What the teams said - Qualifying in Melbourne
A round-up of all the action from final practice and qualifying at the Formula 1 2018 Rolex Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park...
Hamilton had looked quick throughout qualifying but put in an absolutely scintillating lap when it mattered to grab the first pole of the season by a huge margin over his Ferrari rivals. It was a dominant performance by the world champion, but in recent times pole hasn't necessarily meant victory around Albert Park. Bottas had a contrasting session after he ran wide, clipped the grass and collided with the barriers on his Q3 effort, giving his mechanics a very long night ahead.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:21.164
"It's the greatest feeling when you live up to your potential and you pull out a lap like I was able to. I'm not always able to do that but I was really happy with today's performance. Up until this point, I haven't thought at all about the race. So tonight and tomorrow morning I'll start to put my focus onto that. Last season, Ferrari ultimately did a better job on Sunday. But we generally learn from mistakes and scenarios like that, so I'm hoping we're better prepared for tomorrow. Ultimately it's also how I'm able to manage the tyres at the start of the race. I remember Sebastian was really at my tail towards the end of my stint which forced me to come into the pits and then he continued on for several laps and I got stuck behind Verstappen. So I'll definitely bear that in mind and try my best to make sure that I'm in a better position tomorrow. I know how hard Valtteri has been working and I know the pain he feels right now, but he will recover. He was very quick through practice and he has been putting a lot of effort into growing as a driver and as a member of the team. I have all the confidence in him to pull through again tomorrow."
Valtteri Bottas, 10th, No time set in Q3
"I think I was just pushing a bit too hard. I went wide in Turn 1 and the kerb was still a bit damp. I lost the rear of the car and hit the wall outside of Turn 2. It's very unfortunate and I feel sorry for the team because we have a really competitive car. It looked like it was damaged pretty badly, so I really hope we can fix it for the race. Overtaking is difficult on this track, but we'll try everything we can. Maybe it's a little easier this year with the added DRS zone, we'll find out tomorrow. We have a good car, so I'll try to fight back the best I can. Once we get the car in the window, it seems like it's really quick, so that's something positive from today."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"That was an unbelievable final lap from Lewis to see him find so much pace. We didn't change anything on the car from the first run of Q3, it was just a case of Lewis putting all the pieces together and finding the limit on that last lap, with everything on the line; and this is the result, a really impressive pole position to start the new season. But it's a garage of contrasting emotions today with a really unfortunate end to qualifying for Valtteri. It was a big hit and the boys will have a long job list to get the car ready to race. It's now about putting the incident behind him and recovering as strongly as possible. We expect a very close race between the top three teams tomorrow; there is still a lot to do if we want to score a strong result in the race."
James Allison, Technical Director
"While we are hugely disappointed for Valtteri, who wasn't able to show what he could do in the heat of battle in Q3, we are delighted in equal measure to see Lewis take pole position by a decisive margin. It wasn't at all easy, with track conditions changing rapidly through the session as the track cooled off, but we believed that our car had some good pace - and it was lovely to see that performance emerge over the final lap of Q3. It's a first small milestone in our season, which reflects the hard work of our teams back at base in Brixworth and Brackley; but there is much still to be done if we wish to transform that pace into a decisive race result tomorrow."
After an unrepresentative FP3, it was hard to tell whether Ferrari had the pace to challenge for pole but it quickly became apparent that both their drivers were in with a shout. Vettel even briefly toppled Hamilton at the head of the timing sheet, but made a small mistake on his final flying lap to drop down to third. Raikkonen had an impressive day but ultimately couldn't match Hamilton's final lap and will line up second.
Sebastian Vettel, 3rd, 1:21.838
“Yesterday it didn’t feel like everything was perfect, so today I am pretty happy that we could put both cars right at the front, very close to pole. I guess it’s a good shot. The gap to Lewis is significant of course, and we don’t want to be so far behind. But the car today was getting better and better: I could feel it was coming alive during qualifying; on my last run I made a small mistake at Turn 13, but it’s ok as second and third position are good for the race and, as we have seen in all the past years, we tend to be closer on Sunday than we are in qualifying.”
Kimi Raikkonen, 2nd, 1:21.828
“Today we did not really know what to expect from this first qualifying, it was a bit of an unknown. But then I was pretty happy with the car, the feeling was ok. The gap to our rivals is probably bigger than we wanted, but it was not a very straightforward day either. This is a very special circuit in many ways, if compared to “normal” tracks, and these are the early stages of the season. I think we have to wait for the next few races to have a clear picture and understand where the teams are exactly. For sure there are things to improve to go faster; I know there are areas where I could improve on my lap times. This is what we have got today, a decent result in quite tricky conditions. Tomorrow we’ll put our maximum effort into the race.”
Red Bull's overnight rain dance paid off and in the wet conditions it seemed Verstappen especially was going to be right in the mix. Unfortunately by qualifying the sun was out and the Dutchman had a scruffy final lap in Q3. Ricciardo was matching his team mate until Q3 when he lost two tenths, and also has a three-place grid drop for the race after his red flag infringement from Friday.
Daniel Ricciardo, 5th, 1:22.152
“The session itself didn’t go too badly, it started off pretty well and even in Q2 on the Supersofts we were looking good. I aborted the second run, but nonetheless we were looking alright. In the last part of Q3 we just missed a bit in the first sector, I’m not totally sure where the time is so we’ll have to look at that. Overall, the car didn’t feel too bad, we asked for a bit more front grip but we’d used all the front wing we had, so there was no more we could do in Q3. Obviously starting eighth because of the penalty is frustrating and I thought it was unjust. There are reprimands, fines and other things but to shoot me in the ankle before the season starts, well, I think they could have done better. We’re the only ones in the top 10 staring on the Supersoft so hopefully that helps us and ideally the leaders have trouble making the one stop work with the Ultrasoft and we capitalise there. It’s going to be pretty tricky to overtake so strategy will be key. The race pace looks pretty good and I’m looking forward to coming through the field. We’re obviously better than eighth so we will try and make it happen. To be honest, I feel sorry for the guys in front of me tomorrow as they’re the ones I’m going to have to take my anger out on.”
Max Verstappen, 4th, 1:21.879
“Even with a small mistake I really enjoyed Qualifying today. It’s difficult to say what I expected heading into the session but it should have been a little bit better. I made a mistake on my last fast lap and went wide at turn 13 which lost me a few tenths compared to my previous run, we were still very close to Ferrari which is positive but maybe we could have been second. Mercedes were quite far ahead as expected, had I not made my mistake I think I would have only been about half a second off Lewis which is closer than in the past. All things considered and with the right strategy I think we can be competitive during the race tomorrow, with Mercedes I’m not sure but I think we can have a good fight with Ferrari. We are hoping to go a bit longer with our tyre selection so if we stay out of trouble at the start we can settle in and have a strong race. I am happy with the pace and feel for the first race weekend, so I’m hopeful we can improve and move forward from here, not just tomorrow but for the rest of the season.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“After the rain this morning we had a dry Qualifying, and it was certainly very tight between ourselves and the Ferraris. Unfortunately Max on his last lap made a small mistake at turn 13 that cost him a couple of tenths otherwise the front row was potentially achievable today. Daniel also did not have a perfect Q3, finishing in P5 and unfortunately with the penalty he incurred yesterday will be starting in P8. We’ve elected to start on a different tyre strategy to our competitors and hopefully that will provide different options for tomorrow.”
__Rookie Sirotkin had acquitted himself well in the practice sessions but couldn't find enough pace in the FW41 to escape Q1. Stroll lost running time in FP3 after an issue with his gearbox required extensive work, but used all his experience to make Q2 in the dying moments. Lining up 14th, points will be a tough ask but not impossible. __
Lance Stroll, 14th, 1:24.230
"We would have signed up for P14 coming into the weekend after Barcelona. It was not ideal, as we could have improved on the lap in our second run in Q2. However, I got held up a little bit in the last sector and I didn't have the tyres in the window, as the fronts were cold and that kind of cost me. I felt good in the car and there was probably a little bit more in it. We are kind of in the mix for the points, depending on what happens. We will see where we end up tomorrow."
Sergey Sirotkin, 19th, 1:24.922
"There were big changes between the sessions. For sure I think we could have squeezed more out of the car, but it’s the beginning of a very long season so we should just analyse a bit more, analyse what we could do better and go onwards. We need to be positive. We try to learn step by step and move forwards."
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer
"Overall, it’s a disappointing set of grid positions because I think actually there was more in both the drivers and the car. Both Sergey and Lance had reasonable first runs in Q1. Sergey was improving in his second run but he made a mistake in the second sector which cost him the chance to get into Q2. Lance got into Q2 and did a very good first run. He pushed it a bit harder in the second run, which should have improved quite a bit, but he made a mistake at turn three. So the grid positions could have been slightly better. Having said that, we have got two young drivers, one of them a rookie and one only 19-years old, and I think they’re both making really good progress. At the same time the car is clearly not quick enough at the moment. We haven’t done laps quick enough to get into Q3 which is our goal, so there’s clearly a lot more to do to develop the car in the weeks and months ahead. Tomorrow is predicted to be dry. It will be a tough afternoon as there are a lot of difficult things to manage at this circuit. Being the first race of the season, one of the major points will be to get to the finish with both cars and that may well indeed be the best way to get points."
With qualifying being run in the dry, Haas must have been licking their lips at the prospect of both their drivers making it to Q3 and so it proved. Grosjean had looked the stronger of the two, but Magnussen sneaked past his team mate on their solo efforts to grab sixth place - which becomes fifth when Ricciardo's grid penalty is applied. With Grosjean right behind, this marks the American team's best ever qualifying and a real prospect of a double points finish.
Romain Grosjean, 7th, 1:23.339
“Everyone’s very happy and it reflects the hard work from everyone on the team. Our result confirmed a little bit what we saw in winter testing. I can push the car as much as I want, which obviously makes me very happy. It was a good job by Kevin (Magnussen) as well – getting both cars into the third row of the grid tomorrow. It’s going to be pretty amazing being there. Points could be possible. Obviously, we want to keep our positions. We’re starting in a good place, but we’ll see tomorrow what happens. This is a good start. We can be very proud, but we need to keep pushing.”
Kevin Magnussen, 6th, 1:23.187
“The car was nice to drive in qualifying. It was just there, and performing. I was able to push brake points – get off the brakes earlier and earlier with every lap. It wasn’t doing anything unexpected, which was really nice. I’m looking forward to tomorrow starting in P5. We have some quick guys behind us, and we’ll have to do well to keep it that way. We’ll be doing all we can to get a good result. We need a solid start to the season and we need to capitalise on today’s qualifying result.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“Not a bad Saturday. We delivered on what we showed since the beginning of the season. It’s tough, our competitors are strong, and we need to keep our guard up. It’s a fantastic day for the team. They can be proud of what they did. In your third year, to be starting fifth and sixth, it’s fantastic and down to them. Tomorrow is another hard day. We just need to try to get as much as we can in terms of points. It’s been a very good day for Haas F1 Team.”
It had been a mixed bag from the Toro Rosso team in practice, but come qualifying their midfield rivals surged ahead and left both drivers to exit in Q1. Hartley made a mistake on his final lap, otherwise he might have scraped through and Gasly ran through the gravel and had to abort his last flyer. Despite their long-run pace from Friday looking promising, points will be a tough ask starting from towards the back of the field.
Brendon Hartley, 16th, 1:24.532
“It was a little frustrating today, I think one tenth would have moved us up a few places and the car definitely had it in it. In the last lap there were a couple of small errors and it’s frustrating to be so close to the cut off to Q2. I knew there would be huge track evolution through the run but we decided to go out first - a lot earlier than the other car - which could be considered a disadvantage but it gave us the option to maybe do two laps at the end. I think it was the right call, I just didn’t quite get everything out of it to get to Q2. The good thing is the car was definitely quick enough to get to Q2 today. This morning was really encouraging in mixed conditions and equally on the long run yesterday, so I think our strength is our long run pace. Once this said, this track it’s probably one of the hardest on the calendar to pass - it’s a tall order! Tyre degradation will be a big story, so maybe managing tyres and a good strategy can bring us into the game. We’re in that midfield battle, passing will be hard tomorrow and we’ll do our best…we’ll have to wait and see.”
Pierre Gasly, 20th, 1:25.295
“I’m really disappointed because it’s not the first qualifying we wanted and I think there was potential to get into Q2. It was very close after the first run, but I just pushed too hard and locked up… and that was it, it was the only lap we had and by pushing hard I made a mistake. Up until Turn 3 I was two-tenths up on Brendon but this midfield is so tight that we need to get everything right. The degradation is quite high around here and at the moment we still don’t know what the conditions will be like tomorrow, so we need to come back and I’ll push hard to overtake. It’s difficult to pass around this track so P20 is not ideal, but we’ll do everything we can to gain positions. I think the car definitely has more potential so I’m ready for a fight tomorrow.”
James Key, Technical Director
“It was disappointing to be out in Q1, we knew it was going to be very tight in the midfield, just a few tenths made a big difference today and I expect this will be the case in many of the races to come. Q2 was a possibility, unfortunately we missed an opportunity with Pierre when he missed his second lap, we could see how quickly the track was evolving so it was important to run again late in the Q1 session and sadly we did not achieve that with him. Brendon put a reasonable lap together, just shy of a couple of tenths which would have made all of the difference, but that’s part of the learning process. We need to look at the data from the chassis side too and see what we could have improved on. We are aware we have a bit of work to do in general on our performance level over one lap and in such a tight field this is critical for qualifying position. We will now plan for tomorrow and do the best we can in the race, here in Melbourne anything is possible and our goal of scoring points this weekend has not changed. We’ve said from the outset that this is a building year, we are going to start off at a certain level and plan end up significantly better, we’ve got a long way ahead of us with this being the first of 21 races and we’ve got many plans in place to get to where we believe we need to be. This is step one of many steps.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“Although the morning rain stopped around midday, FP3 was still run almost entirely on a damp track. However, it dried out right at the end and qualifying was run in the dry. It was disappointing that both cars got no further than FP1. However, in general the drivers’ comments about the car are positive and the gap in qualifying to those directly ahead of us is very small. In the past, we have seen that anything can happen at this track, so we will now work on being as well prepared as possible for the race, ready to make the most of any opportunity.”
After finishing last season as 'best of the rest' behind the big three teams, Force India seemed to have gone backwards in qualifying with both drivers falling in Q2. Perez in particular reminded his team that they have plenty of work to do - but given both drivers failed to make Q3 last year, there is still optimism that one bad session isn't necessarily indicative of how the season as a whole will progress...
Sergio Perez, 13th, 1:24.005
“It’s disappointing not to be in Q3, but actually our performance was pretty good. We worked the tyres well and I drove a very strong lap, but I think the end result reflects where we are at this moment. We thought we had a chance to make Q3, but tomorrow is when it really matters. I think some things could play into our hands tomorrow because our race pace looks better than the pace we showed today. There’s an extra DRS zone creating more opportunities and it’s a race where we often see the safety car. There’s a long way to go so let’s see what we can do.”
Esteban Ocon, 15th, 1:24.786
“It was a tough session, especially Q2 where I was really struggling with the front of the car and locking tyres. It was also difficult to find space in the traffic. We had a big job this weekend trying to understand the new upgrade and missing out on some dry running in final practice didn’t help. The race pace will be better tomorrow and I think we can aim for the points. It’s one of those races where just making the finish gives you a chance to pick up a result. Tomorrow is another day and we will keep fighting and see what we can achieve.”
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal
“In reality our performance today was not dissimilar to our qualifying result here twelve months ago and it’s not a massive surprise to miss out on the top ten today. We’ve introduced a significant upgrade package and only fitted it to the cars for the first time yesterday so we’re on a steep learning curve at the moment. It’s delivering performance, but we know there’s more potential to come from it in the races ahead. We’ve shown promising long run pace in testing and yesterday so hopefully we can demonstrate that tomorrow and get some points on the board, as we did last year.”
Renault had looked to be right in the midfield hunt from the word go and managed to get both cars through to Q3 at the expense of McLaren. Hulkenberg had made a bumpy trip through the gravel earlier in qualifying, but nailed a solid lap when it mattered to sneak ahead of his team mate by 0.045s. He will have Ricciardo behind him on the grid, and while it could be a difficult prospect to keep the Red Bull and an out-of-position Mercedes behind, on a track where overtaking can be tricky, Renault have every chance of securing a double points finish.
Nico Hulkenberg, 8th, 1:23.532
“Given that I wasn’t feeling especially happy with the car I’m pretty happy with my qualifying position today. The whole of qualifying was tricky for me and in particular my Q3 lap wasn’t as good as it could have been. We changed the car quite a bit after yesterday and the wet FP3 meant we didn’t have as much time as we’d like to validate these changes. It’s a close field out there so there will be plenty to do in the race.”
Carlos Sainz, 9th, 1:23.577
“We expected both cars to be in the top ten and we achieved this today, which confirms the good progress of the whole team. I had hoped to be a little bit higher than this, however the lap time didn’t come. I’ll take a good look at that today with my engineers. For tomorrow, I’m convinced we can move forward. It’s going to be tight but we have a good car and a good chance to battle with the cars around us. I’m confident we can put together a competitive race!”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
"We’re happy with today’s result but left wondering if better was possible after looking at our Q2 pace. In Q3 we couldn’t quite get the tyres into the sweet spot with either car but overall it was a trouble-free qualifying session for us.
"It’s the first race of the season so we’ll be wary on the first lap and try to stay out of trouble, then we need to take the fight to our rivals and see what we can do strategically to get in front of them. Our cars look evenly matched in qualifying trim and we were happy with our long run pace from P2 so moving up the field is the target for tomorrow."
McLaren had looked quick in FP3 on the intermediate tyres with Alonso topping the timing board, but come qualifying both drivers exited in Q2. Alonso encountered traffic which compromised his out-lap, but starting in P11 with free tyre choice, don't rule the Spaniard out. Vandoorne is just behind his team mate and could follow him through if the start yields any incidents.
Fernando Alonso, 11th, 1:23.692
“After winter testing, you never know how the performance in the first qualifying will be, so it’s some kind of relief that the car is performing well and we’re more competitive than the last few seasons. This year we’ll have fun.
“There’s a lot of potential to unlock in our car, and we haven’t yet been able to do this due to some little issues. I think McLaren will be quite strong in the coming races, which is a very positive start.
“Apart from Toro Rosso, we’re the only top team that has gone through an integration process of a new power unit with the chassis, the systems and the set-up, so there will be performance that will come for free once we’ve adapted more to the Renault power unit.
“I think our race pace is probably better than our qualifying pace, so we’re in a good starting position – P11 or even P10 due to [Valtteri] Bottas’ problem – so definitely some good points are the target. Tomorrow will be probably one of the first races in the last couple of years where we won’t need to defend, and we will go for the attack mode. Also, the weather is still a factor for tomorrow, and if we have some showers it’ll be a great show.
“I’m very positive and very optimistic about this season.”
Stoffel Vandoorne, 12th, 1:23.853
“We’re a bit disappointed not to be in Q3 with both cars. It’s a shame as we showed some good promise yesterday in the dry during practice. From our side, there is some work to do – the other midfield teams are close and have improved a bit since yesterday, it seems – so we need to see where we lost out.
“There was definitely potential there for us to make a good step forward today, and we’ve missed out on that. We have a good benchmark though and this is still very early in the partnership between McLaren and Renault, so there are still a lot of things that have to develop. We know that through the season we’ll improve a lot as a team and as a package, and I hope that we can show that very soon.
“Tomorrow is race day and there are a lot of things that can happen. Overtaking is difficult here, and as it’s the first race of the season there’s usually a lot of drama. Compared to last year we’ve definitely made an improvement, and our race pace looks quite promising, so we need to be sharp and ready for anything. The weather might play into it a bit too, so if we can have a clean race and stay out of trouble, hopefully there are some points on the cards.”
Eric Boullier, Racing Director
“Today was a bit of a mixed bag for us. We had a solid P3 session where both drivers coped admirably in the ever-changing conditions and continued to give us valuable feedback as the track evolved.
“Come qualifying, the track was drying out further although clouds were once again forming, making track conditions difficult to read. Fernando and Stoffel put in strong performances to ensure our comfortable progression through Q1. Q2 was already proof of what we expected from winter testing – just how close the midfield pack is in 2018 – and we knew it would be a challenge. Both drivers were affected by traffic on a busy track, but also weren’t able to get the most out of the car today. We know from our analysis that there is more performance to be unlocked, and there was potential to be higher up on the starting grid tomorrow.
“On one hand, we know there’s more to come from our package that we couldn’t maximise today, and in some ways we were hoping for more. However, on the other hand, we’re encouraged by how far we’ve already come over the winter period. Now, the important thing is that we extract everything we have in tomorrow’s race, where our pace over long runs is what matters most. If conditions are dry, we have the benefit of free tyre choice, and we’ll use that to our advantage as much as possible on Sunday afternoon.”
Sauber might have exited in Q1 but can take heart from the fact that they out-qualified a Williams and a Toro Rosso. Keeping those two behind will be the first objective come race day, whilst rookie Leclerc will want to keep his nose clean and deliver a solid performance. The pressure will be on the experienced Ericsson to finish ahead of his young team mate as well...
Marcus Ericsson, 17th, 1:24.556
“The work done overnight by the engineers on track and at the headquarters in Switzerland paid off. All in all it was a good qualifying today. We have made good progress since yesterday when we were quite a long way off the competition. We should be proud of the work that we have put in since then because it made a big difference. We are still not where we want to be, but today we were really close to Q2. We do have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are in the fight which is nice to see. Overall, I am happy with the progress and I look forward to the first race of the season”
Charles Leclerc, 18th, 1:24.636
“I had my first qualifying in Formula 1 today – so overall, it was an exciting day. We had a wet free practice session followed by a dry qualifying, which was not ideal as I could not practice for what lay ahead. In qualifying, I made a small error in turn 4 which cost us Q2 – a shame, but it is the first round of the season, so it was still a positive learning experience. Now, my focus is on making improvements going forward. Tomorrow, I will take part in my first Formula 1 race. I look forward to it very much.”
Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing
“Rain earlier on in the day washed the track clean of rubber and also allowed the teams to look at crossover points from full wet to slick. More rain is expected overnight, adding another interesting variable to the first race of the season. Each of the compounds we brought to Melbourne have been used so far, meaning that teams have a wide range of data, but not necessarily targeted towards a specific scenario. So, there will inevitably be some element of strategy improvisation tomorrow, depending on the race circumstances. We’ve already seen some alternative thinking on tactics from Red Bull, which has chosen to start the race on the supersoft: it’s going to be interesting to see how this will play out.”