Qualifying - selected team and driver quotes 23 May 2009
The Force India drivers on the team's best-ever qualifying performance; McLaren's Lewis Hamilton on the error that saw him crash out of Q1; Kimi Raikkonen on putting Ferrari back on the front row; and Brawn's Jenson Button on beating the Finn to pole by just 0.025s. All 20 drivers and senior team personnel report on Saturday's action...
Jenson Button (1st, Q3 - 1m 14.902s):
"It's so important to qualify well in Monaco and I am really happy to have achieved pole position here today. It means a lot to me, they all do, but this one is so important for the race tomorrow. It was definitely a lap to remember and I was really on the edge the whole way round! It was a real fight today and I thought that Rubens would have the upper hand in qualifying as he has been so strong all weekend. I struggled on Thursday to find a good balance and we had a few issues that needed to be worked on, however we made some changes since then. I really have to thank everyone at the factory in Brackley and at Mercedes-Benz for producing such a strong and responsive car which allows us to make progress quickly. It's not going to be easy in the race tomorrow as Monaco is just so unpredictable but starting from pole is without doubt the best position be in."
Rubens Barrichello (3rd, Q3 - 1m 14.927s):
"Well I had a great lap today at the end of the final qualifying session so Jenson's lap must have been fantastic! I'm very happy with my position for the race tomorrow and really got everything possible out of the car today. Of course I'm sorry that I didn't get pole position but the car has felt really good all weekend and we have a great chance for the race tomorrow. This is my 17th Monaco Grand Prix but the special feeling that you get from driving around here never changes and it is such a great challenge. It will be a really close and exciting race tomorrow and I'll be giving my all for the win."
Ross Brawn, Brawn team principal:
"A very good day's work from the team with great laps right at the end of the final qualifying session from Jenson and Rubens. To achieve pole and third position on the grid in the most important qualifying hour of the season is a real achievement and puts us in a strong position for the race tomorrow. Jenson had to work quite hard on his set-up as he has been struggling with the balance and a lack of front grip all weekend so he knew that the lap had to be extra special to make the difference and he delivered very impressively. Rubens, as ever, excels around Monaco and he is very well placed to take the fight to Jenson tomorrow. The cars around us are also looking strong so it is going to be a very interesting race."
Kimi Raikkonen (2nd, Q3 - 1m 14.927s):
Second place is a nice result but Im disappointed that I missed out on pole by a few hundredths. Here, there is a much bigger difference between starting from first or second place. The car has improved and that can be seen from the performance level. Today, we felt ever more comfortable as the tracks grip level improved bit by bit. I had some difficulties on the first run in Q1, but then things got better all the time. In the end, I had the possibility of doing another lap, but I went long at the first corner: I dont know if I could have done a better time. Tomorrows race will be long and tough. The start will be very important and on the short straight here, the KERS will definitely be a help, but not as much as elsewhere. All the same, its good to be back in the fight for the top places and I will give it my best shot to try and win, because thats the only thing that matters.
Felipe Massa (5th, Q3 - 1m 15.437s):
Todays showing confirms we are capable of fighting for the top places. We were in with a chance of getting into the top three, but I never managed to get a clean lap, partly because of traffic and partly through some small slip ups. These things can easily happen in Monaco and fifth is still a good place to start the race. I am confident for tomorrow. It will be a long race, but the F60 is competitive. Step by step we are getting back to where we are used to being. The accident at the start of Q1? I had new brakes and the harder tyres, which struggled a bit more to get up to temperature, so as soon as I touched the brakes, I locked the wheels and ended up against the guardrail.
Chris Dyer, Ferrari chief engineer:
A great result for the team: two cars in the front three rows is a reward for all the work weve done. Kimi drove fantastically well, while Felipe was almost always in traffic, which prevented him from doing better. It was a very complicated qualifying session, starting with Felipes accident, which meant he had to come straight back to the pits to change the nose and the ensuing red flag period, which had an effect, because for us at least, the tyres were only at their best after the first flying lap. The team and drivers worked really well in managing the situation and the credit for this result goes to them and everyone back at the factory who worked on preparing for this Grand Prix. We are in a good position for tomorrows race, in which we will do our best to bring both cars home on the podium.
Sebastian Vettel (4th, Q3 - 1m 15.271s):
As I came out of Rascasse, Nakajima was almost stopped on the circuit and, you know, if you want to get everything right here in qualifying you have to have a clear lap. That wasn't the case on the last half of my lap when I was stuck in traffic - when that happens you lose downforce and start to slide, so it's anything but qualifying! It was a shame today as the car was good and we could have done better - but there are 78 laps to go, so let's see what happens tomorrow."
Mark Webber (8th, Q3 - 1m 15.653s):
"That wasn't too bad, we knew it was going to be very tight, but we have a reasonable strategy for tomorrow. There are some different ideas going round about what tyres everyone will start the race on, as the hard and soft tyres have different characteristics in race conditions. I'm reasonably happy with what I did today, maybe we could have done a different strategy in Q3 - it was my idea to do one run, but maybe we should have done two."
Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal
"A frustrating final Q3, when unfortunately Nakajima cost Sebastian some time - he seemed extraordinarily slow despite Sebastian giving him plenty of room before starting his final lap. Mark managed to save a set of tyres with a very good time in Q2, but in Q3 he was unfortunately at the wrong end of a tenth of a second, but we believe we have a good strategy for tomorrow."
Nico Rosberg (6th, Q3 - 1m 15.455s):
The first two sessions went fine today, but I was not happy with the final conclusion in Q3. P6 was not where I wanted to be and it should have been better. I had some balance problems in the last run and some traffic, particularly with Barrichello on my fastest lap, so I didnt manage to make the best of the circumstances. Anyway, thats the way it has played out and we just need to make the best of it. There is still the opportunity to have a good race tomorrow from a reasonable starting position, so I am still of the view that anything is possible.
Kazuki Nakajima (10th, Q3 - 1m 17.344s):
It was a good session for me, it is of course the first time I have made it into Q3 this season, so I do want to say thanks to the team for preparing a good car. I am pleased that I achieved a top ten slot as obviously grid position is crucial here and this is not a very easy track. I am confident I can have a good race tomorrow and our start position will certainly give me the chance to improve on our recent results.
Sam Michael, Williams technical director:
The car performance was strong today but unfortunately we didnt get the best out of Q3 with Nico. Kazuki had no more option tyres to use in the final session, hence his P10 position and different strategy. It is good to have both cars in Q3 and we look forward to racing for points tomorrow.
Heikki Kovalainen (7th, Q3 - 1m 15.516s):
"I've felt really comfortable with the car throughout the whole weekend. Obviously, we wanted to be on pole but didn't manage that - let's see how the race unfolds and where we'll be after the first stops. Lewis was very unfortunate this afternoon - we are always at the limit around here and a little slip-up can put you into the barriers. I touched the guardrails three times during qualifying and I'm lucky that it didn't have any negative consequences."
Lewis Hamilton (16th, Q1 - 1m 16.264s):
"I made a mistake. I just braked too late - it's unfortunate, but these things happen. It's not been a good day: I had been going well all weekend and had the possibility of being on the front row. It's a shame for the team, because they have done such a fantastic job all weekend and the car has felt really strong - as Heikki's grid position shows. Starting 16th is frustrating, but I'll learn from this, drive my heart out tomorrow and see what happens."
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
"Heikki has driven with increasing commitment all weekend. Two very strong laps in Q1 and Q2 showed that he was capable of taking the fight to the leaders. And we are confident that his strategy for tomorrow will push him even closer to the front. Lewis's accident was disappointing - he knows he made a mistake - but we all know he will not give up. That's his nature - and as a result I feel sure he will approach tomorrow's race with undiminished commitment."
Norbert Haug, Vice-President Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"The speed was there to be among the quickest, so it's a shame what happened to Lewis after he has been among the fastest during all previous practice sessions but such contact with the guardrails can easily happen in Monaco. Heikki was good, put in a solid performance and has a good strategy. Monaco has its own rules so we still can look good tomorrow despite starting seventh and 16th."
Fernando Alonso (9th, Q3 - 1m 16.009s):
"Overall I'm happy with my performance as I did the best I could today. At the end of the session I was caught in a line of traffic, but honestly our ninth place reflects where our car is at the moment because I was 12th in Q1 and 9th in Q2. It's clear that we still need to improve and find more speed."
Nelson Piquet (12th, Q2 - 1m 15.837s):
"I'm not totally happy because my ideal lap would have put me in the top ten. However, the car wasn't perfect and I didn't have the ideal brake balance which made it difficult to get the most from the car. However, if you had said to me before the weekend that we would have this result, I think I would have been relatively satisfied and starting 12th is not too bad. Now we need to concentrate on making the most of the strategy tomorrow."
Pat Symonds, Renault executive director of engineering:
"A disappointing qualifying session for us. The car seemed well balanced this morning, but this afternoon it lacked that little bit of extra grip that we needed."
Sebastien Buemi (11th, Q2 - 1m 15.833s):
"I am reasonably happy with my performance, although I could have made it into the top ten if I hadn't made a mistake at the final corner. But there's no point thinking about that anymore. Now we must concentrate on tomorrow, trying to find the best possible strategy. We have seen that our car is much more competitive than before and I think we can aspire to finish in the top eight and get some points. I am confident we can do well."
Sebastien Bourdais (14th, Q2 - 1m 16.281s):
"This morning I was pretty happy with the balance of the car, but this afternoon, I just could not get the car to turn and I don't know why. I touched the barriers a few times, but there's a big difference between touching and hitting! It's disappointing because I think the car had the potential to get to Q3 today, but fourteenth is not so far back, so we will see what we can do tomorrow."
Laurent Mekies, Toro Rosso chief engineer:
"Overall our performance shows a bit of an improvement over the last few races. Buemi got very close to making it into Q3, but in some ways it's quite nice to have a couple of hours to plan our fuel strategy for tomorrow. Both guys got into Q2 in difficult traffic conditions, keeping a cool head. We believe there is still more to come from our car and hopefully that will happen soon."
Giancarlo Fisichella (13th, Q2 - 1m 16.146s):
"I think we can be really satisfied and very happy with the performance today. The team worked well and two cars in the top 15 is good: very encouraging. We did a good job together, we still have some work to do but the result shows we're going in the right direction. For tomorrow I want to get to the end of the race and let's see - this is Monaco, you never know what can happen."
Adrian Sutil (15th, Q2 - 1m 16.545s):
"A very good qualifying for us, with two cars into Q2 for the first time ever. It feels a bit like a pole position for us, and it was fun to be able to do it. Everything came together, the team did a good job in the garage and I felt my lap was strong. It was difficult to do, with the traffic and then the stoppages, but it was a good run for us. Tomorrow I hope we will be able to fight in the midfield and try to get ahead of some people. The start could be a bit tricky, as it always is here, but I feel all set for tomorrow. We are really motivated now and are hoping for a good race."
Dominic Harlow, Force India chief race engineer:
"A good feeling to have opened our account for Q2 this season with both cars here in Monaco. The whole team has worked very hard for this event both at the factory and the circuit, and together with calm performances from the drivers in a hectic session we have showed some genuine performance. Q2 itself was tougher as the circuit improvement slowed, but points are realistically possible from where we will start tomorrow and we'll be doing our best to make this opportunity stick."
Nick Heidfeld (17th, Q1 - 1m 16.264s):
"Obviously this is extremely disappointing. We made a lot of changes after Thursday's free practice and even more changes after this morning's session, although this is always a bit risky shortly before qualifying. But we knew we hadn't much to lose. Actually it was rather a change for the worse than for the better, but it didn't really make a big difference anyway. It is frustrating when you go to the absolute limit and take every risk, especially here on this special circuit, and you still end up nowhere. Currently we don't know what's wrong. In Barcelona we made a step forward, but here we are way behind expectations."
Robert Kubica (18th, Q1 - 1m 16.405s):
"So far we have only had difficulties. We struggled on Thursday and again this morning. I had a very bad out lap with a lot of traffic. As a result my tyres cooled down a lot. However, the overall performance of the car is not good enough. We have to realise we are bad. We have to adapt to the situation and we have to work very hard now."
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport director:
"The qualifying result reflects the problems we already faced in free practice here in Monaco. No matter which set-up or on what tyre compound - none of our cars were able to achieve the necessary grip. Our data shows the tyres never reached their operating temperatures. Positions 17 and 18 are disappointing. We have a lot of work ahead of us."
Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber head of engineering:
"Monaco is a special track for which you do special preparation work. But, despite several set-up changes, we never found an acceptable grip level and car balance. So far this has been a poor performance from us. The drivers tried everything and didn't make mistakes, but our cars were simply too slow. Now we have to start to figure out the reason and begin to solve the problems before Istanbul."
Jarno Trulli (19th, Q1 - 1m 16.548s):
"It is extremely disappointing but especially because I was on a pretty good lap at the end of Q1 when I was blocked by another car in the final two corners. That would have been my quickest lap and I would have been easily in Q2. So I am angry about that but ultimately we haven't shown good enough performance this weekend."
Timo Glock (20th, Q1 - 1m 16.788s):
"We have to analyse and see where the problems are. We struggled from the first lap this weekend. The car didn't feel great but it didn't feel terrible, it was just that the pace clearly wasn't there. I pushed as hard as possible but it wasn't enough. Obviously I will do my best in the race tomorrow but from this position on the grid we don't have much hope."
Pascal Vasselon, Toyota senior general manager chassis:
"It has been a very difficult weekend, obviously. There is clearly something wrong on the car which we are looking at; we have to fix this. The race will be difficult from where we start but still we will keep on fighting."
Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone Director of Motorsport Tyre Development:
"Today we saw Jenson Button use Bridgestone's super soft tyre for pole position here in Monaco, and as we all know, overtaking is very difficult here so pole is very beneficial. Lap times here were very close. The nature of the circuit means that the balance between mechanical grip and aerodynamic grip is more towards mechanical grip, and the close times show that all the teams can get good results from our tyres. It was also a good day for Ferrari with their first front row qualification of the season.
"The crucial question is whether the super soft tyre is durable enough to allow a one stop strategy. Our data shows that this should be possible, however a lot depends on track condition and rear tyre transverse graining. The track has changed from Thursday's running but super soft is still around 0.4 seconds faster than the soft Bridgestone. Track temperatures were higher today, but heat degradation is not really a problem here as the track surface is smooth, so not too severe for tyres."