Qualifying - selected team and driver quotes 04 Apr 2009
Ferraris Felipe Massa on failing to make it through to Q2; BMW Saubers Nick Heidfeld and both McLaren drivers on falling at the final hurdle; and Brawn GPs Jenson Button on how it feels to take his second consecutive pole. All ten teams and 20 drivers report back on Saturdays action
Jenson Button (1st, Q3 - 1m 35.181s):
"Achieving pole position today in Malaysia is possibly even more special than last week in Australia. It's not easy to get one pole but two successive poles is just fantastic and it's a first for me in my Formula One career. It's a great feeling and proves that our car works well on different types of circuit. We were really struggling with the balance yesterday and I had a lot of rear locking however we made some changes to the car overnight which really improved it for today and it felt really good throughout qualifying. It's a big turnaround and I have to say thank you to the team for their hard work in such tough conditions. They did a fantastic job. We are hoping that the rain stays away tomorrow but you just never know at this circuit and we will be working hard tonight to make sure we are prepared for all eventualities."
Rubens Barrichello (4th, Q3 - 1m 35.651s):
It was a good qualifying session for the team today and well done to Jenson once again as he had the pace to put the car on pole. Unfortunately on my side of the garage, the car developed understeer in qualifying and we were not able to resolve the problem. However we know the performance of the car in race conditions is strong and I will be aiming to score as many points as possible tomorrow before I can start chasing for my own pole position and wins."
Ross Brawn, team principal:
It was a great qualifying performance from Jenson and the team today particularly as we had some issues with the balance of the car in yesterday's practice sessions. At the start of qualifying, there was a distinct possibility of rain so we went out early in Q1 to bank some dry running and from there it was a busy session with the track evolving incredibly quickly. Rubens was struggling for grip under braking which resulted in understeer and he was never completely happy with the balance of his car. With the replacement of his gearbox, this puts him further back on the grid than we would have hoped, however his experience will stand him in good stead in the race. Jenson was much happier with the balance which reflects in his second pole of the season after an excellent lap. It was an incredibly close session and with the prospect of rain in the race tomorrow, we should be in for a very eventful and exciting Malaysian Grand Prix."
Jarno Trulli (2nd, Q3 - 1m 35.273s):
"The team has done a fantastic job, we stayed away from traffic and the car was feeling good, so it has been a very successful day for us. The car feels strong now but I have to admit I wasn't sure I would be in this position after practice yesterday because it was quite difficult. I worked hard with my engineers to analyse the data and make some improvements to the set-up and we got it spot-on in qualifying. In a way it's a little disappointing to miss pole position by just a few hundredths but that's how close Formula 1 is at the moment. Compared to last year we are much more competitive this season and instead of fighting for the top six we are now here fighting in the top three. I hope for a strong race tomorrow and I will fight as hard as I can."
Timo Glock (5th, Q3 - 1m 35.690s):
"Overall the qualifying went quite well and I'm happy to be starting third. But I'm a bit frustrated with my final lap in Q3 because I was struggling a little bit to get used to how the car felt with a heavier fuel load. That meant I didn't get 100% out of the car. In Q2, on a light fuel load, I made a few mistakes on my first run but then I got it absolutely right on the second and I was really pleased with my lap. In the end it's a good result for the whole team to have two cars in the top three. It will be a tricky race and Jarno and I will push each other very hard but we also have to think about the weather because that could be a factor.
Pascal Vasselon, senior general manager chassis:
"We are very pleased with this result even if the ultimate target is to be on pole position. Yesterday's sessions went so-so I would say, we were not completely happy with the car balance and the grip but obviously we have reacted well overnight and finally it has been a very good team result. Thanks to Bridgestone, the tyre situation here is quite easy to handle for qualifying and the race so we don't expect anything unusual in that sense, which is the opposite of Melbourne when the final laps were dictated by the tyres. So all in all it has been a good weekend so far and we are very optimistic for the race tomorrow."
Sebastian Vettel (3rd, Q3 - 1m 35.518s):
"I have the penalty and there's nothing I can do about that. The secret is just to focus on what I'm here to do and I'm here to race, so that's what we do. Of course it's a shame to see the car performing at a good level in Q1, Q2 and Q3 and know that we have a plus ten tomorrow; we were up in the top five throughout. It will be a very tough day tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to it and nothing is impossible. I'm hoping for some rain, as that can mix things up quite a lot, but let's see."
Mark Webber (7th, Q3 - 1m 35.797s):
Qualifying's tight! That was quite an enjoyable session. It would be nice to have a bit more of a cushion between us and the other cars, but that is not what it's about at the moment and seventh is the best I could do. With the strategy we're on, we'll see how we go tomorrow."
Christian Horner, team principal
A strong team qualifying performance today. Both Mark and Sebastian are looking quick, but we're just too far behind the double-decker diffusers at the moment. Unfortunately, Sebastian has his 10-place penalty to take, but hopefully he can have a bit of luck tomorrow."
Nico Rosberg (6th, Q3 - 1m 35.750s):
I am very happy with fourth on the grid for tomorrows race. Our general pace in the first two qualifying sessions wasnt quite where we wanted to be, but it gave us enough to work with. Then in Q3, with some fuel in the car, it felt really nice which allowed me to put in a very good lap that put me on sixth, which after the penalties for the other cars, is on the second row. From that start position as well as with a good car and a good strategy, we can be optimistic and say we have a good chance to aim for a podium. One consideration is of course the start and I will have to check who will be using KERS around me. My preference for tomorrow would definitely be a dry race because its always the safer way to go, but if it rains, even though it will mix things up, it will be no problem and we will make the best of either situation.
Kazuki Nakajima (12th, Q2 - 1m 34.788s):
The car was good, I had a good feeling in the cockpit and everything went okay today, but I just needed to find another tenth to get into Q3. Despite this, I now have the freedom to fuel the car for the optimum strategy, and with this benefit and a good long run pace, a good finish is possible if I keep my head down during the race.
Sam Michael, technical director:
Today Nico had a good qualifying session and we expected that Kazuki would also make Q3, but he will nevertheless race well from just outside the top ten. The cars both ran well, without problems and we are looking forward to a strong race tomorrow and collecting some points.
Robert Kubica (8th, Q3 - 1m 36.106s):
"I'm satisfied with what I was able to achieve today. Although we didn't make any major changes after free practice the car was bottoming quite a lot, which made it unstable and therefore not easy to drive. I did what I could in the corners, but the straights are long here and give the drivers who are using a KERS a major advantage. I have to start on the dirty side of the track plus I have some cars with a KERS behind me, which will make the start very interesting."
Nick Heidfeld (11th, Q2 - 1m 34.769s):
"Of course I'm very disappointed. I looked fairly safe in Q2 when I was seventh, but on my second quick run I had traffic on the out lap. Two cars in front of me and one behind meant that I couldn't go at the pace needed to heat the tyres up, and then the important lap wasn't good enough. After we did the comparison yesterday I was using the KERS today and it helped, especially in sector one where I was the fastest car for most of the time."
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport director
"The rain that was expected for qualifying didn't come, and the result confirms the picture we already saw emerging in Melbourne. It remains difficult to break into the ranks of the teams with the two step diffusers. Having said this, we have to be satisfied with the positions we have achieved. Due to two drivers having penalties that will drop them down the grid, Robert and Nick will be starting from sixth and tenth. For tomorrow there is also a high chance of rain, which means the order could get mixed up during the race."
Willy Rampf, head of engineering
"We knew it would be very difficult, but nevertheless we hoped to get both our drivers into Q3. Unfortunately that didn't work out with Nick. Because of traffic on his final out lap he was not able to heat his tyres up properly. Robert was consistently doing well, and did the best he could. Being sixth is an acceptable grid position with our strategy."
Kimi Raikkonen (9th, Q3 - 1m 36.170s):
Honestly, the main problem is that, at the moment, we are not quick enough to fight for the top places. The car is not lacking in any particular area, but we do not have enough grip to be as quick as those who finished ahead of us today. Tomorrows race will be very tough. We will try to make the most of the start. In Australia, it was very good but there was nowhere to go, whereas here, the straight is long and the track is wide. Furthermore, as we saw yesterday, our pace is competitive. We have to improve our performance but obviously, it is important to have the regulations clarified as quickly as possible, to understand in which direction to go. Both types of tyres work well over a distance and we will try and exploit that.
Felipe Massa (16th, Q1 - 1m 35.642s):
I am very disappointed. If I had ended up sixteenth because of a lack of performance, then I could have accepted the result, but like this it hurts even more. The track improved so much with each passing lap and my first run was not perfect and nor was it enough. We did not react in time and lost the chance to have another go. No one person is to blame: we are a team and we lose or win all together. We have to change our approach and tackle qualifying in a different way to the past. There is no room for error and we have to give it our all, right from the first session. Nevertheless, I am very motivated. It wont be the first time I will have to tackle a race starting way down the order and I know I can count on having a strong pace. We will have to try and exploit every opportunity to make up places.
Luca Baldisserri, sporting director:
We opted to do just one run on the new soft tyres in Q1 in order to save a set for the following sessions and to do that run right at the start of qualifying as we were worried about the threat of rain. Then we did not react quickly enough in recognizing that the track was improving much more than we had expected and we watched our two drivers slide further and further down the order, to such an extent that Felipe didnt make it to Q2. Now we have to concentrate on the race. We know our potential over a distance is better than that shown over the first lap and tomorrow we will have to make the most of that.
Fernando Alonso (10th, Q3 - 1m 37.659s):
I had no temperature this morning so I was in better condition to drive the car. Our result today is a bit disappointing because I expected to be fifth or sixth in qualifying, but overall the car is better than in Australia, although were not fast enough and need to improve. We will also have to see what role KERS will play in the race tomorrow.
Nelson Piquet (17th, Q1 - 1m 35.708s):
This morning we knew that it might be a difficult qualifying session. However it could have worked out better for me this afternoon, but on my final lap I pushed a bit too hard at the end of the lap and lost three or four tenths, which proved costly. Im obviously disappointed that I couldnt get the most from qualifying, but I have to put this behind me and think about the race tomorrow.
Pat Symonds, executive director of engineering:
It was a bit cooler as we were running later in the afternoon. The track temperature started at about 40 degrees Celsius and dropped to about 36, although the grip seemed reasonably constant throughout the sessions. It was tough to get into the final part of qualifying but we managed to do it with one car this weekend. The performance is not yet where we want it to be. We have decided to run with quite a high fuel load so that if the weather turns bad tomorrow we will have an advantage. Our strategy will depend on the weather. It is going to be very tough tomorrow. Even starting at 5pm will give us high temperatures and high humidity. If the rain comes it will be intense and produce very difficult conditions.
Lewis Hamilton (13th, Q2 - 1m 34.905):
We qualified about where we expected to. We dont yet have the pace to get into Q3 but the balance doesnt feel too bad - were just unable to carry enough speed through the corners. We expect to see some improvements over the next two or three races. For tomorrow, Im just going to race my heart out, do the best I can and try and score some points.
Heikki Kovalainen (14th, Q2 - 1m 34.924s):
We knew that getting into the top 10 would be tough, so my result was more or less what I expected. The gap to the cars in front is smaller than it was in Melbourne, so Im confident that were headed in the right direction, but we havent yet found that extra bit of speed we need. The balance today wasnt completely to my liking, but I did my best and Im looking forward to an enjoyable battle in the race tomorrow.
Martin Whitmarsh, team principal
We always knew that qualifying would be difficult around Sepang because MP4-24 lacks the aerodynamic downforce needed to match the top teams. Thats no fault of either Lewis or Heikki, who have driven faultlessly all weekend: they just lack the grip needed to get the most from the car through the high-speed corners. Of course, starting 12th and 14th is not where we are accustomed to starting grands prix, but we are confident that the improvements we are preparing for the forthcoming races will allow us to quickly move into the midst of the tight pocket of cars competing for times in Q3.
Norbert Haug, vice-president Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
We will start tomorrow's race from about where we thought we would. We have made some small additional improvements to MP4-24 since last weekends season opener in Australia but we still missed out on getting into the top 10 by two tenths of a second. Our KERS certainly helped laptimes in sectors one and three and we hope it will also prove beneficial tomorrow and hopefully help us overtake some of the cars that start ahead of us.
Sebastien Bourdais (15th, Q1 - 1m 35.431s):
"We were quicker than expected in qualifying, which is great, even if we are still not where we want to be. I would expect that as we develop the car more, maybe by the time we get to Spain we can be thereabouts. I'm not sure if I want rain or not tomorrow, but for sure, it might be the best chance we have of scoring points."
Sebastien Buemi (20th, Q1 - 1m 36.107s):
On my penultimate set of tyres I was in a Q2 position and then on my final set I improved a lot in sectors one and two. Unfortunately, in the final sector, I caught the kerb and ended up in the gravel. It's a shame. For tomorrow, the best thing for me would be to have very changeable conditions to see if we could profit from any unusual situation that might develop."
Giorgio Ascanelli, technical director
"Once again I am happy with the reliability of our cars: in the five days of running we have had so far in this year's championship, we have had just one problem with a minor component yesterday afternoon. Getting one car into Q2 is an achievement. Of course, we could have done better, but our level of understanding of the car is improving and the drivers are getting used to it. Today, Buemi made a mistake, but if a young driver doesn't make mistakes he doesn't learn and Bourdais did a good job."
Giancarlo Fisichella (18th, Q1 - 1m 35.908s):
I had a problem with the throttle pedal on the first run so we changed it and I lost the chance to do three runs, which was very important. The lap I did was clean and the car is well balanced. Again the field is very mixed and with the chance of some rain we should look to keep up with the field and take any chance we can.
Adrian Sutil (19th, Q1 - 1m 35.951s):
We did a good job today, we had no problems and this was our pace - we couldn't really have done better. We just need to find some downforce. For tomorrow, I want to have a good race and to get to the finish. We are very quick down the straights and there is some potential for overtaking so let's see - we had an exciting race in Melbourne and anything can happen. I am still positive.
Dominic Harlow, chief race engineer:
It was a tense session today with a constant threat of heavy showers, but they didn't materialise. Giancarlo lost some track time with a throttle pedal problem, but recovered well to place a time just 0.05s faster than Adrian. We're expecting an interesting race tomorrow and we know from last weekend that our race pace coupled with strong straightline speed and a creative strategy could be good enough to score points.