What the teams said – Qualifying in Baku
A round-up of all the action from final practice and qualifying at the Formula 1 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit...
After yesterday's below-par performance, Vettel was on form right from the word go today, topping FP3 and carrying that pace into qualifying. Despite a late mistake on his final flying lap, his first quick effort was more than enough to secure the German his third pole position in a row. Raikkonen had a more eventful time of it - he flat-spotted his supersoft tyres in Q2 and thus will be the only front runner to start the race on the ultrasoft compound. To add to his woes, he looked on for pole himself until a mistake on the last corner cost him vital tenths and left him trailing in sixth.
Sebastian Vettel, 1st, 1:41.498
“I am very happy for this result, but I am a little bit upset with my final lap because I locked up in turn 3. I knew the car was good and in the first two corners I was already one and a half tenth faster than the lap before. Then, maybe, I hit the bump the wrong way a little under braking and I locked up. In the end I made the corner, so I wasn’t that late, but obviously after that, the grip wasn’t the same. It’s a shame because I think I could have been faster, but I am happy anyway. I am sorry for Kimi because we could have both been on the front row. However, we’ll see tomorrow, It’s going to be a long race. I think it is very important to be able to fight for the pole in order to have a good chance during the race. Even if the result has been good these last few Saturdays, there’s still a lot of work for us. We know that the car can be faster. Obviously we have worked hard to get to where we are now, but everybody in the team knows there’s more to do. We have to stay focused and keep pushing. However, I am not afraid for tomorrow and I believe we have good chances.”
Kimi Raikkonen, 6th, 1:42.490
“In Q3, on my last run I had a lot of speed and the feeling with the car was really good; I knew I had a very good lap going. Entering the last corner I took it very easily because over the weekend the wind has been quite tricky there. But for whatever reason I got a massive snap exiting the corner and went sideways. I was able to get the car back but the lap was gone. I’m pretty sure that without that mistake I would have been in a much better position. It’s very painful and frustrating to mess it up in the last corner like that, I’m very disappointed. Unfortunately with the mistake we are not in a very good position for the race. Today it did not pay off, but tomorrow is another day and we’ll do our best.”
Red Bull looked right in the mix in practice but ultimately fell just short on one-lap pace. Ricciardo was fortunate to pick up a tow from Raikkonen which jumped him ahead of his team mate. However, at a track that throws up chaotic races and promotes overtaking, and with two drivers who love to give anything a go, don't discount Red Bull being a force to be reckoned with in the race... the only question is who will be the feistier: the in-form Ricciardo or Verstappen, who has a point to prove after a string of crashes so far this season?
Daniel Ricciardo, 4th, 1:41.911
“I’m happy with the second row on the grid but it wasn’t a totally smooth day. This morning we didn’t get a go on our second set of ultrasoft tyres because of the red and yellow flags. In Qualifying, Q2 was very close on the supersofts, we had a couple of yellow flags and it was looking a bit hairy but we just made it through. In Q3 on the first run I kissed the wall and then on the last lap I had to make it clean and fortunately clean was fast enough for the second row. It’s always tough on street circuits like this, you have to be on the limit to be fast but point five of a percent inside of the limit. Just finding that balance isn’t easy but I’ve felt good all weekend and obviously have good momentum from here last year and China, so we will race hard and hopefully get back on the podium. I’m looking forward to a good street fight tomorrow (laughs). I believe the top five start on supersofts and we’re all trying to avoid the ultrasoft on high fuel due to the graining in colder conditions, so that strategy makes sense for us. I’m also going to eat lots tonight to make sure I don’t blow away in the wind tomorrow as it looks like it’s going to be pretty crazy out there!”
Max Verstappen, 5th, 1:41.994
“Qualifying today was ok; nothing special but we are also not too far away. We were in reach but of course we know that in Qualifying they turn up their engines, but in general not bad and I think we have a good chance to fight tomorrow. On the last run we were waiting to try and get a tow. I think that cost us a bit because I was waiting in the garage with the heaters already off and couldn’t get heat in the tyres like I wanted to. With the tyres the ultrasoft is not that easy but we qualified on the supersoft so hopefully that will give us a longer first stint. The top five cars are on the supersofts so I don’t think it will offer much except we can extend the stint for longer compared to Kimi who is on the ultra, but we’ll find out. The wind was very tricky today and is forecast to be even stronger tomorrow for the race, so we’ll have to see what that does. Aerodynamics are very sensitive to wind, it’s the same as in a plane, you can fly fast in one direction and can go faster in the other direction. The cars are very sensitive to that, we had some struggles in the corners, and the more downforce you have the more tricky the wind can be. We are still in a good position to fight from and many things are possible on this track.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“A reasonably straightforward qualifying. The pressure points for us came in making a tight call to abandon a lap with Daniel in Q2 feeling that he was safe, which was a last minute judgement. Then in Q3 both drivers obviously did their best but unfortunately we didn’t quite have enough pace to get further up the grid. However fourth and fifth are still very respectable grid positions at a track you can certainly overtake at.”
A mixed day for Mercedes. On a good note, qualifying second and third on a track where overtaking is possible is not to be scoffed at. But the downside is the gap to Ferrari - Vettel was comfortably quicker and had it not been for a late mistake by Raikkonen, he would have out-qualified the Silver Arrows as well. But all it could take is a good start by either Hamilton or Bottas to turn the tables on their rivals come race day.
Lewis Hamilton, 2nd, 1:41.677
"We weren't quite quick enough today to beat Ferrari today, but it was super close. No athlete can be satisfied with second, but it's nice to be back up on the front row after an exciting session. The team did a great job overnight to make a step forward after what was a tricky Friday. On our long runs we've been down, losing out in the middle sector, and the Ferraris have been quite a bit quicker than us, so we've still got a bit more ground to make up yet, but it's great to be there in the fight. We worked hard to get the car in a better place, so we need to maximise the result now tomorrow. Let's try and make some trouble for Ferrari. It's definitely going to be another interesting race."
Valtteri Bottas, 3rd, 1:41.837
"It's never positive to be third, but after yesterday this is a good result. The team did a great job with the set-up of the car. It felt completely different compared to yesterday; we could really trust it which allowed us to fight for the first and second row. It felt like I never did a perfect lap today and I doubt that anyone else did; it's just extremely difficult around the track. For the race, we're in a good position as a team. Having both cars next to each other for the race start gives us a few opportunities and we can play with tactics. It's difficult to say how the wind tomorrow is going to affect the race, especially with all the buildings around. It should be an interesting race. We expect it to be very close tomorrow between three teams, so everything is possible."
James Allison, Technical Director
"While I am disappointed that our cars were not quick enough to challenge for pole today, we can take a certain satisfaction from a solid P2 and P3, which give us strong starting positions for tomorrow. We can also be satisfied that we managed to improve the car's handling overnight and that this put us in position to enjoy a good race with both cars starting on the super soft compound tyre. This is a track that brings both incident and opportunity for those who are nimble enough to exploit it in the race. We fully intend to do so tomorrow."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"Looking at today's results in the contexts of the struggles we experienced yesterday during practice, I have to say I'm pretty pleased to be second and third on the grid. The guys worked very hard late into the night in order to find the right path forward, we made a step in the right direction this morning, then another for qualifying. So it was a good recovery from that perspective. Going into qualifying, we expected a very close fight between three teams and this is exactly what we got; I think this will turn out to be the story of this 2018 season. I expect to see all of the top six fighting for the win tomorrow and we will be working hard to make we come out of that battle on top."
Sirotkin crashed at the end of practice, and was fortunate that his FW41 wasn't badly damaged. Some quick work from his mechanics meant he was able to play a full part in qualifying - and made it to Q2 for the first time in his career. Stroll just managed to join him there, and then the duo put on their best qualifying performance of the year to grab 11th and 12th. With free tyre choice, they are well placed to try and score what would be Williams' maiden 2018 points.
Lance Stroll, 11th, 1:43.585
"I am really happy with that. We have obviously made a step forward this weekend compared to the last couple of events, but on the other hand it's a little disappointing not to get into Q3 by such a small margin. However, I am still very happy with the job we have done and a big thank you to the team. It might have been possible, but tough to throw a Red Bull out of there. It was such a difficult qualifying with the yellow flags in Q1 and I never did a lap until the last second on old tyres, so I was lucky to scrape through, and then happy with my lap in Q2. This track has a bit of everything - high speed, low speed, walls, drama - so it is a good one. It would be nice to see more tracks like this, as it really tightens things up a little bit and we see other cars that normally don't have any problems getting out of Q2, starting to struggle. It is very different to anywhere else we go to and is a lot of fun."
Sergey Sirotkin, 12th, 1:43.886
"It’s a good recovery. We knew there was potential from the session earlier today. I need to thank the team a lot as they were really flat out, doing a perfect job to make sure we got out on track. I’m very happy that I can thank them with a result like this. I still feel like there’s a bit more laptime. I’m not sure if it would be enough for Q3, but it would be much closer than where we are. We’re moving forwards, we’re making progress and doing a great job. Now we see that in the results. Thanks to everyone for this and we’ll keep improving."
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer
"We’re happy today with that result – 11th and 12th in qualifying which will see us 10th and 11th on the grid, given Hulkenberg’s penalty. Most of all, I’d like to say well done to the drivers. It’s a very tricky track and difficult to manage traffic, and they kept it together to get the laps in when they needed to, to get their times on the board. Also, well done to the mechanics for getting Sergey’s car out on time for qualifying and in good shape. The race tomorrow will be difficult. It has been extremely eventful in the past and we’ll have to fight hard, but there is a prospect of getting points tomorrow, so let’s see what we can do."
Vandoorne fell early in qualifying and in truth, hasn't been on the pace all weekend so far. Alonso did make Q2 but once again lacked the outright speed to challenge for the Top 10. But as a notorious fast starter, don't discount the Spaniard from continuing his points-scoring run, especially given he has free tyre choice and will gain a place thanks to Hulkenberg's penalty.
Fernando Alonso, 13th, 1:44.019
“Qualifying still isn’t the strongest part of our weekend, but a lot usually happens during a street race, and at this track in particular.
“There’s no room for mistakes around this circuit: it’s very windy, dusty, the walls are very close, and you cannot push or over-drive the car. It’s also a mentally tough race, so I think tomorrow is going to be both crazy and fun at the same time.
“This weekend, we seem to have improved our top-speed compared to previous races, but we’ve also compromised some grip in the corners. Still, during Q2, the wind picked up a little, and we were losing speed along the straights due to the headwind. Tomorrow, that wind should be even stronger, so it’s going to be important to race among a group of cars to stay in the fight.
“This is the third time in a row where I’ve qualified 13th, and we normally seem to score good points from that position. Hopefully tomorrow will be another one of those good days.”
Stoffel Vandoorne, 16th, 1:44.489
“It’s been a bit of a tough weekend for me.
“During practice, it seemed like, whenever I was on-track, I was in the wrong place, or encountered a yellow-flag at the wrong time. In fact, Q1 was probably the first session this weekend where I finally managed to complete a quick-lap.
“In the end, I was much happier with the car; we still lack a bit of top speed, so we really need to follow another car to benefit from their speed, and I missed out on that on my final lap.
“Still, our race performance looks better than qualifying. We’ve seen so many incidents under braking this weekend; and that’s a real strength of our car, it feels very good under braking, and that’s a key requirement for the race.
“I think we can pull together a good race performance tomorrow.”
Eric Boullier, Racing Director
“Qualifying 13th and 16th is a solid effort ahead of what’s almost certain to be a tough and relentless Azerbaijan Grand Prix tomorrow.
“Given this circuit’s long straight, outright pace over a single lap was always going to be a challenge for us, but – happily – neither driver has put a foot wrong all weekend, and we head into the race feeling positive that we can move forwards.
“This is such an unpredictable place, so we’ve been working hard during practice to ensure our car feels solid and dependable, particularly under braking. That should help to provide both drivers with the confidence they need to drive attacking races tomorrow.
“Fernando and Stoffel know how to manage their pace, pushing hard when necessary, but also keeping something in reserve to stay out of the wall. We’re looking forward to the race tomorrow – there’s definitely opportunities out there for us.”
Force India firmly pushed themselves to the front of the midfield battle in Baku, getting both cars into Q3 for the first time this season. It wasn't all plain sailing - Perez had to use the escape road in Q1 and nearly ran out of time to atone for his error, just scraping into Q2. Now, it remains to be seen whether they back up their form in the race and grab their first double points finish of the season. But perhaps more importantly, can they avoid impeding each other at the start unlike last time out in China?
Sergio Perez, 8th, 1:42.547
“I am pretty happy with our performance today. It’s been a good day for the team even though we probably had the pace to be further up the grid. I don’t think we fully maximised our performance and it was a very complicated qualifying session. There were so many yellow flags and the wind made things very complicated, which is why there were so many errors. I couldn’t get a proper clean run until Q3. The race tomorrow will be all about being in the right place at the right time and making the most of the opportunities as they arise. The track suits us and I believe there is plenty of potential to make up a few more places. Days like these are a great motivation for everyone in the team and show we are making progress. We were the top team in the midfield today but it’s tomorrow that really counts.”
Esteban Ocon, 7th, 1:42.523
“It has been a very strong day for us. The car is working well and it’s been very enjoyable to drive. We’ve made good progress improving the car and we have been quick in every session. Today we were the fourth fastest team and we really deserved this result. Tomorrow is a big opportunity and we need to make the most of it. We saw last year what can happen here with safety cars and incidents so we need to be patient and stay out of trouble.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer
“Seventh and eighth on the grid is a well-deserved result and confirms that all our hard work is paying off. We’ve been competitive since first practice yesterday and improved the car with each session in the lead up to qualifying. It’s a track that has always suited us and both drivers love driving here. Qualifying is only part of the job and there’s a big task ahead of us tomorrow. It’s never an easy race here so converting today’s performance into solid points won’t be easy, but we will do our best to bring home the result of which we are capable.”
Hulkenberg was called back into the pits in FP3 with an apparent gearbox issue. The resultant change meant he knew before qualifying began that he would have a five-place drop for the race. Nonetheless he made it all the way to Q3, grabbing P9 ahead of his team mate. He will need to get his elbows out in the race if he wishes to fight his way back up into the points.
Nico Hulkenberg, 9th, 1:43.066
“We lost some time this morning so we can be pleased to get both cars into Q3. The balance in the car doesn’t sit quite where I would like it to, but some race weekends are like that and we can be happy that we gave it everything and tomorrow we will do the same to make up positions. The gearbox penalty is pretty bitter in this way, but we need to come back with the best strategy and fight hard. The good news is that you can overtake here and know there will be safety cars, so let’s see what we can do.”
Carlos Sainz, 10th, 1:43.351
“It was a decent qualifying for us. I missed the perfect first sector but getting both cars into Q3 again shows good consistency and effort from the team. Tomorrow we need to have a clean start and target to stay in the points again. It could be another chaotic race so we need to be ready to maximise our chances.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“We can be pretty satisfied with that qualifying result. We didn’t have a good FP3 this morning due to various issues, so we were happy to get both cars into Q3. Our competitors for fourth in the championship are behind us, which puts us in a stronger position, but we need to concentrate on our own race and the midfield, which is again extremely tight. Nico will have a five-place grid penalty after a gearbox change, but as we’ve seen in the past here it’s a tough race. We’d hope and expect him to recover and we’re targeting points for both cars tomorrow.
“The high wind is a consideration for everyone, there’s not really a great deal we can do. We’ve experienced cars running in high wind before and know it’s difficult to manage, but most of the track is sheltered with the buildings so I don’t think it will have too much effect.”
It was a disappointing day for Haas. Grosjean once again failed to find a set-up to his liking, complaining of oversteer as he repeatedly ran wide. Worse was to come at the start of qualifying when the Frenchman had to park up in an escape road after his gearbox malfunctioned, ending his involvement. Magnussen seemed the more settled of the two, but couldn't hook together a lap in Q2 and wound up 15th.
Romain Grosjean, No time set
“I went straight after a big lockup into the escape road. I reversed – everything was working – and then I suddenly lost the hydraulics. I couldn’t do anything else – upshift, downshift, whatever – I was stuck in neutral. It’s a bit of a shame as, unfortunately, that was it. Going into qualifying, I was hoping we’d found the right tools. There are overtaking opportunities tomorrow, so we’ll try to do our best. It’s definitely a track where a lot can happen, and I’ve got plenty of tyres for the race.”
Kevin Magnussen, 15th, 1:44.759
“It could’ve been better, but we didn’t have much luck today. I think P15 is still a position we can fight back from – it’s not too far from the points. I’m still positive for tomorrow. There are opportunities. It doesn’t take a big mistake for you to go straight on here at the corners. You can gain a position, for sure, if someone ahead does that. We shouldn’t write off the race. We’ll keep focused and, hopefully, have a good race for tomorrow. I think it’s a really cool circuit and it’s good fun to drive. It has a good layout for racing and for slipstreaming down that long straight. It offers opportunities for a good race.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“A very disappointing qualifying session for us. We should be better than this, but when it rains, it pours. We start 15th and 20th for tomorrow, which isn’t where we want to be or where we should be. We’ll do our best to still get at least one car in the points. A lot is possible here.”
Oh dear. After their coming together last time out in China, worse was to come for Toro Rosso today. Hartley connected with the barriers, and carrying damage was in the process of limping home very slowly. Gasly came round a corner blind and had to dart very quickly wide to avoid collecting his colleague. That near miss resulted in neither driver making Q2 and the Frenchman turning the airways very blue indeed at his team mate's expense.
Pierre Gasly, 17th, 1:44.496
“It was probably the scariest moment of my career! I was sure I was going to crash into Brendon because it’s the part of the track where we’re going at 320kph. Brendon had slowed down massively and I had to change direction when I saw he was slow, but I didn’t know if he was going left or right but I managed to avoid him. I’m really disappointed that I couldn’t make it to Q2. I was improving by sixth/seven tenths which means Q2 was on the cards, this would have been a good result after the tough weekend in China. It’s a big shame for the team but it’s good that in the end we avoided a crash. It’s clear that no one wanted anything like this to happen, but it’s the second time we’ve had a coming together so we need to make sure that we avoid situations like these.”
Brendon Hartley, NC, 1:57.354
“It was a disaster of a day. I hadn’t done a lap until the point of the incident because the previous ones were interrupted by yellow flags. This lap was coming along really well and I was happy with the car, but I clipped the inside of the wall very lightly. At the beginning I didn’t think there was any damage so I was still pushing, then I realised going through the fast left-hander that there was a puncture. I had to slow down immediately trying to avoid hitting the wall, but Pierre was coming very quickly behind and I completely misjudged it. When I looked in the mirrors I moved to the left and that’s the same way he wanted to go. I made a complete mess of it. I’m really disappointed and I owe him a big apology because that was really average.”
James Key, Technical Director
“It was an eventful qualifying session for us, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. Brendon didn’t get a clean lap together during the first outing due to the yellow flags, so he had to abort his opening run. Pierre on the other hand did and his lap was reasonable at the time, but there was clearly quite a significant track improvement as Q1 progressed, something we’ve seen throughout the weekend’s sessions. For the second runs – Pierre was improving and he was well up on his initial lap time, so if he had finished the lap he would have been safely through to Q2. Unfortunately, Brendon had a puncture just ahead of Pierre and they came across each other with a high speed differential, leading to a near miss – this situation was very well managed by Pierre to avoid a collision. Sadly, that meant that his tyres, battery, time available and so on were not set for another lap, so he effectively had to abandon his qualifying after the incident. It’s a great shame because I think his pace was looking quite reasonable. Maybe Q3 wasn’t on the cards today but close to it was possible, which would have been a good place to be given the uncertainty of how the tyres will perform tomorrow. Now we’ll never know and we are not going to be starting the race where we want to be, but equally as we’ve seen in the past here, it can often be a very busy and eventful Sunday afternoon where anything can happen. We’ll make our plans this evening and hope to recover tomorrow.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“We had some bad luck in qualifying, without which I think Pierre could have got to Q2. On the PU side, figuring out the best way to run the energy management at this track is a complex question, looking for the right compromise between the tight right angle corners and the very long straight. This also has an effect on the whole package. However, we have worked hard with the engineers and drivers to try and find the right balance. We will now focus on race preparation to be ready to make the most of any opportunity.”
Ericsson spent his practice session making up for lost time after sitting out much of yesterday with technical issues. Playing catch up, he never looked likely to make it out of Q1. Leclerc by contrast not only made his first Q2 appearance of the season but qualified 14th, which becomes a career best grid slot of 13th once Hulkenberg serves his gearbox drop.
Marcus Ericsson, 18th, 1:45.541
“It was an unlucky qualifying for me, with many factors that influenced the outcome. There was also quite a bit of traffic for me. Then, I missed a good lap in Q1 after locking up. At the end of Q1, I tried my best to put together a good lap but I wasn’t able to finish it by a couple of seconds. Quite a disappointing session for me. On the bright side, we can see that we have good potential on the track. We have been quite competitive all weekend, so we are optimistic for tomorrow and will give everything to come back strong.”
Charles Leclerc, 14th, 1:44.074
“I am very happy with my qualifying today. I had a great lap in Q1, which enabled me to advance into Q2. It is the first time I achieved that since the beginning of the season, which is a great step for me to make as a rookie. The whole team has done a great job to make this possible. I have learned a lot over the past three race weekends, and am feeling more comfortable with all of the procedures and the car with each session. We have made some positive steps in terms of tyre management, and the balance of the car feels good. I look forward to the race tomorrow – on this circuit, there are many factors that will influence the outcome. With the expected change in the weather conditions, it will certainly be an interesting one.”
Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing
“One stop is the most likely option for the race tomorrow, but there are a number of different combinations of one-stopper possible. The top five are starting on the supersoft tyre, which then gives them the flexibility to decide whether to complete the race on ultrasoft or soft after a longer first stint, depending on what happens. We’ve already seen a few incidents on track both in Formula 1 and Formula 2, so the chance of safety cars and other delays is high. This means that all strategies will have to remain flexible and there’s also the possibility of benefitting from a ‘free’ pit stop if the timing is right. The mix of strategies seen already adds another interesting variable to what is already a very intriguing race in Azerbaijan.”