What the teams said - qualifying in Melbourne
A round-up of all the action from qualifying at the 2017 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park...
Expectations were high for the Silver Arrows after Hamilton's performance on Friday, but when Vettel topped FP3 by nearly half a second it looked like Ferrari were going to challenge the world champions. Hamilton though was in a class of his own, grabbing pole by three-tenths of a second. Bottas had looked to be on a par with his team mate but was just pipped by Vettel and lines up directly behind Hamilton on the grid.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:22.188
"It's been a fantastic weekend so far. It's amazing to be here for the 11th time. It feels like only yesterday that I came here for my first race in 2007. I'm just incredibly proud of the team. The rule change has been huge - it's been such a massive challenge and the guys have worked so hard to get the car to where it is today. To be up here representing them is fantastic. I'm looking forward to the race. I think it's close between us and Ferrari. Tomorrow is about putting all of the work that's gone on over the winter and over testing into practice. I think Valtteri did a fantastic job in his first qualifying session, which is great for us."
Valtteri Bottas, 3rd, 1:22.481
"Third position is not ideal. I couldn't quite get a perfect lap in, so I'm not quite satisfied with the result. But what I'm really proud about is the team of people who built this car. I only saw a very small part of the preparation for this new era of Formula One - but it's really nice to see that all of the work has paid off. Tomorrow is the day that matters and my race starts have been quite strong, so hopefully we can keep that going."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"P1 and P3 is a really good way to start the first race after a winter with so many changes. Under new regulations, there were no guarantees for us and we knew from testing that Ferrari were very strong. It was exciting to have that close battle for pole, right down to the wire with the final laps in Q3, and it's clear that we have a big fight on our hands with Ferrari. Lewis has been flying all weekend so it's great to see him put it on pole. For Valtteri, he might be a little disappointed to miss out on P2 by just a few hundredths. But you cannot expect everything perfect on the first weekend. He improved with every run and there is still more to come, no doubt. Now we need to get our heads down, do the homework and see what tomorrow brings us. Whatever happens, it will only be the first part of the answer to how the competitive picture looks. But I hope most of all that we see a great battle for the fans to enjoy, to begin this new era for the sport."
James Allison, Technical Director
"That was an exhilarating session. Massive credit to all the people in this team who, after such a strong year in 2016, have created a car to a new set of regulations, come back a year later and put it on pole again. It's a splendid effort from the entire team. But what is clear is that it's very close. We've got some serious competition and this could be the start of quite a memorable season. We've just got to make sure that it's us who keeps our nose ahead in the development race. I've joined a very strong group of people here and it's a privilege to be part of this team."
A late change in the Sauber garage saw Wehrlein step aside due to fitness issues, meaning Giovinazzi made his race weekend debut in an F1 car. FP3 was a fact-finding mission for the Italian, but he impressed in qualifying, nearly making Q2. Indeed, his more experienced team mate Ericsson was less than two-tenths down the road, highlighting just what a good performance Giovinazzi had had.
Marcus Ericsson, 15th, 1:26.465
“It was a decent first qualifying for us. Throughout the weekend we have worked hard to maximize our current package. I managed to set a good lap in Q1, which was enough to put us in Q2. The second qualifying session started off well, but then I went a bit wide in turn 9, so I lost some lap time there. P15 is a decent position for starting the first Grand Prix of the 2017 season.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 16th, 1:26.419
“That is a special day for me kicking off my first Formula One Grand Prix weekend. I am really happy with my performance today, I was just a few tenths away from Q2. It will be a long race tomorrow; a lot can happen here in Melbourne. I will do my best to put in my maximum performance.”
Both Force India drivers made it to Q2 but no further. Perez was unlucky, demoted to P11 in the dying seconds of Q2 by Sainz. With free tyre choice for the race start, points are still a good possibility for the Mexican. Ocon's 14th was a fair result considering he has never previously raced at this circuit.
Sergio Perez, 11th, 1:25.081
“It’s disappointing to miss out on the top ten by such a small margin – less than a tenth of a second. However, P11 is not a bad starting position and we can certainly race for good points. All the teams in the midfield seem to be very close to each other in terms of performance and there are going to be very close battles in the race. Tyre degradation is very low and finding the right rhythm during the race will be a challenge. Overtaking is difficult here, especially with these very wide cars, but I will fight hard tomorrow. I am determined to start the season well.”
Esteban Ocon, 14th, 1:25.568
“I’ve been on the learning curve this week in Melbourne and I’m not feeling particularly satisfied with today’s qualifying session. Yes, it’s the first time I’ve reached Q2, but there is more potential in the car. I learned a huge amount during the session and despite being far away from Sergio in Q1, I was much closer in Q2. Unfortunately I made a small mistake on my final run, so I missed the chance to be higher up the grid. We saw today just how close the midfield fight is going to be this year because even small margins can make a huge difference. On the positive side, we improved the car during qualifying; we improved our procedures and we’ve learned things that will help us going forward. I go into tomorrow’s race believing there is a good opportunity to fight for points. The first challenge will be the new start procedures, which could really mix things up on lap one. I’m excited for tomorrow and ready for my first race in Melbourne!”
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal
“The potential was certainly there for us to make Q3, but Sergio didn’t have the cleanest lap during his final run of Q2 and he missed the top ten by a whisker. Esteban is still finding his feet with the team and is on a very steep learning curve. He’s taken a very mature approach so far and is gradually building his confidence and speed with this car. He made good progress during the session and he knows there is more to come. It’s a long race tomorrow so let’s see what happens. Scoring points with both cars remains the objective.”
Vandoorne started Q1 with a fuel-flow issue - he did emerge from the pits for one clean run, but was unable to challenge for Q2. Alonso grabbed 13th which seemed a positive given McLaren's pre-season testing woes, but the Spaniard doesn't believe that points are necessarily there for the taking...
Fernando Alonso, 13th, 1:25.425
“After the difficulties we encountered in winter testing, we came to Melbourne without a clear idea of where we stood. But we’ve more or less run through all the sessions without trouble – which is better than we’d expected.
“I had sufficient sets of tyres to be able to enjoy my laps in both Q1 and Q2. I was happy with the balance of the car and was able to really push it. That’s useful because, at the moment, we need to extract the maximum out of the package we have.
“Tomorrow we’ll start 13th – in the middle of the pack – which is definitely not our target. Finishing the race is going to be tough. And, if we do finish it, to end up in a decent position we’ll need help from the weather and for other cars to encounter trouble.”
Stoffel Vandoorne, 18th, 1:26.858
“I had a fuel pressure issue in Q1 and had to abort my first two runs as the engine was running low on power. That was a shame – because, after FP3, everything was heading in the right direction and I was feeling confident. But it’s always difficult when you only get one opportunity to set a time because you can’t take risks and have to make it really count.
“Still, we’ve made some good steps forward this weekend: Fernando and I both feel more comfortable in the car, and that confidence means we’re able to push it a little bit more.
“Obviously, we still have a lot of work to do, but we can take some positives from the potential we’ve shown so far this weekend, and I think we can have a good race tomorrow.”
Eric Boullier, McLaren-Honda Racing Director
“Fernando showed all his experience this afternoon, and coupled it with his undiminished natural speed, to carve a perfect lap whose verve and fluidity deserved better than P13. But in truth that’s all our car is capable of delivering at the moment, and Fernando produced it all. Bravo.
“Stoffel suffered a fuel pressure problem that caused him to have to abort not one but two runs early in Q1, but then kept his cool to post a very good lap in extremely frustrating and stressful circumstances. He’ll start tomorrow’s race from P18 – but, like Fernando’s, his lap was a lot better than that.
“We know we aren’t where we want or need to be, either performance-wise or reliability-wise, but we’re working through our problems together, and I’m massively impressed by the esprit de corps that exists within both McLaren and Honda. Well done, guys.
“Tomorrow’s race may be a difficult one for us, but we’ll pull together to get the best result possible.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“Today’s qualifying was important because it gave us the first chance to judge our current position on track compared to our competitors. And although P13 and P18 is not where we want to be this season, after such a tough winter testing we can be relatively satisfied with our improvement.
"Fernando drove incredibly to extract everything out of the car, and Stoffel handled the pressure of qualifying extremely well despite having issues throughout the session. We are very lucky to have two such talented drivers in our team.
"Hopefully we will have a good start to the race tomorrow and we will have the opportunity to fight for points in the race. We know anything can happen, and you can be sure our drivers will be ready to grab any opportunity thrown their way.”
Red Bull didn't have the pace to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari ahead of them, with Verstappen a distant fifth. Ricciardo failed to record a time in Q3 after sliding through the gravel into the barriers on his first flying lap. The Australian was understandably disappointed at his home Grand Prix, but all is not lost and he will hope to make up places at the start.
__Max Verstappen, 5th, 1:23.485 __
“It’s been a bit of a tough weekend in general, I haven’t done as much running as I would have liked. Qualifying was pretty much the first time I managed to string some laps together uninterrupted. This morning we didn’t have the balance and therefore couldn’t find the rhythm, so we tried a few things that unfortunately didn’t work how we would have liked. Heading into qualifying we found some positives and built it up lap by lap, after that I kept improving, the balance got better and I managed to have a fairly good qualifying. The car is better balanced now but it is clear to see we still a have to gain a bit. It’s not just in power; we built a car that is efficient on the straights but it means we lose a bit of grip in cornering. I am not disappointed as I think this is about where we expected to be at race 1. Tomorrow it is important for me to have a quick and clean start and let the guys in front battle it out. That could then lead to some opportunities. We will keep working this evening to improve and find some more pace ready for tomorrow’s race.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 10th (no time set in Q3)
“That was a tough one today. I don’t crash into the barriers often and the last place I want to do that is at home. But I feel I crashed for the right reason, as I was basically pushing and trying to find the limit and these things happen, so let’s say I’m not disappointed by the approach, it was just more of a frustrating outcome, starting 10th instead of being under the top 5. I feel for the mechanics, because they’ve had a long week and now they’ve got a long night ahead of them. I knew the crowds would have also preferred to see me further up the grid and it would have been nice to put on a better performance than that but tomorrow is where the points are. It’s a chance to create a bigger headline if I have a good race so that’s what will motivate me to do better tomorrow. I made it a bit more difficult for myself but it’s going to be alright. To get a good start in the race will be the key. I saved a set of ultrasofts in Q2, I know that not everyone in front of me has, so maybe that gives me a chance.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“A frustrating qualifying for Daniel, unfortunately losing the car in Q3 on his first run where the rear end of the car just got away from him at turn 14, and it looks like the guys have got a bit of work on tonight to get the repairs all sorted in time. Max extracted everything out of the car today. You can see we’ve got some time to make up compared to Mercedes and Ferrari but we are fifth on the grid for tomorrow’s race and hopefully we can make some progress from there.”
Contrasting fortunes in the Williams garage. Stroll hit the wall in FP3, bringing out the red flags and ensuring his mechanics had a busy couple of hours to get the FW40 ready in time for qualifying. He did emerge in Q1, but could only manage 19th and will start last after a five-place grid drop for a gearbox change. Massa proved as reliable as ever, making it all the way to Q3, and grabbing seventh place.
Felipe Massa, 7th, 1:24.443
"It was a good qualifying session. I am happy with my qualifying and the laps I was doing. It’s the first qualifying session of the season and the first time I have used the new ultrasoft tyres, after missing some laps on those yesterday. All in all I was happy with qualifying. Sixth would have been a great position for us today but I think Romain did a very good lap, which I was not able to beat. That said, I am sure we can fight in the race and I’m really looking forward to making the first race of the season a good one."
Lance Stroll, 19th, 1:27.143
The day started off tough and it was hard to recoup from that. What happened in FP3 was a little touch and it led to a lot of things. The qualifying session was in a rush and we didn’t get to do what we had planned. However, the team did a great job to get me out in qualifying so a big thank you to them. I think we have to forget about today, especially as our pace was much better than that, and in FP2 we were over half a second quicker than in qualifying. Obviously it is a long race and, played intelligently, we can do something but we will work that out tonight and see about tomorrow. I now want to put the day behind me and move on to the race, which will be interesting starting from the back.
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer
"Unfortunately it wasn’t a great day for Lance with his accident in FP3. It really set his whole day off to a bad start, from which it was difficult to recover. There was a lot of work needed on the car; we changed the entire back end as well as most of the front suspension. The team worked very hard to get the car ready for qualifying but there was only time for him to get one run in the first session. Under huge pressure and with not very much practice in the car in any sort of qualifying format I think that Lance did a good job to get that time on the board. On Felipe’s side it was actually a very good day. We were hoping to get a position in the top 10 after a good session in FP3 with some long runs to gather the data we missed yesterday. Then it was a solid qualifying session for him with quite a tight fight in the top 10. Felipe did a great job to get P7 on the grid. I think Felipe can put up a good fight for points tomorrow in the race. Realistically for Lance, the race will be difficult but it will be a good opportunity to gain experience and put him in a better position with more confidence for China. Congratulations to the team for producing a car that is able to compete strongly in the top 10 from race one. The 2017 season is underway!"
Magnussen was unable to put a clean lap together, running wide onto the dirt and exiting in Q1. Grosjean, by contrast, made it all the way to Q3 and grabbed an impressive sixth on the grid, or 'best of the rest'. Melbourne is a happy hunting ground for the Frenchman, who scored points on Haas' debut here last year, and he will be hoping for more of the same come race day.
Romain Grosjean, 6th, 1:24.074
“Happy day. It was quite an unbelievable qualifying session for us. It’s a shame that we didn’t get Kevin there, but the car is looking good, even better than what we’ve seen recently. We’ve made some good progress over the weekend. There’s a lot more we can understand and analyze but, generally, it’s a great start for us.
“It’s always good to start with a strong qualifying session. It tells you that if you keep improving the car, you could be in a good place very soon. If that’s our baseline, and you can fight between sixth and 10th position, where it’s so tight, it would be great to be there most of the time and enjoy some good times.
“Tomorrow’s start is a big unknown. We’ve been practicing and some have been good, others not so much. Hopefully, we’ll get the first one right tomorrow.”
Kevin Magnussen, 17th, 1:26.847
“Went off the track in turn 12 on both of my laps – really annoyed with that. The car was there in qualifying. My lap was good until I went off. Both times my lap was good. I’m disappointed with that. We should’ve been a lot further up the grid. Now, I have to fight quite hard in the race. There’s still a lot that can happen and I will give it my best tomorrow.
“The good thing is the car looks competitive. Romain made it to Q3, which shows the potential of the car. I’m pretty sure I could’ve been very close to that if I hadn’t messed up and got off the track. I think I was just too keen to make up for my slow start to the weekend. I had a few places that I knew I had to sort out, and when you’re in qualifying trying to sort out things like that, it’s not optimal. It would’ve been nice to do that in practice, but that’s the situation I was in and I messed up by going off the track two times.
“I went for it and twice it went wrong. The first time I did it flat out to see where the limit was and I went off. The second time I asked for a little bit more front wing and I went a bit slower to get it right, but I didn’t get it right. It’s very annoying when you see how good the car is. I’m gutted not to be up there and give myself a better chance at some points.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It’s been a great weekend for Romain. Not the same for Kevin. We had issues with his car. We couldn’t find a balance, so he didn’t run properly in the free practice sessions. He never tried the ultrasoft tire over the weekend, so he went into qualifying with an unknown. It didn’t work out. I think we made good progress in FP3 and it will come.
“Again, great for Romain. He put a lap down, second to none, I would say. Thanks to all the time again because what they did was fantastic. It’s our best qualifying – sixth-place behind the big ones. That’s great for the youngest team on the grid.
“I hope we have a good race tomorrow. We are ready for it. The car seems to be on a good pace, on the long runs as well. Hopefully, we can get Kevin further up the field in the race. I think even where Kevin is we can still go for points. If we get a good start, everything is possible for both. The start is new for everybody and I hope we get a good one. You don’t know but we’ll try our best.
“It’ll be an interesting day at the front end. It seems like it’s closer than it’s been in a long time. So, let’s see what happens.”
Renault were another team whose drivers had extremely differing days. Palmer concentrated on long runs in FP3 having missed so much time on Friday. As such it was unsurprising that he was unable to hook up a good lap in Q1 and propped up the field. Hulkenberg sneaked into fifth in FP3, but couldn't quite maintain that form in qualifying and was narrowly knocked out in Q2. Nonetheless, with free tyre choice, a tasty battle with his former team mate Perez who starts just ahead of him beckons.
Nico Hulkenberg, 12th, 1:24.975
“That was a solid first qualifying session with the team. We were just tenths away from Q3 and it was definitely on the cards however I struggled a bit with the balance and grip on my fastest Q2 lap so it wasn’t to be. It is difficult to predict what to expect tomorrow; but what I do know is that the midfield is very competitive. It should be an interesting fight in the race and points are the target.”
Jolyon Palmer, 20th, 1:28.244
“Today really didn’t go to plan. I didn’t have any grip and I struggled with the brakes so we need to know what went wrong. Yesterday the car felt much better and was faster on the soft tyres, with a much higher fuel load, so there’s something not quite right. It’s been pretty far from the weekend I wanted to start the season so far, but let’s see what happens in the race.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
"It was a positive first qualifying session with the R.S.17 although it’s frustrating not to make Q3 as the pace was there. Nico did a great job and has shown that we are where we wanted to be, in the midfield and very close to Williams, Toro Rosso and Haas, so we expect a good fight tomorrow. It’s clear we’ve made a huge jump over the winter and we’ve got a lot more to come from the car. There’s frustration for Jo and we will have a close look at the data and his car ahead of the race as he’s clearly capable of much better things. It will be the first race with these cars to the new regulations so it’s going to be interesting to see how it pans out. Nico starts just shy of the points so his target is clear. Jo has a lot of work to do and we’ve nothing to lose with being ambitious with his strategy."
Ferrari did not disappoint in the first qualifying of the year, pushing Mercedes hard and splitting the Silver Arrows. Vettel grabbed the Scuderia's first front row since Singapore 2015, but Raikkonen struggled for balance and had to settle for fourth on the grid.
Sebastian Vettel, 2nd, 1:22.456
“If we look back 12 months, the progress we have made is clear to see. We are working well as a team, having had a great winter; a winter of changes, but all for the best.”
Kimi Raikkonen, 4th, 1:23.033
“I made life complicated for myself right from the first session: I never managed to put all the sectors together and that cost me lap time. But the car feels strong and I just have to do better.
"Apart from that we have a really good package, it is a very special place here.
"Hopefully this year we can bring the results. Last year people were questioning lots of things but I'm sure we're doing things right it's just a matter of time. I overtook in practice but it's always going to be difficult. Practice starts have been ok, it's a big car!"
In a congested midfield, Toro Rosso will be heartened to have got both cars into Q3. The intra-team battle was won by Sainz, who edged his team mate by 0.025s to grab eighth ahead of Kvyat's ninth. Indeed these were the same positions the two occupied in FP3, and seem a genuine reflection of their standing in the pack.
Carlos Sainz, 8th, 1:24.487
“We can call today a good but not perfect day. We definitely started the qualifying session very far off from a balance point of view compared to yesterday; we lacked a bit of stability on the car and it wasn’t giving me as much confidence as on Friday. I therefore had to go little by little instead of pushing straight away from the beginning… That’s why it wasn’t the perfect start but it ended well. Getting into Q3 was difficult, as it was all very tight, but in the end it all came together and I’m definitely satisfied with our result. As a team, we can also be very happy because we got both cars through to Q3. To start tomorrow’s race from P8 is a very decent spot and I think it’s going to be a very exciting one… Bring it on!”
Daniil Kvyat, 9th, 1:24.512
“It’s good to get through to Q3 with both cars, we can be happy with our Saturday. We missed a bit of test time a few weeks ago in Barcelona, so we came here still improving through the whole of yesterday. We did a good jump overnight and we were able to put a good lap together in today’s qualifying, which was very tight! Q1 was difficult for everyone because the track always does what it wants here, so we had to pick-up information and learn very fast, which we did. The team has been flawless so far this weekend, so I’d like to congratulate everybody for the great job done so far. Therefore, I can say we’re pretty satisfied after today’s result; we’ve made a good step forward, the car gives us confidence, is quite fast and we can look forward to converting this into something positive in tomorrow’s race.”
James Key, Technical Director
“As we thought could be the case, margins looked to be incredibly tight behind the three fastest teams. The first qualifying session of the season is where you begin to see where everyone is and, sure enough, it is really tight between the teams round us. Having said that, to get both cars into the top ten is great, the team’s done a really good job today. We didn’t have the best start to qualifying with a balance that was not as good as it was in FP3 this morning and I think we reacted extremely well to improve the situation with each run. Both drivers did a really professional job too and did what they needed to do – the objective was to get into both cars into the top ten and they achieved that up against very stiff competition. What also is encouraging is that their lap times were extremely close to each other throughout the session – that’s what we expect from them and that’s exactly what they delivered. It’s tomorrow that counts; we’ve got two cars ahead of us that we’d like to take on – we want to be the best of the rest behind the top three teams, so clearly we have a target there. Equally, we have people behind us that we know will be very competitive too, so we’re looking forward to an exciting and I suspect very close race tomorrow.”
Mario Isola - Head of Car Racing
“Lap times were around two seconds faster than last year, giving us a competitive and spectacular qualifying. There was low degradation on the compounds used in FPs, which makes a one-stop strategy likely for tomorrow, depending of course on track temperature. If that is higher than data collected during the weekend, this could push it towards two stops. With these cars being so different to the previous generation, and no previous race data to fall back on, tomorrow’s strategy is a bit harder to predict than usual.”