Qualifying - selected team and driver quotes 29 Aug 2009
Ferraris Luca Badoer on ending his Saturday beached in the gravel and 20th on the grid; championship leader Jenson Button on failing to make it through to Q3 in the Brawn for the first time this season; and Giancarlo Fisichella on taking Force Indias first-ever pole. All 20 drivers and senior team personnel report back on the action
Giancarlo Fisichella (1st, Q3 - 1m 46.308s):
This is one of my favourite circuits, I did well in the past and I was sure we would be competitive again this year. I didn't expect to be on pole though! It feels just great, like a dream. I am so happy for myself, for the team, for the mechanics, the engineers, who have done a fantastic job. They did a great step forward for Valencia for the last race considering our budget and our resources. This morning we had a small accident when I hit a rabbit, but my engineer said it would be lucky and it was! What a result. I am now not only looking for points, but for more. We've got this far we need to finish the job!
Adrian Sutil (11th, Q2 - 1m 45.119s):
This is an unbelievable day for the team. Congratulations to Giancarlo: it was an amazing result for him and such a good boost for the team. We've worked hard so the guys really deserve it. For me, it was quite a good session but I'm still a little bit disappointed as I couldn't use the soft tyre set effectively. The hard set was much better on my car - we don't know why but we will look into it for sure. Normally we should have been Q3 - as Giancarlo showed - but from 11th I still think points are possible. We are quite good on the long run pace, the car feels good and it was from this point of view I am quite happy.
Dominic Harlow, Force India chief race engineer:
Simply an incredible result today and full credit to Giancarlo on a series of fantastic laps. We started today a little unsure of our performance, and knew we had to work on the understeer that was in the car yesterday. The engineers worked on it, tried a few things in FP3 and found the right direction. From there both drivers were much happier. For Adrian the two tyres seemed closer in performance in qualifying, and somehow he just missed out on Q3, Giancarlo concentrated on the soft tyre in Q2 and I think the track improvement came in that direction. I want to say thanks to the tunnel, the factory and to the team and hope that tomorrow we convert this qualifying result to solid points.
Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India chairman and team principal
What an unbelievable result we have had here. I am so proud of Giancarlo, the team in the garage and the factory and also for the entire Indian nation. There is nothing more to say: we've done both ourselves and the country proud.
Jarno Trulli (2nd, Q3 - 1m 46.395s):
"I am very happy to be on the front row again. We have always known that when things go right we have a very competitive car and all weekend we have looked extremely strong. In qualifying I was always in the top two, even though in first qualifying I took it a bit easy. I did a very quick lap in third qualifying and second place gives us a great chance tomorrow. We dropped the downforce a bit yesterday and spent most of the time balancing the car. Then we made a small change to the set-up this morning so I had better handling and traction for qualifying and it worked well. Also, I spent most of the weekend driving on race fuel so I am very happy with how things have turned out and it is looking pretty good for tomorrow. I have to thank the team who have worked really hard to improve and get a result like this; I dedicate it to all my mechanics."
Timo Glock (7th, Q3 - 1m 46.677s):
"Today was a good result for the whole team and it is a nice feeling to be fighting at the front again. My lap was pretty tidy so overall I am happy with it; we have worked hard on improving the qualifying pace and we got our reward today. The team brought a new aero package to this race and it seems to be working well. From the start of the weekend we believed we could be strong here because the car felt quick throughout practice and it's great to carry that speed into qualifying. We had good race pace in Hungary and Valencia so I am optimistic for tomorrow. I hope to finish in the top five; it will not be easy but I'm really looking forward to the challenge."
Pascal Vasselon, Toyota senior general manager chassis:
"It has been a good weekend for us so far and we are happy to be back at the front. We saw from the start of the weekend that both cars were quick and consistent in all conditions and it is a good feeling. For the first time in three races we have qualified where our race pace has been so the weekend looks promising and we are ready for an exciting Sunday tomorrow. Congratulations to our drivers who have done a very impressive job this weekend; they both work extremely hard and it is very satisfying to see that rewarded. I would also like to say thanks to the people back at the factory, as well as those here at the track. They never give up and it is particularly pleasing to deliver a good performance at Spa, which is so close to the factory in Cologne. Now our clear target is to convert this strong qualifying into a result tomorrow."
Nick Heidfeld (3rd, Q3 - 1m 46.500s):
Todays good result is obviously very important for our team. After BMW announced it was pulling out of the sport we are working on securing the future for the team in Hinwil. Nobody has given up in this difficult period of time and todays qualifying result is a reward for it. We did our homework in practice, made several changes and Im quite happy with the balance of the car. I think the fact that the 2009 cars are run on a medium downforce level here for the first time this year might be the reason for the grid being very different to previous races. In Q2 I firstly got stuck in traffic and then at my second outing I had a set of tyres which wasnt as good, therefore I knew I would go faster once I was in Q3. I still wouldnt mind a wet race tomorrow - even though Im third and we did not take it into consideration in terms of fuel load and downforce level.
Robert Kubica (5th, Q3 - 1m 46.586s):
Even yesterday we had a good feeling as we were quite competitive. When we changed the engine before this mornings practice session, I immediately started losing speed on the straights. Unfortunately we were not able to solve the problem before qualifying. This is a bit unlucky as we have a very competitive car for the first time this season. I hope we can solve this issue by tomorrow. I expect a tough race tomorrow as the pack is close together.
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport director:
As has happened in a couple of previous races this season, the balance of power got pretty heavily shaken up today. Of course we are very happy with this qualifying result. For the first time this season we were able to reclaim the position that we safely had last year. It seems that our car and its tyres are a pretty good combination on this track. That makes me confident for tomorows race. Congratulations to Giancarlo Fisichella and Force India for the first pole position of the team.
Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber head of engineering:
Of course qualifying third and fifth is fantastic. Yesterdays results indicated our performance could be pretty good here. We improved the cars set-up overnight and learnt quite a lot about the optimum use of the tyres. This was the basis for the strong qualifying. After the tough last couple of weeks, the qualifying result is a reward for the entire team who worked flat out on the further development of the car. A big Thank You to the entire team.
Rubens Barrichello (4th, Q3 - 1m 46.513s):
"I'm extremely happy with our qualifying performance today and the second row of the grid is a great starting position for the race. The results today have to be one of the biggest surprises of the year and it's great for Giancarlo Fisichella to be up there on pole. It's good to see that the 'old-timers' still have it! I took the best out of my car today, particularly in Q2 which was one of my best laps around Spa, but that was only enough for sixth position in that session. We've been quite aggressive on the strategy and the race is wide open tomorrow so I'll push as much as I can and we can get a good result from here."
Jenson Button (14th, Q2 - 1m 45.251s):
"I didn't expect to qualify in 14th position today but we really struggled with grip levels, particularly on the softer tyre. The car hasn't felt quite right all weekend and unfortunately I wasn't able to get any more out of it today. Rubens and I are usually very closely matched but he was quick on the option and I wasn't so we need to look into the reasons for that. I just couldn't find any grip on the softer rubber so the rear end felt unstable and I had no confidence under braking, particularly in the middle sector. It's strange as our set-ups are different but not by much. It's going to be very tough in the race from here but at least we have more time to choose our strategy. We need to get it right and see if we can score some points tomorrow."
Ross Brawn, Brawn team principal:
It was a challenging qualifying hour today and the end result has seen one of the most mixed-up grids of the season which is great for the sport and will probably make for a very interesting race tomorrow. Rubens put in another very strong performance today and fourth place on the grid, with an aggressive strategy, puts him in a good position for the race tomorrow. It's fair to say that qualifying got away from us a little bit today with Jenson. We have been struggling with the car balance on his side this weekend and although some changes were made overnight, we were not able to get the car to a position which he felt comfortable with. Looking on the positive side, our main championship rivals are behind one of our cars and only a few places ahead of the other. We have focused on our race performance during the practice sessions here and believe we will have the pace to take the fight to them tomorrow."
Kimi Raikkonen (6th, Q3 - 1m 46.633s):
"Of course I would have preferred to have started from further up the grid, but I think we did our best today. We knew it would be hard to be at the front, but all the same, this is a good position, especially as the gaps between the front runners are pretty tight. With more fuel on board, the car handles better than on a light load and that was the case again in this qualifying session. Such an unusual grid makes it even harder to make any predictions for tomorrow and we will have to make the most of any opportunities that present themselves. The final outcome will depend a lot on the first two corners after the start. The fact the car handles differently at various sections of the track can be explained by the lack of aerodynamic downforce we have this season."
Luca Badoer (20th, Q1 - 1m 46.957s):
"I'm not happy, because this morning, at the end of free practice, I had hoped to make it through to Q2. Unfortunately, partly because of traffic and partly because of a few small problems, I didn't manage to put together a perfect lap. I was counting on doing so on my final run, but there was the incident with Vettel which then led to me going off the track and that put an end to my qualifying. I have made another step forward in terms of performance, but it's still not enough: for me the hardest thing is getting into a rhythm and finding the limits of the car. Unfortunately, there's no opportunity to do the testing that would put that right. I am sure that tomorrow, I will perform better than I did in the Valencia race. I will try and do my best."
Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal:
"One could certainly say the starting grid order is unexpected. As we have already seen several times this season, the pecking order between the teams can change really suddenly from one race to the next. For our part, we would have liked to be a little bit higher up with Kimi, but all the same, we are in a position that will allow us to fight for a podium finish, especially when looking at the F60's performance over a long run. As for Luca, once again we could see an improvement in his performance, but unfortunately, it was not enough to avoid him ending up last on the grid again."
Chris Dyer, Ferrari chief engineer:
We are a bit disappointed because, after yesterday's showing, we expected a better result. Sixth place for Kimi must be assessed in the light of the different fuel loads of all the cars in the top ten. We believe we have come up with a good strategy and, given the car's performance over a long run, we expect that,yet again, we can fight for a place on the podium. As for Luca, everyone can see that, day by day, his performance level is improving: unfortunately, it is not yet at a sufficient level to see him through at least to Q2."
Sebastian Vettel (8th, Q3 - 1m 46.761s):
It was quite an interesting session - and not the best for us obviously; eighth and ninth will be tough tomorrow on the grid. Unfortunately I made a mistake on my last flying lap in Q3. I lost the rear going into Turn 14, which leads on to the back straight and lost all the speed, so there was no point in completing the lap. The results were quite a surprise today; I dont think anyone expected Fisi (Fisichella) to be on pole.
Mark Webber (9th, Q3 - 1m 46.788s):
That was a strange session - we expected to be more competitive than that. Fisi on pole! A great day for them, but we were surprised by that. A lot of the guys were too quick for us; it shows you just never know in this game. It should be an interesting race tomorrow. We had to change the engine before qualifying, but that wouldnt affect our result and we were pretty confident going into the session. We put in a new engine as we had to make some checks on the one that we used this morning, but it looks like it is okay.
Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal:
A different Q3 to normal - I bet none of the bookies predicted that one! Our guys had a strong Q2 and the fuel effect is reasonably large around here, so well wait with interest to see what the fuel figures are later today. Congratulations to Force India for their first pole position. We look forward to what should be a really exciting race tomorrow.
Fabrice Lom, Renault, principal engineer track support:
Again - a bad day. We apologise to Mark for the electrical problem that we had on his engine - it really seems as though we have a black cloud hanging over our heads at the moment. I can only assure Red Bull and the people that want to beat us that we will never give up - and when this black cloud lifts, we will fight like hell!
Nico Rosberg (10th, Q3 - 1m 47.362s):
We have really struggled all weekend but we managed to get the best out of Q2 and finishing 10th was possibly the best we could achieve carrying quite a lot of fuel. We have a good strategy and therefore I think we can fight for some points tomorrow. It was a very strange qualifying session here today, I think maybe the way the teams are using their tyres is making quite a difference.
Kazuki Nakajima (18th, Q1 - 1m 46.307s):
We struggled here yesterday in practice, but Nico managed to either drive very well or find a set-up direction that I didnt. I hope I can learn something from the progress he made today and have a better time tomorrow in the race to make up for todays disappointment.
Sam Michael, Williams technical director:
We had a difficult day yesterday and we changed a lot of things overnight which definitely made the car better. It was an unbelievably tight qualifying session considering how long the lap is, which goes to show how much of a difference the rules have made. Nico did a fantastic job to get the car through to Q3 and from that point we adjusted our strategy to concentrate on Sunday. Congratulations to Force India for their first pole.
Lewis Hamilton (12th, Q2 - 1m 45.122s):
We did the best job we could today. Wed always known the car would struggle in the mid-sector corners: being one second down in the mid-sector shows the true downforce level of our car. We expected that we wouldnt have as good an aero package as some of the others - we just didnt know to what extent. I guess today we found out. But Im not too disappointed - this year has been a rollercoaster ride for everyone, but Im enjoying it still and I love driving this track. My plan for tomorrow is a points finish.
Heikki Kovalainen (15th, Q2 - 1m 45.259s):
This morning, we started to become a little surprised by the pace of some of the other cars. We were struggling in the high-speed corners a little more than in either Hungary or Valencia, where the circuit configurations are slower. We expected today to be tough and our results show we are still lacking in high-speed efficiency, downforce and straight-line speed. Still, it was very close today; there was quite a bit of traffic in the session and, with just a couple more tenths, we could have made it into Q3. Ill be racing hard tomorrow and I feel confident we can go forwards from here. Nevertheless, we know where we are and were not down because of this. Weve shown progress compared with Silverstone and well keep pushing to improve on our issues.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal:
First of all, I want to say Well done! to Force India on the occasion of their first ever pole position. But Giancarlo Fisichellas pole wasnt the only unexpected element of todays grid - far from it, in fact - and I think its fair to say that very few people would have successfully forecast todays top three. As for us, the reality is that we didnt provide our drivers with a quick enough car, and the consequence was a disappointing qualifying result. Having said that, the microclimate here is notoriously unpredictable, and its a long lap, and form upsets are therefore relatively common. So Lewis and Heikki are both aiming to score points tomorrow.
Norbert Haug, vice-president Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
Formula One is really tough and enormously hard fought these days and creates more and more surprises. Very well done to Giancarlo and Force India for their first pole position on this demanding racetrack. The fact that world champions Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, as well as the current world championship leader Jenson Button, will respectively start from 12th, 13th and 14th describes how unpredictable this sport is these days and that the slightest problem - even if it costs you only a tenth or two - puts you on the back foot. A shame for Lewis and Heikki who could not make it past Q2, Lewis by 0.075 seconds and Heikki by a bit over two tenths. Both drivers suffered in the fast corners in the long middle sector. The times were closer than ever: in Q2, the top 10 was covered by five and a half tenths and the top 15 by seven and a half tenths - on a circuit of more than 7km length! Tomorrow we hopefully can overtake some cars already on the first lap and then build on a good strategy. Even from 12th and 15th, it is not impossible for us to do a decent job in the race and we certainly will try very hard. On a different note: it is of course very pleasing to see that all Mercedes-powered teams - championship leaders Brawn GP, Force India and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, have put a car on pole at least once during the first 12 Grands Prix of the season covering a total number of six pole positions so far.
Fernando Alonso (13th, Q3 - 1m 45.136s):
"Today we just weren't competitive enough and we struggled in both Q1 and Q2 where I did my maximum but still missed out. However, it was an unusual session today as we had big competitors knocked out in Q2. Tomorrow this should make for an interesting race and then there is always the weather which may play a role. So we will not give up and will do our best to fight back tomorrow."
Romain Grosjean (19th, Q1 - 1m 46.359s):
"It was a difficult session today as there was a lot of traffic. I was blocked on a couple of my quick laps by a Toro Rosso and then my last quick lap was ruined by the yellow flag. However, the car has been good all weekend and I really love this circuit so I will give my maximum to move forward, finish the race and gain more experience."
Pat Symonds, Renault executive director of engineering:
"Today we have seen a very unusual grid formed and unfortunately we are not in the right part of it. It has been difficult to understand where the performance is this weekend because the lap times of the cars are all very close. Fernando just missed out on Q3 and Romain had some issues with traffic. We must now have a look to see whether we can use strategy to gain some points tomorrow."
Sebastien Buemi (16th, Q1 - 1m 45.951s):
I had a good first run on the option tyre, but with my second set I had a bit of traffic on my warm-up lap and I didnt get my flying lap together. Then at the final braking point I locked up my rear wheels and so the lap was spoilt. Even though we knew it could be difficult to get to Q2, I am disappointed with my performance. Finding the right compromise on set-up is difficult here between running low downforce for the fast sections and having enough to deal with the slower parts. As for the race, we need to look closely at our tyre strategy as both types of tyre work well here.
Jaime Alguersuari (17th, Q1 - 1m 46.032s):
It was always going to be tough to get into Q2. We were lacking speed on the main straight in Sector One and Sector Three, but I did a good time in Sector 2. The main thing for me is that I am making progress: in Hungary I was last on the grid, then Valencia 19th and today I am 17th, so its getting better. Hopefully, I can work my way up to pole one day! I still need to build up more confidence with the carand the tyres in the quick corners.
Laurent Mekies, Toro Rosso chief engineer:
Not the outcome we were expecting. Jaime did a good job, making progress throughout the weekend, in what is only his third race. Sebastien had a very good first run, but unfortunately we could not repeat it on his second one and so we slid out of the Q2 zone. However, we feel we have better potential than we showed this afternoon and we hope we can demonstrate that in tomorrows race.
Hirohide Hamashima - Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development:
"Today was fascinating from a tyre perspective and it was also a wonderful day for Force India and Giancarlo Fisichella for their pole position. Choosing between the two tyres here has been very temperature dependent, making it difficult for teams to decide which to use. This was particularly true in qualifying, as track temperature changed considerably. The soft compound worked very well with the lighter fuel loads of Q1 and Q2, however the heavier cars of Q3 tended towards the medium tyre. The tyres are very close together on ultimate lap time, with the soft giving better grip, but the medium giving better stability. Just like Friday, we could not find any graining today and this means that both compounds are working well. Because of the close performance of the tyres we believe there will be a wide range of strategy possibilities for tomorrow's race, and we will be interested to see what happens."
More to follow.