Qualifying - selected team and driver quotes 24 Mar 2012
HRTs Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan on setting times within the FIAs 107 percent requirement; Toro Rossos Jean-Eric Vergne on failing to make it through to Q2; Ferraris Felipe Massa on not gaining entry into the top-ten shootout for a second successive race; and McLarens Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton on locking out the front row. All 24 drivers and senior team personnel report back on Saturdays action
Lewis Hamilton (1st, Q3 - 1m 36.219s)
Qualifying is an intense experience and, as drivers, we all put a huge amount of pressure on ourselves, but its probably the part of the race weekend I most enjoy. On my quickest lap in Q3, I lost a little time in the final corner maybe a tenth and a half - so its massively encouraging to still be in the position Im in. Its great for the team to have another one-two, too: thats a huge achievement from everybody, but we just need to make sure we keep pushing because the guys behind us wont give up. Tomorrow, theres a long haul down to Turn One, but Ill be making sure to get a good launch and stay ahead cleanly. Anyway, the key will be to look after your tyres in the race - theyll have a tough time, especially on 150kg of fuel. But weve hopefully got a car that has better race pace than it does qualifying pace. Its been a good weekend for the team so far, but well keep pushing massively for another strong result tomorrow.
Jenson Button (2nd, Q3 - 1m 36.368s)
Qualifying has been pretty good to me in the last two races. Weve worked well as a team, and its always nice when your engineer cues up on the radio at the end of Q3 and you can hear all the mechanics in the background cheering. I was pretty happy with my quick lap but itll be a long, hot afternoon tomorrow so Ill be working hard to ensure Im properly prepared and hydrated for the race. This place is so physically tough - not just on the cars and drivers, but its tough on the mechanics too - theyre wearing fireproof race suits during the pit stops, which people often forget, so hopefully theyre fit and ready for some strong pit stops tomorrow. For the strategists too, the heat and humidity are so high that you really dont know how the tyres will work and what strategies will best play out in the race. Weve really got to be on your toes. Anyway, the most important thing is that were on the front row. Its a long race tomorrow = I think anybody in the top four has a chance of winning this race, but our long-run pace in practice was reasonably consistent and I think weve got a lot of confidence as a team in what were doing.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
Today was very close and very tough. Lewis did a fantastic first lap in Q3 and Jenson pulled it out of the bag at the very end of the session - both drivers did a fantastic job under huge pressure. Lewis could probably have found another tenth on his fastest run, but he wasnt going to take any risks at the end. Jenson and Lewis are free to race into the first corner. After last weekend, Im sure that Lewis will want to come out of the first corner in the lead, but its a long and difficult race ahead of both of them tomorrow. Im proud of every person in the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team - the front row is a good place to be, but the odds are very finely stacked: well have a fight on our hands tomorrow, thats for sure.
Michael Schumacher (3rd, Q3 - 1m 36.391s)
"I am more than happy about my return to the top three today, and the fact that our guys here and back at the factories in Brackley and Brixworth have enabled me to be here with the superb work they have done. It felt nice being in the qualifying press conference for the first time in over five years! What is obviously more important would be sitting here again tomorrow, and I will certainly try to do my best to achieve that. From where we were last year, I think it is quite an achievement, and I am pleased for our title partner PETRONAS at their home Grand Prix here in Malaysia. I would also be happy to give a good result back to Mercedes-Benz who have been so strongly supportive of me."
Nico Rosberg (8th, Q3 - 1m 36.664s)
"I would obviously like to be further up the grid, however unfortunately I lost some time on my quick lap after a poor first corner which cost me a few tenths and left me with a lot of tyre vibrations for the rest of the lap. However I'm quite confident that we can compete very well tomorrow as we have worked hard on our race pace over the weekend. I hope that I can move forward a few places and score some good points in front of our Malaysian supporters and our partner Petronas."
Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal
"We are obviously delighted with the performance today and congratulations to Michael in particular. It's really pleasing to see him put in such a good performance, and I hope we can consolidate that in the race tomorrow. We didn't have the best of luck in Q2 as the yellow flag came at the worst time for us, meaning that both drivers had to go again on a second set of options, which left us only one set for Q3. So I'm pleased with what we managed to achieve, and we are in a good position for the race tomorrow. The competition is incredibly close with only tenths separating the top eight and that was enough to push Nico further down than he should have been after he flat-spotted his front tyre at turn one. However he is still in a good position and both drivers should be able to have a strong race."
Norbert Haug, vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"Quite superb from Michael today, I have to say. He had only one go in Q3 as we lost a set of tyres in Q2 due to the yellow flag. Michael's lap put him 0.023s behind Jenson in P2, and less than two-tenths behind pole-sitter Lewis. Of course, it is also nice to have three Mercedes-powered cars in the top three places for tomorrow's race, and we hope our team will be able to fight for a top five result. We will certainly not get carried away assuming that we are already a challenge for McLaren Mercedes and Red Bull, and we do not underestimate Lotus who are doing a great job, and as always we never underestimate Ferrari. As long as we are developing ourselves in the right direction, we are working according to plan. Nico flat-spotted his tyre in turn one and ended up in P8, but we know how fast he can go from P3 this morning, and he will start in seventh place due to Kimi's grid penalty. Well done to Michael and everybody in the team here, and in Brackley and Brixworth, and it would be nice to get a similar result tomorrow. Last but not least we are very pleased for our title partner Petronas to start from the second row in their home race."
Mark Webber (4th, Q3 - 1m 36.461s)
It wasnt too bad, we had a reasonable run. In Melbourne we were a bit stronger in the race than in qualifying and looking at the gap to pole today, it seems we are two or three tenths off, which is a step in the right direction. We will re-group and have a look at how we go tomorrow. Weve made progress with the car from Melbourne though. Its tight between the first four rows, theres some very good performances going on from quite a few teams - its good for the fans.
Sebastian Vettel (6th, Q3 - 1m 36.634s)
We didnt feel so good on the medium compound tyre, so we decided to go onto the harder tyre for the final lap, which was a step forward. I didnt feel that good in the car and was struggling to find the balance, so I didnt get everything out of it for one flying lap. Theres not been much time to react since Australia - only one week. The McLarens were strong in Australia and they are strong here, so they are the ones to beat. I think in race trim we might look a bit better, but nonetheless I think you can see that we dont have the easiest car to drive, we are aware of that and are pushing very hard.
Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal
Fourth and fifth on the grid after Kimis penalty is probably what we expected going into qualifying today. The McLarens have looked very strong all weekend. We elected to take a different approach with both drivers tomorrow, with Mark qualifying on the softer tyre and Sebastian on the harder tyre. Our long run pace has been encouraging throughout the weekend, so hopefully we can have a strong race tomorrow and put on a good show.
Kimi Raikkonen, (5th, Q3 - 1m 36.461s)
The car was working well today. Unfortunately, I made a couple of mistakes on my fastest lap which probably cost a couple of tenths. Without that, we were in with a shout for pole today. I got a little bit sideways at the exit of turn nine and we lost some time, but thats how it goes sometimes. We had some issues with KERS yesterday, but there was no repeat today; the car worked exactly as it should and it felt good. Its a shame we have a penalty on the grid but the car works well. Today was definitely a positive day. Tomorrow we start from tenth and will try to improve from there.
Romain Grosjean, (7th, Q3 - 1m 36.658s)
Its great to have both cars in Q3, and Im really pleased to have been part of the top ten in both of my first two races. The team has done a great job to get the most out of the car, and we can be really pleased that were fighting for the top positions. Its going to be an interesting race tomorrow, and hopefully we can move up even further. You never know what will happen with the weather here, our pace is not too far off the leaders and it will be a long race, so anything is possible. In these conditions managing the tyres is crucial. Qualifying is one thing, but the race will be a whole other matter. Im looking forward to the race, if we can finish in the top five that would be great, but the most important thing is to get my first points of the season."
Alan Permane, Lotus trackside operations director
Obviously were happy from todays performance, but as ever in Formula One we always want more. Kimi felt he made a mistake in a couple of corners, and with a perfect lap he could have certainly done better, but overall to have the fifth and seventh fastest cars in qualifying was encouraging. Looking at all the data, we should expect a strong race. We have a good handle on the tyres in these conditions. We have good set-ups which both drivers feel very happy with. Weather permitting, we should expect to have both cars in the points tomorrow.
Fernando Alonso (9th, Q3 - 1m 37.566s)
It was a good qualifying, because I think we got everything we could out of the car. I had a KERS problem on my only run in Q3, but I dont think it cost me any places, but it would definitely have made the gap to pole look more realistic. If it was to rain, it will take a lot of luck to pinpoint the right moment to change tyres: it only takes a little to drop a dozen seconds or so and we will need total concentration to get everything right. A dry race will require just as much concentration to maximise the performance of the car and tyres which, at this track, degrade a lot. We must try and bring home points that could be significant for the championship. The start and the first corner will be complicated, because so much is at stake then. We know we have a lot of work to do, especially on the aerodynamics of the car. Here, the performance is slightly better than in Australia, which proves we are working in the right direction, but obviously we must move on in leaps and bounds if we want to fight for the front rows. A new car in Barcelona? No, theres no truth in that. Clearly we are pushing a lot on car development, which is as it should be, but in a consistent fashion with no revolutionary changes. At the moment, this car has many problems, but as a result, it also has a big margin for improvement.
Felipe Massa (12th, Q2 - 1m 37.731s)
Clearly, I cant be happy with twelfth place, but we know that, at the moment, we do not have a very competitive car: getting through to Q3 is very difficult and today I could only get close to this target. Yesterday and today in FP3, I was not satisfied with the balance of the car, but we managed to improve it for qualifying, which leaves me feeling confident for the race and for the future. I think we have begun to get a better understanding of how this F2012 works and that is positive. Tomorrow will be a very hard race, where tyre degradation will make itself felt and there will also be the threat of rain hanging over it. I hope I can get a better result than this twelfth place. Pressure? It comes from own will to always do the maximum and when I dont manage it, I am the first to be unhappy.
Pat Fry, Ferrari chassis director
Honestly its hard to see how we could have secured a different result to this one, given the potential available to us. We had a KERS problem right in the final stages of the session, when Fernando set out for his last timed lap in Q3. That cost him a few tenths, but I dont think that without it he would have got a different position on the grid. As usual, the Spanish driver squeezed every drop of performance out of the F2012. Felipe finally had a better balanced car and made good progress compared to the previous sessions and that was also down to the work the entire team tackled with him. We can expect a very tough race: the aim is to get both drivers home in the points. The start will be a very important moment, while tyre degradation will be one of the key factors and will have a significant effect on strategy. Then theres the unknown factor relating to the weather: so far, the rain has only put in a brief appearance in FP3, but we are well aware that storms can arrive at any moment: we have to ensure we are ready to exploit every opportunity that might present itself.
Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal
We should regard this result as a glass half full. We know that we are in difficulty in this early part of the season, therefore we have to look at limiting the damage on track, while working to make the F2012 more competitive in as short a time as possible. All of us and our fans would like to see our drivers always in the fight for pole position, but if we do not have the potential to do so, then we have to do the best we can. Once again today, Fernando did a great job and its a shame that he had a KERS problem, the first in a long time, which prevented him from doing a much better time on a track where this system delivers a significant benefit. Felipe has made a step in the right direction: finally the car he had in qualifying was reasonably balanced and that could also be seen on the clock. Now we must concentrate on the race and try to bring home as many points as we can. We saw in Melbourne that over a long distance the difference between the front runners is less marked than in qualifying. Lets see how tomorrow goes in a race that looks like being very tough on the cars, drivers and teams, who have to operate here in rather unique conditions.
Sergio Perez (10th, Q3 - 1m 37.698s)
I am very happy we made it into Q3. Considering all the balance problems we had yesterday that we could not fully explain, it was a great achievement today for the team. Also I think our car is still better in race conditions than in qualifying form, so we should have good potential for tomorrows race. For some reason it is difficult to find proper grip with the medium compound tyres, but the changes we made after free practice helped a bit. It will be a tough race tomorrow for the car, the tyres and the drivers. I will fight and bring home as many points as possible.
Kamui Kobayashi (17th, Q2 - 1m 38.069s)
There was no particular problem on my final lap in Q2 such as traffic or mistakes, but I could not feel the grip with the medium tyre compound. We were struggling a lot with the cars balance yesterday, but in the third free practice this morning it was better. But the changes we then made for qualifying apparently went in the wrong direction. Looking forward to the race, I can say that the circuit itself isnt bad for overtaking but Im not sure we will have enough straight line speed.
Giampaolo DallAra, Sauber head of track engineering
We had a difficult start to the weekend yesterday when we struggled a lot in free practice one, but then we were able to make some improvements during the day and an additional step over night. Today the drivers were happier with the balance of their cars. Sergio was able to convert that into a good grid position, while Kamui struggled on his final run. We have to analyse all the details to understand what happened.
Peter Sauber, Sauber team principal
Its great for Sergio to be in the top ten. Its our goal to have at least one car in Q3, and looking at our competitors I know this is very ambitious. Kamui was strong in the first three sessions but then couldnt benefit from that in qualifying. We have to find out why. The race will be very tough, so there are a lot of unknowns.
Pastor Maldonado (11th, Q2 - 1m 37.589s)
In Q2 I made a mistake at Turn 11 and ran wide, picking up a bit of damage. We knew it would be difficult to get into Q3 today, but we have good race pace. It will be tough tomorrow, but our car looks consistent on longer runs so Im looking forward to the challenge.
Bruno Senna (13th, Q2 - 1m 37.841s)
We were pushing hard today but there is definitely still more performance in the car. It was a tough session with such a close grid but we are getting closer. We have a good car, so we will now work out the best strategy to move forward in the race tomorrow.
Mark Gillan, Williams chief operations engineer
We had a good practice session this morning but unfortunately we failed to capitalise on our pace in qualifying with Pastor finishing a credible 11th and Bruno 13th. Pastor's car sustained some body work damage on his penultimate run in Q2 which affected the aerodynamic balance of the car. We look forward to the race tomorrow and aim to be fighting for points.
Paul di Resta (14th, Q2 - 1m 37.877s)
We definitely improved the car between final practice and qualifying, but it was a tough session and it got quite a bit warmer during the two hours between qualifying and practice. My laps in Q2 were good and I got sectors one and two right, but I maybe lost out in the final sector, which I never really maximised. I think P14 is a reasonable place to start and hopefully our race pace and tyre management will pay off tomorrow. The other variable is the weather because there is always a high risk of showers late in the afternoon.
Nico Hulkenberg (16th, Q2 - 1m 37.890s)
You only have to look at the times to see how close things were today. Half a tenth would have given me two or three places, while finding a tenth would have put me twelfth on the grid. To be honest, though, I dont think there was any more to come because I pretty much got the maximum from the car. Now its all about racing well and using the strategy to try and come away with a result. Having already missed most of the race last weekend in Melbourne, it almost feels like the first race of my season, so hopefully I can go the distance and have a strong performance. Tyre degradation will be a key factor in the race and the chance of rain could also mix things up.
Robert Fernley, Force India deputy team principal
Overall we cant be too disappointed with our qualifying showing today. Yes, we would have liked to have been a little higher up, but looking over the timesheets shows just how closely matched the grid is. In fact, just three tenths cover the cars from ninth to 16th and with such margins the slightest error can cost you three or four positions. Both Paul and Nico delivered consistent laps, although its fair to say they were both marginally compromised by the release of the Mercedes cars in Q2. However, I remain optimistic for tomorrow and believe were in good shape, and that our race pace will allow us to get up there challenging for points.
Daniel Ricciardo (15th, Q2 - 1m 37.883s)
Todays performance was okay, but obviously not as good on paper as last Saturday when I was in Q3. Looking at the times, its very close so a tenth of a second might have made a difference of a few positions. Having said that, the people behind me are quite close as well. I think we are more or less where we thought we would be, as we expected Q3 to be a more difficult target here than in Melbourne. I am reasonably happy with the lap I did, which was pretty clean and I am not kicking myself thinking I could have done better. Hopefully, we have a good package for the race and I will be trying to nose into the points. Weve got 56 laps to make up position and yesterday, our long run performance wasnt bad. But if it rains, then its anyones game and there will be more opportunities, so that could help.
Jean-Eric Vergne (18th, Q1 - 1m 39.077s)
Of course I am a bit disappointed with this result. I made a mistake at the first corner, having a massive lock-up on a front wheel. That created so much vibration that I had to come back to the pits and that was my qualifying over. Looking for something positive, at least it means we have saved one set of new Option tyres for the race. Theres also a chance of rain for tomorrow so anything could happen, but whatever the conditions, I feel our car can be competitive in race trim. Compared to Melbourne, the car is pretty much the same so the difference in qualifying result between there and here is down to the fact the mid-field is so close and, as I was not able to do a time on the Option that explains my grid position.
Laurent Mekies, Toro Rosso chief engineer
In terms of the result, its not as good as last week. We are racing in the same mid-field group with Williams, Sauber and Force India and while in Australia we were at the top end of that group, here we are not. We are only talking about two to three tenths of a second from one end of the group to the other. That means we still have every chance to do well tomorrow. In Jean-Erics case he did not really get to do a time, as he locked a wheel and thats part of the game. Daniel did what he had to, but as its so tight, a couple of tenths made the difference. In Melbourne we started ahead of this group and after only one lap, we were at the back, so lets hope its the other way round tomorrow!
Heikki Kovalainen (19th, Q1 - 1m 39.306s)
That was an odd qualifying session for me. I know there's more time in the car because I definitely lost time on the second run on the options. I made a couple of small errors and felt the rear grip just wasn't quite there, so there was more to come, but just not today. Tomorrow I have to make sure I get past the cars in front as quickly as possible and get on with my race. The rain that's been predicted hasn't fallen during a session yet but who knows what could happen tomorrow. It's always interesting here and with the conditions we have it'll be all about making sure we get to the end of the race and see where we are.
Vitaly Petrov (20th, Q1 - 1m 39.567s)
We had quite an aggressive strategy here for qualifying but it didn't quite pay off. I haven't really had a good balance on the car in either FP3 or the quali runs and I think we need to spend a bit more time looking at how to get the most out of the tyres. Now I'm looking forward to tomorrow. The car felt great last Sunday and on the long runs we've done here it's been more settled, so we'll aim to have a good start, avoid any problems in the first couple of corners and get on with the fight ahead.
Tony Fernandes, Caterham team principal
It is good to be back on track and to see how the team has developed again, particularly compared to where we were this time last year. There may have been a bit more time to be found in each car, but at the moment our car seems to be stronger in race trim than over a single lap. That is a positive as it means both Vitaly and Heikki can fight when it really counts, so we want to make sure we have a strong Sunday, avoid the reliability problems that we encountered last week and put on as good a show as we can for our home fans.
Mark Smith, Caterham technical director
We opted for a longer run on the prime tyres for Heikki on his first run, giving us more tyre choice tomorrow and taking into account the positions he has to give up after the penalty he took in Australia. Both cars then ran on the medium compound on the second runs and it looks like we could have found a little more time if we had maximised the performance of the options. We have a plan for tomorrow that gives us the best chance of using the car's strong race pace so more work tonight and a strong day tomorrow should see us achieve the targets we have set ourselves for this weekend.
Timo Glock (21st, Q1 - 1m 40.903s)
It was quite a tough, difficult day for me today. The car was very good this morning on prime tyres and I had a good feeling for it, so I was quite confident for us on our option tyre run - the medium - in FP3 to see how much that would bring us forward. For some reason though I struggled massively with the tyre, just like yesterday, and I completely lost the balance of the car. I went slower on the Medium, compared to anyone else, so that was a bit of a shocker. I managed to do two good laps but didnt really have the confidence with the tyre. I made two little mistakes and this cost me a tenth or two. The team has done a great job again and another weekend without any technical problems so far, so we will see for the race now.
Charles Pic (22nd, Q1 - 1m 41.250s)
For me it was a good qualifying and another good day generally. I am a little bit closer to Timo than Australia and that is the best target I have for now. I think there is still a couple of tenths to find but overall a positive step. I think it will be a tough race tomorrow; today was just a few laps, whereas tomorrow is 56. The weather is still uncertain also, so I think it will be interesting for everyone. A good job by the team in the conditions.
John Booth, Marussia team principal
It has been another encouraging day for us as we take the positives from what we have seen so far and motivation from the signs of even better things to come. Although the placings in qualifying havent changed, the developments that we added to the car yesterday have meant our overall gap to the leaders and our closest competitors ahead has reduced. Touch wood, we havent yet experienced a single car-stopping issue and this has enabled us to crack through our programme and make the same steady progression towards the race as we did in Melbourne. Qualifying revealed a real mix bag of strategies as far as the tyres are concerned and the race is likely to throw up just as many surprises. Its not yet clear as to the starting strategy and tonight well take some time to evaluate all the options for tomorrow.
Pedro de la Rosa (23rd, Q1 - 1m 42.914s)
"It was a good day. From the first lap in the morning I felt that the car had improved notably and we improved our times significantly. We've lowered our time by more than a second from yesterday to today and every time we modify something new we're going quicker. We could have improved our times even more during the qualifying session. I was only able to do one lap but it was enough. The important thing was to qualify and we did. The team has proved that in a short amount of days it managed to have the DRS ready and improve the power steering and other aspects of the car. We've taken a huge stride and I'm very satisfied because of that. Now we have to see how tomorrow goes in long distance because it will be the first time we string so many laps together, which won't be easy in this weather."
Narain Karthikeyan (24th, Q1 - 1m 43.655s)
The conditions changed a lot from the morning and the track was much more slippery but we qualified for the race which was our first objective for this weekend and a positive step from Australia. We had to change our strategy a little bit today because of some heating issues, and it worked, but now we must focus on overcoming those issues and aim to finish the race. It would be good for us if it rained because that keeps the car a bit cooler but, no matter what, we'll have to give it our best and try to put in a good performance."
Luis Perez-Sala, HRT team principal
"I'm satisfied with how today went. It could have gone even better but we've accomplished our first target which was to improve the car and qualify for the race. In Australia, after all the work we put in, it was tough to fall just short. But we've continued to give it our all and, in a few days, we've taken another important step forwards. We still have many to take and tomorrow we will have another opportunity, but the important thing is to be closer to the rest in terms of times and that the team is gelling more and more. That way we will identify our weak points and fix them quicker, as we have done here. I'm very proud of the work done by every member of the team."
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director
This is undoubtedly going to be one of the most demanding races of the year for the tyres, pushing the limits of their performance on a circuit that is well-known for degradation. Consequently tyre management is going to be critical and, as we saw today, the strategy starts in qualifying where the teams have to balance short term gains against long term benefits. There could be a strong argument for starting the race on the hard tyre for example, which we expect to last for around 25 laps, but the fastest times in qualifying came from the P Zero White, which is just under half a second quicker per lap. Were expecting three stops from the drivers who got through to the final qualifying session on the medium, so we may see them run a comparatively short first stint before switching to the hard, which has been very strong so far all weekend.
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