Qualifying - selected team and driver quotes 28 Mar 2009
The Force India and Toro Rosso line-ups on failing to make it through to Q2; McLarens Lewis Hamilton on starting his first race as reigning world champion from 15th on the grid; and Jenson Button on toppling the titans to take pole. All ten teams and 20 drivers report back on Saturdays action
Jenson Button (1st, Q3 - 1m 26.202s):
"To put the car on pole at our debut race is a fantastic achievement and I have to give so much credit to Ross (Brawn), Nick (Fry) and everyone at the factory in Brackley. The last four months have been incredibly tough for the team and to go from a situation where you don't even know if you are going to be racing to achieving pole at the first race of the season is just incredible. Tomorrow is obviously the most important day of the weekend and there is a lot of work to be achieved to come away with a successful result however we have to remember where we have been and really enjoy this moment."
Rubens Barrichello (2nd, Q3 - 1m 26.505s):
"It has been a great day and I want to congratulate the team for an outstanding job. I was hoping that I could put the car on pole and it was looking good in the first two sessions but in Q3 I developed some understeer in the car which comprised my final runs. However the first row for both cars is a real credit to the team and gives us a great chance in the race tomorrow. We have a really good car which everyone deserves credit for and I am just so happy to be racing at the front again."
Ross Brawn, team principal:
"Watching our two cars top the timesheets throughout qualifying capped an excellent day for the team which began with the announcement of our new partnership with Virgin this afternoon. The track conditions were more favourable than we experienced yesterday and we found that the tyres worked in a more conventional way. In addition, the changes that we had made following yesterday's practice sessions proved positive and both drivers had a well-balanced car which allowed them to concentrate on maximising the lap times. Whilst this is a great achievement and gives both drivers an excellent opportunity in the race tomorrow, the job is only half done and our full focus is now on getting the best result possible in the race. I would like to pay credit to Jenson, Rubens and the whole team, both here and at our factory, for their achievement today and to Mercedes-Benz for their invaluable support over the past few months."
Sebastian Vettel (3rd, Q3 - 1m 26.830s):
"Its been a difficult two days leading up to qualifying. I only had the pleasure of completing one lap in the first practice, then I made a mistake in the second, which meant we couldnt run through our programme. Then we had a failure this morning, which cost us some track time, so its been anything but ideal!
"Nevertheless, I think we pulled everything together; weve been looking deeply at the data and trying to prepare well for qualifying. I think we succeeded, so thanks to everyone. We had a tough winter and Ive been surprised how close the feeling in the car is to last year. With all the regulation changes its impressive what all the people have done - its very tight at the front of the grid and all through the midfield. At times we have even wondered if we would make it to Q2, so now we are third on the second row of the grid, Im looking forward to tomorrow. This is for sure a good starting point.
Mark Webber (10th, Q3 - 1m 27.246s):
Im not rapped with my last lap. My previous flying laps had gone well, so I would have liked a better result, but thats where we are so well try to make something from the race. The bumps were quite bad in Turn Nine on the final run. The teams done a good job and weve worked well through our programme over the winter. Its a shame I didnt get the best time in qualifying, but well see how we go from there tomorrow.
Christian Horner, team principal
"It was a great team effort today and we have two cars in the top ten. After losing some track time this morning, Sebastian has done a great job. Third is a fantastic place to start the first Grand Prix and hes the nearest car to the super-quick Brawns. I think we can enjoy a good race tomorrow. After all that Mark has been through in the last few months, recovering from a broken leg, I think he put in an excellent performance today. A small mistake on his final lap in such a tight grid cost him several positions, but Im sure he will have a strong race tomorrow.
Timo Glock (6th, Q3 - 1m 26.975s):
"We struggled a bit in second and third practice to find the right balance but we worked hard to find a solution and we did some set-up work which got the car into the right set-up window. I think with a bit more fine-tuning maybe we could have been further up the grid - we were only a tenth behind the top three so it could have been better but I am quite positive about the result. The car feels pretty good now and we are clearly not far away so let's see how it goes tomorrow in terms of strategy. I am pretty happy and reasonably confident."
Jarno Trulli (8th, Q3 - 1m 27.127s):
"That was a really hard qualifying for me. I expected a lot more from today so I am disappointed. Of course I will fight as hard as I can in the race but I don't know what to expect because the car felt different in qualifying compared to final practice. I don't know why but the tyres just would not warm up as expected and I was sliding around quite a bit. On top of that I had some issues with the brakes so it was really difficult for me."
Pascal Vasselon, senior general manager chassis:
"Overall the result is quite disappointing because we were hoping for more from qualifying today. We expected to be further up the grid but of course strategy plays a part in Q3 so we cannot forget that factor. It was easy to predict which tyres to use in qualifying because the super soft compound was clearly preferable but for the race it is a different matter. Tyre choice is a bigger challenge for the race and we have time now to look at the situation."
Felipe Massa (7th, Q3 - 1m 27.033s):
"We reckoned it would be possible but very difficult to get into the top five and this turned out to be the case: we ended up seventh, which is definitely not very satisfying but it represents the best we could do this afternoon. Now we must concentrate on tomorrow's race, which will be extremely tough. The first round of the season here in Australia is always a step into the unknown, especially as the track is slippery and accidents are a strong possibility. We will try to get to the finish and to pick up as many points as possible."
Kimi Raikkonen (9th, Q3 - 1m 27.163s):
"This morning, a hydraulic problem meant I pretty much missed out on the third free practice session: a shame, but better that this should happen on Saturday than Sunday. The car was r from ideal for qualifying but I think we are in pretty good shape for the race. A points finish is possible even if we could have been further up the grid. From what we have seen today, clearly we lack a bit of performance compared to the quickest guys, but the race will be very long and we will see what we can manage to do."
Luca Baldisserri, sporting director:
"We need to work out why, in Q3, we didn't manage to go as well as in Q2, while allowing for the amount of fuel we had on board. Tomorrow the race will definitely be very difficult. We will have to make the most of any opportunities, beginning with the start. Actually, on the grid, we are the highest placed cars running KERS, an element that might allow us to make up some places. Then we have to bear in mind that, on this track, the Safety Car usually plays a part and so anything could happen. Reliability will be key. This morning, we had a hydraulic problem on Kimi's car which saw him stop out on track at the start of FP3 and clearly that was not the best way to prepare for qualifying. We must pay close attention to every detail and try and get the cars to the finish line, with the aim of picking up points."
Robert Kubica (4th, Q3 - 1m 26.914s):
I'm quite happy with fourth on the grid. Looking at the first practice sessions of the weekend, this was more than we expected. We made progress with the car, and I was able to put in some really good laps. In particular, my lap in Q2 was very good. Unfortunately on my second run in Q3 Nico Rosberg went wide in front of me in corner 14 and put some dust on the track. As a consequence my tyres lost massive grip in the final corners of that lap. Most probably I could have finished third, but still I'm satisfied with my performance."
Nick Heidfeld (11th, Q2 - 1m 25.504s):
"We have been improving the car in every session and in qualifying it was okay. Also my final lap in Q2 was okay until the last sector where I just didn't get it right, and especially in the last corner I had too much oversteer. Eleventh is certainly not what I was aiming for after the winter tests were quite promising, but at least it is an advantage compared to tenth because I am now free to choose my fuel load. I am hoping for a good race and some points. Using the KERS might be a small advantage just after the start, although here the straight before the first corner isn't really long."
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport director):
"Robert had a fantastic qualifying and was up with the front-runners with both low and heavy fuel loads on his car. His fourth on the grid is more than we could have expected after the free practice sessions. Unfortunately Nick missed Q3 by a small margin. However, this gives us more opportunities for the race strategy, because from eleventh on the grid you are free to choose the amount of fuel for the race. Both cars ran without any technical problems. On top of this, our new pit crew did a great job."
Willy Rampf, head of engineering
"Finally the first qualifying of 2009 is behind us and we have got an idea where everybody stands. In Q2, when everybody runs with a very low fuel level, Robert was among the fastest. This is very pleasing after the free practice results weren't that promising. Nick on the other hand didn't really get it right in Q2, and just missed the top ten qualifying. For tomorrow we expect similar track conditions and are looking forward to a very exciting race."
Nico Rosberg (5th, Q3 - 1m 26.973s):
I think it is a good thing to be a bit disappointed with fifth place! Our qualifying session itself was consistent with everything else I have experienced so far and the car has been nice to drive all weekend. From the work we have done today, we are in a good position to start the race, perhaps better than we would have imagined when we arrived here. We are among the fastest cars but it will be interesting to see what fuel load everybody is running. The start tomorrow of course will be important, but thankfully we will dont have too many cars running KERS close by us and possibly challenging us off the line. The big factor tomorrow will be tyres, but I think we have a good strategy and positive reliability, so we have all the tools to do a good job in the race.
Kazuki Nakajima (13th, Q2 - 1m 25.607s):
The car was good enough to make it into Q3 today, but I made a small mistake and it cost me quite a few places. There is however plenty to consider tomorrow and I think I still have a good opportunity, so it will be important to concentrate and get absolutely everything right. As it the first race I think there will be plenty going on, which will make it exciting, but challenging.
Sam Michael, technical director:
We have had a solid start to our preparations for tomorrows race. Both cars have performed reliably and we have managed to find a reasonable pace. Nico used this to best advantage today, but an error in Q2 meant that Kazuki was not able to progress into the top ten."
Fernando Alonso (12th, Q2 - 1m 25.605s):
"We arrived here to fight for the podium, but this might not be the case tomorrow. We were very close to Q3 times, only two or three tenths of a second off, but I made a mistake as I tried to make up some time in the final corner. I'm disappointed as I thought I could be fifth or sixth on the grid. However, last year I started in 12th and got up to 4th in the race so I'm still confident that tomorrow, if we have an eventful race, I can get a good result."
Nelson Piquet (17th, Q1 - 1m 26.598s):
"I knew it was going to be a bit tough today, after a difficult weekend for us. At the start of qualifying the car seemed okay, but then I started to struggle. This track is not one I enjoy particularly. I was pushing a little too hard and made a mistake in the last sector."
Pat Symonds, executive director of engineering:
"The track conditions were quite good today with reasonably high temperatures despite the fact that qualifying took place late in the day. That did not give us any problems. We are obviously disappointed, but the performance of all the cars is very close and our position in qualifying doesn't necessarily reflect where we will finish in the race. Our positions on the grid will certainly require us to use quite a conventional strategy as will be shown tomorrow by the fuel loads that we choose. I think that we're not too far from the teams that we should be fighting and we hope that our KERS system will bring us a genuine advantage during race conditions tomorrow."
Heikki Kovalainen (14th, Q2 - 1m 25.726s):
The cars overall balance was good, we just dont have enough grip at the moment to make the best use of it. The team has worked so hard, and we have made progress over the past few weeks so it gives us all a lot of hope that we will get back to the front before too long.
Lewis Hamilton (15th, Q2 - no time):
I just lost all drive in the gearbox and couldnt continue. The team will look at the problem tonight and Im determined to drive an attacking race - well have some fun from 15th tomorrow. My congratulations to Jenson (Button) and everyone at Brawn GP - they have done a fantastic job all weekend and have a lot to look forward to tomorrow.
Martin Whitmarsh, team principal:
A gearbox problem for Lewis in Q1 - probably a broken dog ring but we'll have to investigate it to know for sure - prevented him from setting as quick a time as he might otherwise have been able to, but at least he got through to Q2 even if he was unable to take part in it. Heikki's first quick lap in Q2 was solid - but his next fast lap was quicker in sectors one and two but unfortunately not quicker in sector three. He therefore missed out on getting through to Q3 - by less than half a second.
Both drivers did a good job, though, in circumstances that were difficult for us all. The reality is that weve made progress in the past couple of weeks, but clearly not enough. Theres more to come, though, and everyone at Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart is working as hard as they can to turn things around in the shortest time possible.
Norbert Haug, vice-president Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
Heikki did a solid job and made best use of the pace offered by the car. Its a shame that Lewis suffered a gearbox problem, which should not happen when he was on his best lap so far - there was not such a problem during more than 7000 km of testing. Our speed was obviously not great, however Kimi (Raikkonen) and Nick (Heidfeld) - who were also both running KERS - were respectively 0.35s and 0.25s ahead of us, and Fernando (Alonso) is not more than 0.15s away. But of course, we have to continue to improve dramatically. Congratulations to Brawn GP for a superb debut. We are especially happy that our Mercedes-Benz engine powers the whole front row.
Sebastien Buemi (16th, Q1 - 1m 26.503s):
I have to say I found the pace at which qualifying happens rather quick! You go out, you come back, you change tyres, you go out again. You need to stay relaxed. I think we did quite a good job with what we had and missed out on Q2 by half a tenth. I am quite happy, as these days have been something of a test session for us and we improved the car quite a lot from yesterday morning through to now. I have taken confidence from what I have done so far and feel I am going to be capable of doing this job, even if I am quite young. The visibility in the sunshine was a bit better than yesterday, but we have to get used to it.
Sebastien Bourdais (20th, Q1 - 1m 26.964s):
It was closer than expected to getting to Q2 from a team point of view as Seb just missed out on 15th place to the McLaren by a fraction. My car wasnt too bad: on my second run I made a slight mistake and on my third, unfortunately my out lap was too slow and I did not get the tyres up to temperature. But its encouraging, as the Red Bull car is going well and we are not as far off the pace as I had expected. We have made good progress in terms of understanding the car. Starting last, it will be a tough race, but I will attack as much as I can and hope the race is as eventful as last year.
Giancarlo Fisichella (18th, Q1 - 1m 26.677s):
We knew that it would be difficult today, but considering what we have done so far this year, with the limited pre-season testing, being just two tenths slower than the 2008 world champion is a good result. Being so close shows it's already a very challenging season. I had a good lap and I am happy as I have been struggling a bit with the brakes and locking all weekend and I'm not driving as I want. But all this considered, there is really good potential in this car so we are looking forward to working it through. For tomorrow, first of all we need to get to the end of the race - that's the main goal and then we'll see.
Adrian Sutil (19th, Q1 - 1m 26.742s):
For sure we were hoping after yesterday's performance to be able to make it into Q2 but in the end it was not possible. Things looked better in practice but perhaps the others were not showing all their potential. We know we have plenty to work on, our main problem is that we need a lot more downforce. My main goal now will be to make it to the end of the race tomorrow and then let's see where we are. It's even tighter than last year.
Dominic Harlow, chief race engineer:
That was a very tight session - it seems the field is even closer than last year. Unfortunately it was not the outcome we'd hoped for as both drivers narrowly missed out on Q2. The drivers and engineers got close to getting the best they could from the car this weekend. We need a bit more development to really challenge, but given how our programme started late, we've made enormous progress already and we know that there is plenty in the pipeline. The race is going to be a good one, and it will be interesting to see the strategies that are adopted now that all the teams must commit to a race start fuel load just two hours after confirming their grid position.