What the teams said - Qualifying in Qatar
When Bottas topped FP3, it looked clear that Mercedes had a very decent car here. But going into qualifying, it remained to be seen which of the two team mates would prevail, or whether their Red Bull rivals could catch them. Both made it through Q2 on the preferred medium tyres, and then came out early in Q3 to lay down their markers. Hamilton’s lap was incredibly quick and he grabbed provisional pole – and then went a staggering four tenths faster on his second effort to ensure that P1 grid slot was his. Bottas was pipped by Verstappen, but starting third, is at least on the clean side of the grid.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:20.827
"I'm very happy with that qualifying session. Yesterday was difficult for me, I wasn't feeling well on Thursday or Friday and then struggled in practice. So, I had to dig deep, I was here late last night working with the engineers and we found a lot of areas to improve. I felt fantastic today and slept very well last night, which made a big difference. We made some changes for FP3 and it seemed to work, and I was able to carry that into qualifying. That last lap was just beautiful, this track is amazing to drive and very fast, all medium and high-speed corners. In terms of the race, we don't have much experience at this track, but I don't think it will be the easiest of circuits to follow. It's also not massively degrading the tyres so it could be a one or a two stop, we'll find out tomorrow. It's a decent run down to Turn 1 and it's nice and wide, so we'll be giving it everything."
Valtteri Bottas, 3rd, 1:21.478
"It's been a strong weekend for us but of course, I'm a bit disappointed about qualifying. I felt comfortable in the car yesterday, but I'm a bit confused what happened overnight, because I was missing some speed. I struggled quite a bit in qualifying, particularly in Turn 1, where I wasn't managing to get the tyres ready. We need to have a look into it, but I tried my best and squeezed everything out of the car. Still, it puts me on the clean side of the grid for tomorrow and we have both cars at the front of the pack. I don't have much to lose and we have options, with two cars against one Red Bull, so normally that's a good situation to be in. I'm sure it's going to be a close day tomorrow."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"That was a spectacular qualifying session and what a lap by Lewis to take pole. This is the result of the hard work both in the build-up and during the weekend on understanding the car and finding the right set-up at this new track. Lewis found it today, he wasn't particularly satisfied yesterday but he had a great car in qualifying to put it on pole and he did so in dominant style. Valtteri was happier with the car yesterday and it wasn't quite in the sweet spot for him, but nevertheless, we can be satisfied with P1 and P3 on the grid, both on the clean side, for tomorrow. Hopefully we'll take this momentum into the race, we've got both of our cars starting at the front, which is a useful result for us, but I'm sure it's going to be another close one."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"A very impressive lap by Lewis to take pole, we felt that this was within our reach today but a margin of over 0.45s was beyond our expectations. It's also great to have Valtteri up there in P3. Lewis has had a really solid day and he's been much happier with the car. Valtteri's session wasn't as clean, we really struggled to find him clear track for his out laps and that was the case on each run. However, it's a close call between whether you'd rather be second on the dirty side or third on the clean side and we'll not find out which is best until tomorrow. It's hard to know what to expect for the race having not been here before, the tyres seem to be behaving quite well although they are no doubt going to be running hot and overtaking is likely to be difficult. If we can retain the lead then we're in a strong position, but we've seen a lot of cars breaking over the kerbs here so there's a reasonable chance we'll get some safety cars or VSCs to mix things up a little."
The Bulls just weren’t quick enough when it mattered under the lights, the cooler temperatures not helping them get on the pace of their rivals. Perez’s first effort on the medium tyres in Q2 wasn’t quick enough so he bolted on some softs but still failed to make Q3 which didn’t help their cause. While Verstappen did make Q3 and managed to nip ahead of Bottas, he had no answer today for the pace of Hamilton. A front row grid slot is not to be sniffed at though, as he will be in the thick of the action down to Turn 1.
Max Verstappen, 2nd, 1:21.282
“It’s been a bit of an up and down weekend so far, I was happy in quali but just not quick enough. I thought I had quite a decent lap but then heard the gap difference and I was a bit shocked, it's been really difficult to match them. In a way I’m happy to be second but the gap to Lewis is very big. Qualifying has been more of a struggle for us over the past few races so we definitely need to have a look into it. I don’t expect miracles tomorrow but we are on a new track and a lot of things can happen, we never give up. It’s very quick around here so it will be difficult to follow, it also depends on what tyres we will be on and those around us. I’ll try to do the best I can, as always.”
Sergio Perez, 11th, 1:22.346
“It was a crazy qualifying for me, I think we have been there all weekend and after FP3 we were really confident with the changes we were making. We had everything in hand to really have a strong qualifying but we didn’t put it together when it mattered. We changed our approach with the tyre prep going into the evening conditions and we were not able to do the laps we wanted to, I hit a lot of traffic and going out in Q2 is the price we paid, we didn’t put it together when it mattered. We are a Team so we are all in it together, it is a shame we didn’t make it but we are looking forward to tomorrow now. I think without that issue the pace was in the car, we have been up there all weekend, so I see no reason why we shouldn’t have been there today and therefore can’t fight tomorrow. It has been a disappointing day but Sunday is what matters and hopefully we are able to recover and minimise the damage. We will try to make overtaking possibly here, I really hope that come race day we can be strong and come through the field to be in the mix for big points.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“It’s great to be on the front row with Max, he got the maximum performance out of the car today and has an opportunity down into turn one tomorrow, but it’s going to be very difficult to follow closely after that with the speed of these corners and mount an overtake. So the first 500m are going to be crucial and then it will come down to strategy, pit stops and reliability, all of those factors, and the tyres are under constant load at this track, so it’s going to be fascinating to see how they last tomorrow. It’s a shame not to have Checo in the top ten, but it’s a long Grand Prix and he can still be a very important factor for us in the race tomorrow. With both title contenders starting next to each other it should be a great race.”
Quick yesterday, quick again in FP3, the scene was set for AlphaTauri to deliver a solid qualifying session and so they did. Gasly used up his medium tyres in Q1 to save softs for later on, and therefore got two runs in on fresh rubber in Q3. It was just as well his first run was excellent, as he ran wide on his second effort and damaged his front wing on the kerbs. That led to a puncture, with the Frenchman forced to pull over on the finish straight. As for Tsunoda, he was running ahead of his team mate and thus finished his last lap, grabbing eighth.
Pierre Gasly, 4th, 1:21.640
“I’m super happy with qualifying, it’s been pretty amazing and we’re right behind Mercedes and Max again which is great. I was going even faster in the last lap, improving by one and a half tenths, but I went over the kerb at Turn 15 and I lost the front wing, which then blew the front right tyre. At the end of the day, it was still a really strong qualifying and we’re in a good position for tomorrow. The Alpines are pretty close again, so I think it’ll be another intense battle in the race.”
Yuki Tsunoda, 8th, 1:21.881
“I think today was a good qualifying and I’m happy that I will be starting from P8 tomorrow. It was unfortunate that I had to sacrifice an additional set of softs to get through Q1, which meant I didn’t have them for Q3, but I’m still really pleased with how today went. We think it’s going to be difficult to overtake in the race, so the start will be key, but the positive is that we’re all in the same position, as no one has driven here before. We’ll prepare for this as well as we can tonight, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Jody Egginton, Technical Director
“The solid performance yesterday and the hard work put in by the engineers, mechanics and drivers overnight has provided another good step forward today. Both drivers have fully exploited this in what was a tight qualifying today, resulting in very good grid positions for tomorrow's race. Yuki has performed well here in Qatar, putting in a great qualifying tonight and getting himself well into the top 10, which is positive. Pierre has been very strong and consistent in every session so far, carrying this form into Qualifying to secure a very well deserved fourth, which is especially pleasing as getting the car into the right window at a new track can be far from straightforward. The front wing damage sustained by Pierre over the kerbs was unfortunate, as the lap was shaping up to be a good step quicker than his previous. It is something we will review to understand the various factors involved, but as we have seen with some other competitors so far here in Qatar the kerbs in the highspeed corners are a real consideration here. With the battle for fifth in the Constructors’ Championship being super close, and Alpine also getting both cars into Q3 here, we are expecting a tight race tomorrow, but are looking forward to the challenge.”
With their constructors’ rivals AlphaTauri getting both cars into Q3, it was imperative that Alpine do likewise. Both drivers stepped up to the mark, with Alonso delivering his best qualifying of the season with fifth. As for Ocon, he was suffering with braking issues since Q1 but bravely went all out to grab a very credible ninth on the grid.
Esteban Ocon, 9th, 1:22.028
“As a team, it’s a very positive qualifying result with both Fernando and I in Q3. On my side, we missed a little bit today and we have some things to review to see where we were lacking and where we can improve. There was probably a little more left on the table today as on my Q3 lap I went wide at Turn 1 trying to gain some time. Still, we’re back in Q3, which is great, and we know points are given out on Sundays. We’re still in the fight and we can battle hard tomorrow to deliver some points.”
Fernando Alonso, 5th, 1:21.670
“I think the whole weekend has been positive for us. The car felt strong in all sessions and seems to enjoy the high-speed corners here. I told the team if they gave me enough fuel, I would be driving all night long and I would wait for them here tomorrow morning! It seems some circuits are better than others for our package and Qatar seems to be one of those. We need to study why we miss this performance in other circuits. But the points are scored tomorrow, so we need to maximise our starting slot. We start on the clean side of the grid and there are a few different tyre strategies for us to be aware. We have some question marks, but it’s better to solve these from fifth.”
Marcin Budkowski, Executive Director
"We’ve had good pace throughout the weekend here in Doha, so it’s great to be able to convert that in qualifying today with both cars in Q3 and Fernando in the top five. There were some mixed tyre strategies and we bet on Soft tyres for Q2, which proved to be the right call as we saw quite a lot of our competitors bailing out from the Mediums after the first run. Fernando was very happy with his car and his impressive first lap in Q3 allowed him to secure fifth position on the grid. Esteban’s qualifying was compromised by a brake issue at the beginning of the session that progressively improved but altered his confidence in the car, nevertheless he pushed through and managed to finish ninth. Overall, a very positive qualifying result for the team that puts us in contention to score big points tomorrow. With Fernando next to Pierre [Gasly] on the grid, and Esteban next to Yuki [Tsunoda], it will make for an exciting race in the battle for fifth in the championship - so bring on the race!”
The good news for McLaren is that Norris came good when it mattered, and under pressure in Q2, managed to pull a lap out of the bag and sneak through in P10. Once into Q3, he didn’t let the puncture to Gasly ahead distract him as he came home a brilliant sixth to get the beating of the lone Ferrari. The bad news was that Ricciardo struggled for pace out there, exiting in Q2 and winding up behind the other Ferrari of Leclerc. He’ll have a tough evening of it if he wants to progress to the points tomorrow.
Daniel Ricciardo, 14th, 1:22.597
“Obviously not a great session in terms of position. I’d have loved to have been more competitive, but I just struggled to find those last few tenths. It felt like if I tried to find it, I’d gain a little bit here, but lose it in the next part of the corner. I got to a little bit of a stalemate with where I could improve. So, still some things to look at and work on and see where the time is. I think it’s just a little bit everywhere. No big mistakes or errors, just lacking that extra half-a-tenth in some corners. We’ll try to do something tomorrow from where we are. We’ve got strategy choice, but obviously we’re quite a long way out. We’ll see what we can come up with tonight.”
Lando Norris, 6th, 1:21.731
"Very happy with today. We made a good amount of improvement from FP3 into qualifying and we weren’t expecting P6. I'm definitely pleased with that, especially because it wasn’t an easy P6, but it was done with probably one of the best laps I’ve done in qualifying for quite a long time. I'm satisfied with my job and what we did as a team as well. That helped us out today. So, a positive day overall. We didn't get through on the Medium tyre, which is the only negative – that's going to make our life a little more tricky than we want tomorrow, but we still have a good opportunity to score some solid points."
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“Mixed feelings after our first qualifying session at Losail with P6 and P14 on the grid. Lando managed to improve run-by-run through qualifying, nailing the final lap which gave us a good P6 to start the race from tomorrow. Unfortunately, on Daniel’s side we couldn’t manage to find that last tenth in Q2, which meant P14 for him.
“We’ll work up different strategies for both drivers to advance in what promises to be an exciting first Formula 1 race here in Qatar.”
It was a mixed bag for Ferrari, who saw Leclerc struggle to nail the first sector in practice, much to his apparent confusion. Those struggles continued into the evening as he unexpectedly exited in Q2. Fortunately, Sainz made it through to the top 10 shoot out and finished just one tenth shy of former team mate and current rival Norris in the McLaren. Those two tangled at the start last time out on Brazil, but Sainz will be on the medium compound tyre this time around to Norris’ softs.
Charles Leclerc, 13th, 1:22.460
"This was definitely unexpected. If I am ever off the pace, I know if it was due to the balance not being right, or down to me making a mistake. But neither was the case today. I never felt that the tyres were in the right window and I was sliding around all the time, limited by the lack of grip. On top of that, the damage to the chassis caused by the kerbs in Q1 certainly didn’t help! So I have to sit down with the team and carefully analyse all the data to see if something significant was not working properly or can be improved.
"We have lots of work ahead of us, especially for our mechanics and it won’t be an easy race tomorrow. Hopefully we can take advantage of starting with a free choice of fresh tyres."
Carlos Sainz, 7th, 1:21.840
"P7 is a good qualifying result, given where we were yesterday and it shows the progress we’ve made today with the car. In Q2 we took a big risk running twice with the Medium and thankfully it worked after a very strong first attempt. On Softs it would have been easier to get into Q3, but given our tyre degradation, we believe the Medium tyre is the best for our race, although I’ll be surrounded by Soft runners at the start and that is going to be extremely challenging. In Q3 I was able to put together a good lap but didn’t manage to improve on that P7. The start on the clean side of the track is good news for tomorrow and we’ll try to strategically play our different tyre choice to maximise the result.
"I feel like the huge effort made by the entire team yesterday to understand what we needed to address today has paid off, and that is another positive to take from this session. Now let’s focus on the race!"
Laurent Mekies, Racing Director
"A difficult qualifying this afternoon, but having said that, we are well aware that our main aim in this final part of the season is to beat McLaren in the Constructors’ standings and the outcome of this session suggests we are pretty evenly matched.
"Carlos did well, getting through to Q3 on the Mediums, the only driver to do so apart from those in the two teams fighting for the titles. It was a risky choice and luckily it all went well. We will see tomorrow if this works out for us.
"Charles didn’t feel happy with the car in this session so together, we will try and analyse why, studying every aspect scrupulously, so that we can try and put him in good shape for the race. On top of that, it’s clear the damage to the chassis that will now be replaced, influenced the car’s behaviour. Now the mechanics face a major task to get the number 16 car fixed in time.
"One should not forget that on a new track like this, the experience gained lap after lap can make a difference, so the pecking order we saw today could still change. Furthermore, reliability will be even more crucial than ever, as we learned this afternoon to our cost. For our part, we will do our utmost to ensure any changes go in our favour, especially when up against our main rivals. Despite it having been a difficult day, it’s not over yet and we still have the opportunity to pick up plenty of championship points."
Stroll was left frustrated with his car in practice, not liking the balance. He also wasn’t too impressed to exit in Q2 although he was within touching distance of the top 10 and has free tyre choice for tomorrow’s race. Vettel though, used every trick in the book to make it to Q3 for the first time since Spa. He overtook Gasly out of the pits at one point to ensure he had clean air to run in, but couldn’t make much of an impression once Q3 rolled around thanks to those yellow flags and starts 10th.
Sebastian Vettel, 10th, 1:22.785
“I think we are feeling a bit more competitive this weekend and I had a good day overall. We managed to beat a Ferrari, a McLaren and even a Red Bull in Q2 so I think we can be happy. Unfortunately, during my final run in Q3, I encountered traffic and then the yellow flags prevented any chance of improving, which was a shame. Overall, it was a decent qualifying session and we will see what we can do in the race. Overtaking here is difficult but not impossible and it will be a new experience for all of us.”
Lance Stroll, 12th, 1:22.460
“The car felt really good today but, overall, after missing out on Q2 by one tenth, I came away from qualifying feeling we could have got a bit more from the session. The benefit of starting from P12 is that it gives us a free tyre choice for the race. We will see how we can benefit from that because it offers us more options. The track is a lot of fun to drive: it is similar to Mugello and Suzuka, very fast and flowing, so it should make for an interesting race.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Sebastian and Lance both progressed smoothly through Q1 to Q2. They then both recorded good Q2 laps, Sebastian eighth-fastest and Lance 12th-fastest. Sadly, in Q3 Sebastian was unable to record a fast lap owing to the yellow flags deployed for [Pierre] Gasly’s stationary car. Our strategy tomorrow will be to create points-scoring opportunities for both our drivers.”
It had been a mixed bag for Williams, with their results seemingly dependent on wind direction. Latifi couldn’t make it through Q1, failing to improve as the chequered flag came out but Russell did manage to make Q2. But once there he seemed sure he wouldn’t make too much of an impression, opting to run midway through the segment rather than waiting for the track to evolve.
George Russell, 15th, 1:22.756
"I am pleased with the job we did today as we were a few tenths ahead of the Alfa Romeos, who are our main rivals, but unfortunately, we were just a bit too far from Q3. It was fun out there but it's always a shame when you can't make that next step, especially when you put in a strong lap. We were struggling to make the most of the tyre on the first lap but for Q2, we tried to maximise that one lap and we just couldn't quite get the most out of it. I think it will be difficult to overtake tomorrow but it's unique conditions here and a new track, so we're looking forward to the race and let's see what we can do."
Nicholas Latifi, 17th, 1:23.213
"Both the car and lap felt good today, and I really enjoyed driving this circuit; it was actually one of the most fun qualifying sessions of the year. It’s a bit disappointing not to see that feeling reflected in our pace, especially as I expect qualifying position will play a key part in the race tomorrow, but it’s a positive that we’ll be lining up alongside our main competitors. Looking ahead to tomorrow, overtaking might be challenging, especially in the last few corners, but we’ll see what we can do to gain those positions."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"We’ve had a decent day here in Qatar. Conditions in FP3 were better than we had expected, which allowed us to do some useful work ahead of Qualifying. The changes we made to the car overnight, and the change in wind conditions, both helped improve the pace of the FW43B. Both drivers were happy after FP3 and confident going into qualifying.
"We thought that on the qualifying tyres it was tight between a single timed lap, and a fast-slow-fast combination. Both cars committed to multiple laps on each set in Q1. Whilst this didn’t quite work for Nicholas, it allowed George to progress to Q2 with two new sets of the soft qualifying tyre available. We opted to run him on a clear track and allow him clear preparation laps. This worked well and although we couldn’t ultimately progress beyond P15, to get within a few tenths of a McLaren, a Ferrari and an Aston Martin was a decent result.
"Our focus now turns to the race, which is likely to be run in near identical conditions to qualifying. As a new track on the Formula One calendar, there is still some uncertainty over how the tyres will behave for the full Grand Prix distance and therefore what the optimum strategy will be. We are looking forward to a tight battle with Alfa Romeo, but based on our high fuel running yesterday, we haven’t lost sight of the cars immediately ahead of us either. We have seen quite a lot of damage to various cars over the last 48 hours and so tomorrow could be a long race of attrition and patience."
It was just the fifth time this season that Alfa Romeo saw both cars exit at the first time of asking, with Raikkonen getting the better of his team mate by a tenth. Starting so far back at a track where overtaking is expected to be difficult, the team won’t have high hopes of sneaking into the points tomorrow.
Kimi Raikkonen, 16th, 1:23.156
“We did the best we could out there: it was not a bad lap and surely there wasn’t anything specific we could point our finger at. The car wasn’t bad in terms of balance, we were just not fast enough and the laptime reflected that. The track was the best it has been all weekend, and it is going to be interesting to see how the racing shapes up tomorrow. Starting that far back is not ideal, but it’s what we got and we’ll try to improve. Overtaking won’t be easy, but that’s pretty much the same everywhere we go so let’s see what we get out of this.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 18th, 1:23.262
“The feeling with the car in qualifying was the best it has been all weekend, but that was not enough for a place in Q2. It’s not been the easiest experience out there, we seemed to be struggling in practice as well, but I still hoped in a better result. We’re starting at the back instead, on a track where following and overtaking are not the easiest. It’s not going to be an easy race, but never say never: we will give our best and see if we can get a good result tomorrow. The track evolved a lot today and, if it makes another step, it could mean different strategies come into play. Lap one on a new track could also spring some surprises, so let’s see if we can make progress there too.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“Tonight’s was a disappointing result, especially on the back of some really promising performances in the last few outings. We did not have the pace to make it out of Q1, unfortunately, and this is going to make our life difficult for tomorrow’s race. Still, it’s a new track and there is a lot that can happen with the strategy, especially as the track continues evolving. It’s going to be a long race and we won’t give up before the end of the fight.”
Mazepin had another day to forget. Having sat out FP2, he rolled right out the garage in FP3 only to stop just out of the pit lane, bringing out the red flags. His car was found to need a new power controller, and that cost him any running in the final practice session. Having had so little track time and none under the lights, it was no surprise when he propped up the field. As for Schumacher, he managed a spin late on in FP3 but kept his qualifying session clean.
Mick Schumacher, 19th, 1:23.407
“It’s a fun track – I enjoy driving here and definitely night driving is something to get used to. We knew it was going to be tough but actually overall I’m quite happy. We maximised what we had from the lap time and matched our targets, if not even exceeding them a bit. There was always going to be traffic in the last corner, it’s just the way the last sector builds. Everyone wants some temperature for the last corner but then nobody wants to give up a position, so we all stack. We managed it well as a team so I’m very happy about that.”
Nikita Mazepin, 20th, 1:25.859
“I think I’ve done around 10 laps on a track that’s totally new to me. What the team did to turn the car around in such a short amount of time – they’ve changed literally everything that’s possible to change - was great. It was miracle work, it wasn’t just my car crew working on it but also Mick’s. It was very special from them, but it was a tough qualifying.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“A very good effort from the whole team to get Nikita out again after the trouble in FP3, in which they took the engine out and put back in again, changing the wiring loom and everything to do with the electronics. Obviously, it’s very difficult to go out having only done around 15 laps over the weekend and then go out for qualifying. We got out and at least did a few laps. A very good performance from Mick, being very close to the people in front of us, closer than ever before. That was very promising, looking at the long-term future. For tomorrow, we try and get the best out of it from where we start.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"Track evolution remained high today, also with no support races on the schedule, which meant that we saw the fastest times right at the end of qualifying, and some medium tyre times in Q2 that were faster than the soft tyre times in Q1. With just short stints in qualifying, and FP3 this morning taking place in the heat of the day (with a focus on qualifying) the teams can only rely on FP2 for relevant long-run information, which is crucial when it comes to formulating the strategy. Under these challenging circumstances they will want to keep their options as open as possible, which is why the championship contenders chose to start on the medium tyre. However, as Q2 showed, it wasn't easy to get through the session on the medium, so we're set for an interesting mix of strategies tomorrow with many factors still relatively unknown."