that."
Robert Kubica (7th, Q3 - 1m 41.992s):
Unfortunately I missed yesterdays second free practice session. As a result I had no experience of the track conditions at this time of day. The conditions were completely different compared to the third free practice session. The lower temperatures had quite a big effect on the cars balance. In the end qualifying in seventh is quite ok and I am optimistic that we can fight for points tomorrow.
Nick Heidfeld (8th, Q1 - 1m 42.343s):
I think my eighth position is alright. On the last lap there was a small chance to improve, but I had traffic with Mark Webber in front of me, and anyway there is no guarantee this lap would have been faster. If I take the fuel load into account, Im happy with my grid position although I only really know the fuel load for our cars. The tyres seem to last here remarkably well, which means it could pay off if you stay out for longer. The light from the setting sun was a bit brighter than yesterday, but the circuit is built in such a way that you have to deal with it in only one corner, which anyway is flat. For our last race tomorrow I hope for all of us we can achieve a good result with points for both cars.
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport director:
The outcome of qualifying is more or less what we expected. It was good to see both our cars made it quite safely into the top ten. In the final part of qualifying the field was very close together again. However we ended seventh and eighth. Now it will be important to see when the first pit stops will take place. Technically today everything went without any problems.
Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber head of engineering:
For our team it was a qualifying without any special excitement. Our result reflects quite accurately where we stand with our performance. As early as Q1 it was clear we had a very good chance to make it into Q3, and that finally happened. With the fuel load our drivers have on board we should be able to score a good result in the last race for the BMW Sauber F1 Team.
Nico Rosberg (9th, Q3 - 1m 42.583s):
The session went okay, I think 9th was around the best we could get out of today, we are definitely struggling on the open sections of this circuit, but points are definitely possible here and very important for us this weekend. From the fifth row and with a good strategy tomorrow, we can stay ahead of BMW in the constructors and I can hold seventh position ahead of Trulli in the drivers championship. Its a good track, not easy and very hot but this is also the last race for me with Williams and I want to do the best for this great team.
Kazuki Nakajima (14th, Q2 - 1m 41.148s):
Im a bit disappointed because I didnt manage to put everything together in Q2, but there was still a reasonable gap to the first ten, so maybe I wouldnt have made it into the final qualifying session anyway. The track demands that you are precise all the time and one mistake here is costly, which makes it pretty difficult. I dont think it will be easy to overtake tomorrow, but because of the nature of Sectors One and Two, we could have a pretty crazy first lap tomorrow, so I still believe anything is possible.
Rod Nelson, Williams chief operations engineer:
It was a reasonably straightforward qualifying session, although we did expect the option tyre to come into its own in Q2, but this didnt materialise, so we along with most other teams stayed on the prime tyre. We hoped that Nico had another couple of tenths in him to get among the BMWs just in front, but he starts from the clean side of the grid and he should have a competitive race. Kazuki was also looking competitive on what would have been his fastest lap at the end of the prime run in qualifying two but he ran a little wide in Turn 14, got some dirt on his tyres and that unfortunately, was that.
Sebastien Buemi (10th, Q3 - 1m 42.713s):
I was hoping for a little bit better after finishing seventh in Q2, but I am happy with our fuel load which should allow us to be flexible in terms of race strategy. The car feels very competitive, as indeed it has been for the past few races and scoring points is a realistic target for tomorrow. The visibility is no problem so that should be fine for the race and the track is getting faster every time we go out on it.
Jaime Alguersuari (15th, Q2 - 1m 41.689s):
Taking into account that I was unable to do any laps this morning, because of a problem with the car, I think my performance in qualifying was quite positive, especially as I was not completely happy with the aerodynamic balance of the car. I was not expecting to make it to Q2 after not running in FP3 on a track that is new to everyone. Looking back at my season, I think that getting into Q2 again shows I am making progress, but I still have a lot to learn. I hope I can have a nice race to end the season tomorrow.
Laurent Mekies, Toro Rosso chief engineer:
A session with mixed fortunes: firstly Sebastien made it through to Q3 for the third time in a row and this is pretty much his level now, being a regular Q3 contender, which is a positive aspect. Managing the session was more difficult than usual, as both tyre compounds were very close in terms of performance, needing a longer run to get the best out of them. We did not help Jaime much today, as he did not take part in FP3 because of a problem on the car and then in the afternoon, we had a few glitches on his car. Therefore, overall, I think he did the best he could today and we hope that tomorrow we can be competitive again and bring home some points.
Kimi Raikkonen (11th, Q2 - 1m 40.726s):
Today we got the most out of the car, but we did not have the necessary performance to make it into Q3. Already yesterday, we realized that it would be tough, so this result is definitely not a surprise. Tomorrow, we will try to do our best, but its certainly not going to be an easy race, even though we should definitely be more competitive in the race than in qualifying. What I can say is that eleventh place is better than tenth, given that I will start from the clean side of the track and can choose the ideal fuel load. It will be hard to get third in the constructors, because the McLaren is very competitive. We will have to try and get some points and hope for a bit of luck.
Giancarlo Fisichella (20th, Q1 - 1m 42.184s):
We knew it would be tough, but I dont think we could have expected much more. In the first and second sectors I was reasonably competitive, but in the final one I had a lot of understeer. Tomorrow will be hard, but I know I can manage a strong pace: we will do our best to get a good result. I am disappointed not to have been able to do better in these races with Ferrari as it would be nice to reward the team that has had trust in me, by bringing them some points. It has not been easy adapting my driving style to a car that is particularly difficult to drive and at a time when, more and more, it felt the effects of the ending of its development programme.
Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal:
We knew it would be a very difficult session for us and so it turned out to be. Actually, we could not have expected much more, as we are well aware of our situation and we just have to try and make the best of what we have got. Once again, Kimi did a good job, giving his best on every occasion. It would be nice to end such a difficult year in a good way, which would mean securing our goal of third place in the constructors classification, but tomorrow, we will be facing a steep climb all through the race. The situation is further complicated by the grid positions of our main opponents. All the same, the race still has to be run and in this sport, we have seen so often that nothing can be taken for granted. What we can be sure of is that we will give it our all.
Chris Dyer, Ferrari chief engineer:
Obviously, we are disappointed with this result, in both Giancarlos and Kimis case. The behaviour of the tyres was rather unusual, with the harder compound turning out to be the quickest. With Kimi, we used both types of tyre in Q1 to try and understand the situation, while with Giancarlo, we concentrated on the softs: unfortunately, we saw that the drivers who did not get to Q2 were precisely those who had done their best time on this tyre. In the second part of qualifying, Kimi did his best, but failed to make the cut to Q3 by a very small margin. We didnt have enough speed to do it, which we need to do something about. I think we will witness an interesting race: the performance of the tyres will evolve still further and I think Kimi can possibly get a good result.
Fernando Alonso (16th, Q1 - 1m 41.667s):
It was disappointing for us to be out after Q1 as obviously I would have liked to qualify higher up the grid. Although the team have done their best to prepare the car, it just wasnt quick enough to set a better time this afternoon. Tomorrow I will do all I can to get the best result possible in my last race with Renault.
Romain Grosjean (19th, Q1 - 1m 41.950s):
It was a difficult qualifying session today. We were missing performance but we still hoped to make it through to at least into Q2. We have done as much as we could, but sadly we were out in Q1. For tomorrow, its important not to make any mistakes and to finish as high as possible.
Bob Bell, Renault team principal:
Todays qualifying session was disappointing. We havent been competitive this weekend so the qualifying result didnt come as a great surprise to us, although we did think that we might get Fernando into Q2 so it was even more disappointing not to achieve that. However, we remain confident for the race and we will exploit any opportunity that might come our way. We will prepare ourselves as much as we can for the race and will see what it brings.
Vitantonio Liuzzi (17th, Q1 - 1m 41.701s):
I was pretty happy on the first run of Q1 as the car felt really good and I was confident that we had the pace to get through to Q2. But then after we changed the tyres for the second run we had a strange problem in that the grip was not there any more. It felt weird to drive with so much less grip compared to the run before. Usually the tracks improve as we run more but this was very strange. We should have been in Q2 so we have to understand how this happened - whether it was the tyres or the tyre pressures, we need to work on this now. For sure with a lot of fuel we showed a really good performance yesterday but starting so far back will not make it easy, although in Brazil we did show that we can get very close to the points from this position. It will be difficult but I think 10th will be possible tomorrow, but points are always the aim.
Adrian Sutil (18th, Q1 - 1m 41.863s):
A very short session with a lot of problems. The car didn't seem to have any grip at all, particularly on the rear, and there was just so much oversteer that I was just struggling to keep the car on the circuit. I'm obviously very disappointed and we need to figure out what happened. The focus will now be on the race; there's still a long way to go and of course I will try my best to get a good result.
Dominic Harlow, Force India chief race engineer:
After our first runs in Q1 both drivers reported that their cars were reasonably balanced, but lacking a bit of grip compared to the earlier practice session today. It was then a strange situation as we ran a further set of option tyres with both cars and just couldn't find enough grip to improve the performance enough for Q2. The car has been strong all weekend in race trim, plus there are some elements in this event that will add to the unpredictability tomorrow so we'll do our utmost to finish the season with a strong race.
Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development:
"Today was about further learning the track and it still has a few tricks. We were treated to an exciting qualifying session and one where our harder tyre proved to be the quickest for pole position. Lewis Hamilton did a great job, particularly with his 1min 39.695secs time on the medium in Q2. Track conditions continue to improve so tomorrow's race should be fascinating on many levels. Our information shows that neither tyre suffers particularly from degradation or wear. The medium tyre is very well suited to this track. It has good grip and its performance is consistent, meaning that lap times should fall as the cars get lighter. Based on the information so far the major race tyre strategy consideration will be minimising use of the soft. However, as the track is still improving so we could see better performance from the soft tomorrow."