RACE DEBRIEF

    Mercedes

    Hamilton looked to be locked in a really close fight for pole, with Mercedes lagging every so slightly behind Ferrari in third practice. But when push came to shove, the master delivered once again to grab his 10th pole of the season and deal another bitter blow to his rivals. Bottas was competent in grabbing third but admitted to disappointment as he felt pole was there for the taking today.

    Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:07.281

    "It was so close between us, we needed 100 percent today, not 99. I was really happy with my lap and I think that we did a great job collectively as a team to get pole today. We had to do a lot of work overnight and the team was faultless with their efforts. I was really happy after my first lap, I immediately knew that we were off to a good start. The track felt good, the grip was amazing and it felt better than ever. It's a fantastic circuit, they generally don't make circuits like this anymore - it's quite hilly, quite short, very technical and overall very challenging. The rain was popping in every now and then, so it was difficult to really tell whether it was going to be slippery in the next corner or not. That was definitely tricky, but I think all of us did quite a good job and luckily the rain held off, so we could push at the end."

    Valtteri Bottas, 3rd, 1:07.441

    "With the pace I had all weekend it felt like I would fight for pole position, so to end up P3 with a Ferrari between Lewis and me is a bit disappointing. I think pole was up for grabs today. I was more than two tenths up in the second run of Q3, but I lost a bit of time in Turn 12 and I was the first car going up the back straight, so I had no tow and just kept losing time going up the hill towards the finish line. But it was an overall strong qualifying for us as a team and another great pole for Lewis. We will both start on a softer tyre than Vettel, so that could make the start tomorrow quite interesting. Let's wait and see what the race holds for us."

    James Allison, Technical Director

    "It is always tight at the top in Interlagos, with a short lap and qualifying decided by the smallest of margins every year. The pressure is always on here and all the more so in a session that threatened rain throughout and, although it never quite materialised, that spectre affected our decisions throughout the hour. The most tense moment was probably at the beginning of Q2, as we had to decide whether to take the risk of a single run on the Soft tyre or to go out on the SuperSoft; in the end, we went for the safer strategy and hats off to Ferrari for the punt they took which paid off. Nonetheless, we are delighted to have one of our cars on pole with Lewis and Valtteri just shy of making it an all-silver front row. However, starting on the softer compound tomorrow could be an advantage at a circuit that offers opportunities to pass at the start. We will hope to make strong starts with both cars and then to look after the tyres in order to try and convert our strong qualifying result into victory."

    Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

    "We should be very pleased with pole position and P3 after such a close qualifying today. The battle with Ferrari is so tough, it's like a boxing match - every time you land a punch, they come back with another, and we have to keep fighting for every result. It felt that way through every part of qualifying today and on every lap, you could never be sure if we had enough performance to claim pole. Lewis did a great job as the only driver to improve on his final run in Q3 - while Valtteri lost out as the first car on the road and not having a tow up the hill, having been on a great lap until the final straight. Now the race might be a different game: Ferrari took the gamble in Q2 on the Soft tyre and it paid off, so it will be an interesting opening stint. If we want to win tomorrow, we will have to fight for it every step of the way."

    Ferrari

    Vettel seemed to have the car under him today to deliver something special, but after a 'mega' start, the German made a mistake mid-lap to cede pole to his rival. Nonetheless, he managed to win here last year starting second and will hope for a repeat performance. The stewards later called him in to explain a weighbridge infringement which resulted in a broken set of scales, from which the German escaped with a repremand and fine. Raikkonen meanwhile never looked in the hunt and had to settle for fourth.

    Sebastian Vettel, 2nd, 1:07.374

    “I think what happened today with the scales is clear, so I believe we should just talk about qualifying. Today we had some good laps and tyre management was really good. On my last run in Q3, I made a small mistake in Turn 8 and that cost me some time and momentum. I knew I had to push a little more, maybe it would work and maybe not, and in the end it didn’t work, but I am not complaining, as the car felt really good to drive. Starting on the Option (Soft) tyres tomorrow may be useful for the race, unless it rains of course: we also have an estimate of what the disadvantage might be right at the getaway, through having less grip, but it’s a very short run to Turn 1, so we’ll see. I think a lot will depend on the job we do at the start to get everything right”.

    Kimi Raikkonen, 4th, 1:07.456

    “Considering how difficult the weekend has been so far, this qualifying has been our best session. The result is obviously not ideal but we did a good job. I was happy with my car and that’s a positive thing for tomorrow. In Q2 the conditions were tricky, there was risk of rain, but we decided to go out with the Soft tyres to try and start the race on that compound and it worked. We think this is the best option for us, but now we’ll see, as there are many things that can happen in the race. On my last attempt I did a very good first part of the lap, but then I fell off a little bit in the last sector; I tried to get it back on the last corner but could not improve my lap time. The time difference with the guys at the front is very small, it was a close battle; the race will be very interesting tomorrow”.

    Red Bull

    A mixed bag. Verstappen admitted that pole was out of reach and that the team were focussed on race pace. That certainly seemed the case, with the Dutchman fifth and Ricciardo sixth but set to take a five-place grid penalty. The team tried to get both drivers through Q2 on the soft rubber but were thwarted by the rain and so start on the supersofts.

    Daniel Ricciardo, 6th, 1:07.780

    “I think we have a good car and in qualifying to be half a second off pole around here, where from memory we haven’t been that close in the past, is positive. We also know from yesterday that we are even better in race conditions. Obviously, with the penalty I start a bit outside of the front pack in 11th but I will hopefully make my way through quickly and have some fun once I join the fight at the front. The rain passed pretty quickly but it did force us to use the supersoft tyre in Q2. Ideally, we wanted to start on the soft tomorrow but fortunately it was only Ferrari who made it work and Mercedes are in the same position as us. I don’t think it makes too much difference as we have a good car on the super and also good tyre management. Maybe this mixed strategy will also force a two-stop race through the field and mix things up. I had some experience last year of coming from the back so I know a few spots around this track to overtake on and I’m game for that. I think my race will be shaped on how quickly I can get through the field and latch on to the top five. Anyway, whatever happens it’ll be fun.”

    Max Verstappen, 5th, 1:07.778

    “We did the best we could, which was fifth, so I think we should be happy with that. Conditions were a bit tricky but everyone handled it very well in the garage and we came through with a good performance. We tried to get a quicker lap on the soft tyre in Q2 but just missed out. It isn’t a disaster starting on supersofts so we aren’t too concerned. The balance of the car wasn’t ideal, we were missing some front grip. If we had it spot on we may have had a small chance of challenging a Ferrari, but when you are losing so much time on the straights it is always going to be a difficult. I’m confident the car has a good set-up for the race. Tomorrow it looks like it will get warmer and therefore tougher on the rear tyres, we should be in good shape as I think this suits us better. It is always going to be a hard race in the dry around here so if the rain comes, I think it could play into our hands.”

    Christian Horner, Team Principal

    “It was an exciting qualifying with the threat of rain throughout the sessions. With Max actually topping Q1 we then elected to run the supersoft to ensure being on the right tyre on the damp track in Q2 which turned out to be dry. Both drivers were within a couple of thousandths of each other in Q3 on both runs and to end up fifth and sixth is about where we expected to be around here. We are very quick in the middle sector but unfortunately sectors one and three expose our weaknesses. Nonetheless, we believe we have encouraging race pace, and despite Daniel’s penalty hopefully both drivers can feature strongly in the race tomorrow.”

    Sauber

    Leclerc found himself out alone in the rain in Q2, desperately trying to improve to make Q3. Slipping and sliding around, it all looked hopeless for the youngster. In the dying moments, however, with conditions barely improved, he went again and put in the lap of the day to make it through at the expense of Magnussen. That might grab the headlines, but Ericsson was calm and composed in getting it done when it mattered and ended up out-qualifying his team mate in seventh, which becomes a career-high sixth when Ricciardo’s penalty is applied.

    Marcus Ericsson, 7th, 1:08.296

    “It was a great day for us as a team, with both cars at the top of the midfield – a super performance. I am happy for the whole team and, as for myself, this is the best qualifying I have had in Formula One. I managed to improve in every segment, even in these tricky conditions, and didn’t make any mistakes. The car felt good and it is just great to deliver such a result for the team. With Charles just behind we have great starting positions for tomorrow, and I look forward to the race where we will aim to score some good points.”

    Charles Leclerc, 8th, 1:08.492

    “What an amazing day for the team. Qualifying as best of the rest, with both cars having such strong results is an incredible achievement that we should all be proud of. I was very happy with my lap at the end of Q2, a bit less in Q3. Marcus did an incredible job today, and well done to him.”

    Haas

    Haas looked comfortably ‘best of the rest’ and would have expected both cars to be fighting it out in Q3. As it was, Magnussen was pipped by a brilliant lap by Leclerc on a drying track and wound up 11th. With free tyre choice, the Dane still has an excellent chance at points. That left Grosjean, who found that the pace of his VF-18 mysteriously disappeared in the final segment of qualifying and could only manage ninth behind both Saubers.

    Romain Grosjean, 9th, 1:08.517

    “We had wanted to be best-of-the-rest today, but we didn’t quite get the conditions as favorable as we would’ve wanted. I have to say, my car in Q2 felt amazing. I went for my first timed lap, and into turn three the kill engine switch went on, so I lost the power and had to switch the car on again. I knew then I only had one attempt at a lap time, and that lap was amazing. The car felt really good. I was confident heading into Q3, but then we picked up understeer for some reason. I didn’t quite get the same lap times, so we need to analyze that. With those conditions, it’s very easy to get a bit of a difference and not have the same balance. I think we should be alright tomorrow. Wet or dry, there’s nothing we can do about it. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.”

    Kevin Magnussen, 11th, 1:08.659

    “I’m very disappointed. It was bad luck, I guess. We were on the track when it was raining the most on my two runs in Q2. You do your best to try and go on track at the right time, but when it’s going like that, you never know when it’s going to start raining. It’s hard to know when is the best time to go out. Clearly, we didn’t get it right. I think the forecast is dry for tomorrow. It’s been pretty accurate so far this week. It’s just unfortunate as I think we had a very good car today. Between myself and Romain, we should have been easily best-of-the-rest. It’s annoying, but let’s see what positives we can get from having a free tyre choice for Sunday.”

    Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

    “It wasn’t a perfect qualifying session, but still a good one. We were just out always at the wrong time. These things happen when the weather is changing like that. The car was good and the drivers did a good job. We qualified ninth and eleventh, which should be eighth and 10th after Ricciardo’s penalty, which isn’t bad for Sunday. I’m sure we can fight for points tomorrow.”

    Force India

    Force India’s pace deserted them and they failed to get either car through to Q3 in what was a disappointing qualifying. Ocon has a five-place grid penalty to take anyway and will need a strong recovery drive from towards the back, so all hopes appear to lie with Perez in P12, with the team still fighting hard to recover lost ground in the constructors’ championship. But with free tyre choice, the Mexican at least stands a good chance of sneaking into the points...

    Sergio Perez, 12th, 1:08.741

    “It was a challenging session and it’s disappointing to miss out on Q3 by such a small margin. It’s been a difficult weekend so far, losing out on so much track time on a circuit where half a tenth can make a big difference. The truth is we weren’t as competitive as we expected to be, but I think we can still recover to have a strong race tomorrow. We really struggled in Q1 where we had to use an extra set of tyres just to make Q2, which meant we only had used tyres when the track was getting better at the end of Q2 and we couldn’t improve. I think our real pace is better than the speed we showed today and if we have a good start we will be in a position to fight for points. The weather could still play a big part, so we’ll go out to try and make up some of the ground we lost today.”

    Esteban Ocon, 13th, 1:08.770

    “It wasn’t a great qualifying session. For various reasons things just didn’t come together for us. We made a set-up change between final practice and qualifying and it didn’t really bring the benefit we needed. So the car didn’t feel ideal for qualifying. Ahead of the session, I believed we had the potential to make Q3 but it didn’t work out for us. I’ve also got to take the grid penalty [five places] so I will be starting near the back and it’s going to make the race even more difficult. Perhaps some rain tomorrow would work in my favour and allow me to catch up and fight for points.”

    Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO

    “We’ve been a little bit on the back foot all weekend with a lack of track time for Sergio and chasing the set-up with Esteban. With those challenges, Q3 was just out of reach today, especially on such a short lap where a few rows of the grid are covered by a few tenths of a second. Let’s see what happens in the race. I think we can be more competitive than today with the potential to score points.”

    Renault

    Sainz was the surprise faller early on, failing to improve late on in Q1 after the rain started to fall. Once again, the boys in yellow seem to like a wider line through the final corner than the rest of the pack and Sainz paid the price in time lost. Hulkenberg at least made Q2 but could go no further. Renault have performed well on race days recently – and they will need to do that tomorrow if they want to avoid losing ground to Haas in the constructors’ championship.

    Nico Hulkenberg, 14th, 1:08.834

    “We were missing two or three tenths out there today. Q2 was especially challenging with the rain looking to come in and we probably made the wrong calls on timing, but with hindsight that’s easy to say. It was difficult to know the grip level and judging how much you can push the car into corners. We got everything out from the car but we’re lacking a bit of pace, which is why we don’t look so great on the timesheets. Tomorrow will be tricky with our starting position, but we’ll be realistic and fight for a good result.”

    Carlos Sainz, 16th, 1:09.269

    “It was a disappointing Saturday in general. We knew it would be tight out there and things just didn’t work out. The single-lap pace hasn’t been there all weekend for us. Our long-run pace looked more promising on Friday and we know tomorrow is a new day. We have some options to explore on strategy and we’ll be giving it a go in the race, like always.”

    Alan Permane, Sporting Director

    "It was a difficult session on both sides of the garage, but the underlying factor is that we’ve struggled with single-lap pace today. Both drivers felt they could have gained one or two more positions; Carlos suffered with traffic on his final lap and Nico was in a difficult situation with the timing of his runs in the mixed conditions, but ultimately the car isn’t as quick in qualifying as we would like it to be at this track. We still remain positive ahead of the race. On Friday, our long run pace was good and we were happy with the car. We’ve improved the balance since yesterday and both drivers seem to be happy. It looks like it will be a dry Grand Prix but, as we know, anything can happen in Brazil."

    McLaren

    Alonso was out in Q1 for the fourth time in five races, Vandoorne propped up the timing sheet yet again and all in all, there were few positives today for McLaren. Vandoorne couldn’t even catch a break in final practice, collecting a bird out on track at one point. Can Alonso get any points in his final Brazilian Grand Prix? It isn’t looking too likely...

    Fernando Alonso, 18th, 1:09.402

    “My qualifying lap was still enjoyable, and with new tyres and light fuel these cars feel good, although obviously not quick enough to go through the sessions.

    “In dry conditions, early in the weekend, we already saw we didn’t have the pace. We’ve been slow all weekend and we were slow in qualifying as well, so there are no surprises. There’s nothing we can do now, other than try to improve tomorrow and try to help the team with some points.

    “We need some rain or a crazy race to benefit from, as in terms of pure pace we are maybe not quick enough. We’re starting from the back, so we can take some risks and gamble on strategy.”

    Stoffel Vandoorne, 20th, 1:09.601

    “It’s not been the best weekend for us so far. We saw in practice this morning that we were never really on the pace, and it’s unfortunate to confirm that in qualifying today. We can never seem to really benefit from wet conditions in qualifying as it never rains at the right time for us.

    “We’ll see what we can do tomorrow. We have nothing to lose in the race and hopefully the weather will give us something to allow us a bit of a gamble, as I think that’s the only opportunity we have to progress. We haven’t really been competitive all weekend here.

    “In Mexico, the tyre degradation played to our advantage, but here it looks like it’s not going to be the case, so hopefully the weather will do that for us.”

    Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director

    “Obviously we’re disappointed with our final qualifying positions. Although the drivers reported a decent balance, we struggled with ultimate pace. During qualifying, we had to contend with the threat of rain that ultimately did not materialise, and expectations are that the weather may again be a variable which could strongly influence tomorrow’s race.

    “Despite today’s setback, we’ll try to put our best foot forward. Our goal is to execute a good race, with fast pit-stops and the optimum strategy, and hopefully take advantage of our race pace, which has been strong for most of the year.”

    Toro Rosso

    With the latest spec Honda engine, Toro Rosso were expecting to be competitive in qualifying. Hartley couldn’t nail a lap when it mattered, locking up on his final flying effort and exiting in Q1, and on his birthday to boot. To rub salt in the wound for the New Zealander, Gasly made it all the way to Q3.

    Pierre Gasly, 10th, 1:09.029

    “I felt really good with Qualifying, it’s a great achievement to get into Q3 today. I’m happy with my performance and P9 is a good position to start from tomorrow (due to Ricciardo’s penalty). It was quite stressful and exciting at the same time for the whole session. The rain increased in Q1, but we managed to put everything together to make it through to Q2 and then Q3. It was tricky, because in these weather conditions you never know what to expect, how much grip you will have when you approach the corners, how wet they are going to be, but I think we did really well in the end. Even if we finished today’s Qualifying in the top 10, it won’t be an easy race as our competitors around us are very fast. I hope we will have some good battles and I will certainly push flat out to score some more points tomorrow.”

    Brendon Hartley, 17th, 1:09.280

    “I was two-hundredths of a second from going through to Q2 today, which is annoying. I made a mistake on my lap with a big front lock into Turn 8, it caused a small flat spot and I lost around one and a half tenths which made the difference of a shot at Q2. It was tricky out there with the rain, but I had good information from the pit wall and my engineers about the track conditions. I was happy with the car and I want to thank the team for the good work over the last days, after I wasn’t too happy with balance in free practice. The margins were tight today and we just missed out. It’s going to be a tough race for us, but the car felt decent and anything can happen tomorrow, especially if we have mixed conditions which are forecast.”

    Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

    “Our main focus overnight was to work on the long run pace, we felt yesterday our short run pace was good but our long run pace wasn’t there. So for FP3 we made a number of setup changes to the car which will improve our performance for the race tomorrow. The priority for FP3 was to make sure we still had good short run pace with the changes, which we were quite confident in, and we thought we had the potential to get one or even both cars into Q3 based on our pace from FP3. We could see there was rain coming for Qualifying which made the session quite difficult and busy on the pit wall, but especially in the garage!

    "Unfortunately, in Q1 Brendon made a mistake locking up into Turn 8 and just missed the cut for Q2 by 0.016s, without that he would have made it comfortably through. The conditions remained tricky in Q2 because we had a mix of dry and wet conditions, although it wasn’t wet enough to run the intermediates. The aim was to be on the track with the Supersofts at the right time, which we managed to achieve and we progressed into Q3. Now we need to understand what happened in Q3 as we didn’t seem to have the pace we should have had. We only had one new tyre left while many of the others had two, which meant they had a bit of an advantage. Even so, we were just lacking pace and couldn’t improve.

    "We could already see in Q1 and in Q2 that the pace wasn’t where we expected, so we elected to take a risk and be the last car crossing the line. This worked and our track position was good, but if anything it looked like Pierre tried to extract more from the car than it was capable of and we couldn’t get a competitive lap together. On the positive side, we made it into Q3, and the changes we made to the car overnight should help us in the race for a strong position.”

    Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director

    “Based on data gathered yesterday in free practice, the team made the necessary changes to the set-up for today’s sessions. We saw in FP3 that these changes went in the right direction, so we were optimistic about Qualifying. The session was affected by occasional light rain and the team timed the runs very well. Combined with a strong drive from Pierre, this was good enough to get us into Q3. Rain is forecast from the middle of tomorrow’s race onwards, so we will now prepare for that and any other possible scenarios.”

    Williams

    Stroll exited in Q1, with little to report. Sirotkin, though, made Q2. The Russian was in the thick of the action, needing very quick reactions to avoid running into the back of Hamilton on an out-lap before being called to the stewards for driving too slowly. He didn't have the pace to progress, but at least gains a place thanks to Ocon's penalty.

    Sergey Sirotkin, 15th, 1:10.381

    "It was a good session with tricky conditions which is always good for us. When it’s cloudy and damp, we always perform better. The car felt very good, I had one run less than everyone else in Q1 and managed to get through which is positive for us. We went into Q2 thinking the rain would come, and when I exited the pits, due to the changeable conditions the scrubbed tyres were cold meaning I had to push hard to generate temperature. On my lap, I had to slow down to avoid Lewis, which in turn meant putting a wheel on the grass and ruining the lap. Overall, it was a good session and we are happy with the performance."

    Lance Stroll, 19th, 1:09.441

    "It was just a bad qualifying. It was a bit of everything - rain mistakes and not a good lap. It was frustrating as there was definitely a lot more in it. I shall have to reflect on qualifying, learn from the mistakes, bounce back tomorrow, hopefully I will get a good start and go from there, as it is a lot of fun to drive round here."

    Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer

    "It was an interesting session at Interlagos with intermittent rain, which we so often see here, as usual coming in first at turn 12. In actual fact, the rain didn’t affect the pace for any of our runs. We didn’t start off too well with either car in the first run, but with the second set of tyres, Sergey managed to get a really good time which was enough for P14 at the end of Q1. Unfortunately, Lance wasn’t as fast. We sent both cars out on a third set, and on Lance’s side, he improved his time but not his position. In Sergey’s case, we were able to abort the lap because his position became safe. In Q2, we only had this part-used set of tyres and didn’t manage a great lap, so we remained P15 at the end of the session. We have a good position to start the race on Sergey’s side, which will improve further after Ocon’s penalty, so we will do our best to get a points result with one or both cars tomorrow."

    Pirelli

    Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing

    “While qualifying in Brazil is far from being a lottery, you certainly need a bit of luck on your side, both with the weather and the traffic, which were two talking points of qualifying today. The race is expected to be warm and dry, which will mean that we will be running in relatively unfamiliar conditions compared to the rest of the weekend up to now. This will obviously have an impact on the strategy, with a flexible approach that gives a few options perhaps paying dividends. The key to qualifying was Q2: although the top three teams all tried to get through the session on the soft tyre, Ferrari was the only team to commit to this strategy by not setting a time on the supersoft compound – and so was the only team to succeed. As a result, it’s going to be interesting to see if this tactic works best for the race tomorrow.”

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