What the teams said – Qualifying in Sakhir
After a scrappy day yesterday, Bottas looked much more assured in final practice and then laid down the gauntlet in qualifying in Q1. The Finn had managed to gap his team mate by a couple of tenths, which had been the predicted margin between the two. But on those final Q3 laps, Russell put in an astonishing performance to miss out on P1 by just 0.026s. Pole belonged to the Finn – but by such a narrow margin that tongues will continue to wag when comparing the two.
Valtteri Bottas, 1st, 53.377
"It's great to be on pole, I'm happy with that, but this wasn't my best qualifying. My second run in Q3 was decent, but I think there was still a bit of time missing in Turn 7 and 8. I was the first car out on track on the final run, so I didn't have a tow and ultimately couldn't improve. It was fairly close in the end, so I'm pleased it was enough for pole position. It's great to see George in P2 and that we managed to lock out the front row for the team. I'm not really surprised to see him up there, he kept improving throughout the weekend and particularly through qualifying. We're starting on the Medium tyre tomorrow, which should put us in a good position in terms of strategy. Max is going to have an advantage for the race start itself with the softer tyre, but we think for the race overall we're on the better tyre. The track is quite bumpy and it's actually fairly easy to follow other cars thanks to the tow, but we're in the best possible position for tomorrow and are looking forward to a fun race."
George Russell, 2nd, 53.403
"Valtteri has pushed Lewis a huge amount in qualifying over the years, so I'm really pleased to have finished Q3 just behind him and to be on the front row for tomorrow. It's been incredibly intense with so much to learn and such a different way of driving in this car. I tried a lot of things in FP3, which didn't go well at all. After final practice, I'd have been happy to just get through to Q3, so I was a bit nervous heading into qualifying. But I managed to get in the groove and was getting better and better every lap. Obviously, I'm a bit gutted to miss out on pole by 20 milliseconds, but if you'd told me last week that I'd be qualifying P2 on the grid, I wouldn't have believed you. I've got nobody in front of me tomorrow, which I've not experienced for a long time. It's going to be a really tricky race on such a short track layout, but we're in a good position starting on the Mediums. I'll give it my all and see what I can do."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"Scoring a front row lockout in such a close qualifying session is a fantastic result for the team. This circuit is so short and with lap times below one minute, it was always going to produce very tight gaps and we saw that with less than a tenth between P1 and P3. I'm really happy with the result, Valtteri put in a good lap in Q3, which was enough for him to take pole position. George has settled in really well, particularly when you consider the circumstances, so I'm really pleased with his performance and it's great to see him up there on the front row. This obviously puts us in a good position for tomorrow and we're starting on the Medium tyre, which we feel is the best compound for the race. It's going to be challenging and a bit of a step into the unknown on this track and with so many laps. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens and it's sure to be very exciting."
Verstappen topped final practice and looked right in the hunt for his first pole of the season. He ran Mercedes close – closer than usual - but was still ultimately just behind. The gaps were incredibly tight, with pole just 0.056s up the road but starting on the clean side of the grid and with a handy tow is not bad result for the Dutchman. As for Albon, his pace from yesterday evaporated overnight and although he scraped through to Q2 in 15th place, he couldn’t make it to the top 10 showdown.
Max Verstappen, 3rd, 53.433
“Close, but not quite close enough. We can be happy about qualifying, and although we always want more, for us to be P3 on a track like this is pretty good. The gap is very close and it is a bit of a shame to miss out by so little. On such a short lap it was always going to be very tight but I think I got the most out of the lap. For sure both of the Mercedes cars will be quick tomorrow. George is a good driver so we need to take care of both cars to try and win. We are starting on a different tyre to them so it will be interesting to see how it’s going to play out and the start will be very important. Like I’ve said before, we’ve got nothing to lose so it’s better to have a bit of fun tomorrow and see what we can do. I’m looking forward to it.”
Alex Albon, 12th, 54.026
"I’m surprised with today’s qualifying because after FP3 I was happy with the car and it felt like we were on for a good result so to come 12th is frustrating and we need to understand where it went wrong. We decided to only run the medium tyre in practice today to save the softs for qualifying and the car just felt very different between the two sessions so maybe that hurt us. Tomorrow it’s all to play for though and we know overtaking is possible here plus we’re running slightly more downforce than the others so hopefully we’re better on our tyres. Our race pace looked pretty strong on Friday and we also have a free tyre choice so we’ll have a long look at that tonight and see what we can do. We just need to keep out of trouble at the start and then the plan is to fight through the field.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“We knew it would be very tight in qualifying and I think Max got everything out of the car, so to lose out on pole by the same margin that Alex missed out on Q3 is encouraging and frustrating at the same time. It’s still third nonetheless and starting from the second row on the clean side of the grid is not a bad place to be. Max also starts on a different tyre compared to both Mercedes and hopefully a different strategy for tomorrow will provide opportunities in the race. It’s frustrating not to have Alex in Q3 and the small margins around such a short circuit mean that the smallest mistake can cost you a lot. The Team will help him understand what happened today and I’m sure he will be looking to make good progress through the field tomorrow. With overtaking possible, we aim for both cars to have a strong race.”
A mixed bag for Ferrari as has so often been the case this season. Leclerc put in a brilliant performance to make Q3, but Vettel couldn’t follow him through and exited in Q2. In the top 10 shootout, the Monegasque ran a converse strategy to the rest of the field, going out just once, nailing his lap and then pottering off down the pit lane while everyone else was still involved in the heat of the battle. That lap was knocked from second down to fourth, but it is still a much better result than many had predicted for the Scuderia.
Sebastian Vettel, 13th, 54.175
"I generally had a good feeling driving the car today so I don’t really know what went wrong. Maybe on the straights I was losing a bit as well as in the middle sector. I was confident after Q1 but then we didn’t make it. I don’t know if this could be related to the power unit change. For sure my mechanics did everything well as the car was fine to drive.
"Taking care of the tyres will be difficult tomorrow but it could be the key to a good race. We will have a free choice of tyre for the start and we will see what we can do."
Charles Leclerc, 4th, 53.613
"I am so happy with fourth place. We took a chance by going out at the beginning of the session in Q3. We could have waited, but because of the risk of traffic and because I had a clear idea of what to do, I chose to go out immediately and I managed to put together a good lap. After that, I got out of the car because I had no more new tyres and I knew that realistically I could not beat the time I’d just set.
"Going into the race, I have to say it’s a bit of a step into the unknown, having lost most of FP2’s track time which means I haven’t done a race simulation. All the same, I think I got good pace today and I hope that will be the case in the race also. I don’t think we have the third fastest car here, but I plan to make the most of my start position in this race.”
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
"Charles produced a brilliant lap to equal his best qualifying performances of the season. Fourth place was down to his amazing talent, all the more extraordinary considering he missed almost all of the second free practice session. It’s just a bit of shame that he couldn’t make the cut out of Q2 on the Mediums, as this would have put him in a better position for the race, but he tried his very best. Sebastian missed some track time at the end of FP3 with a technical problem and he felt much more comfortable with the car than yesterday, but he couldn’t make the cut out of Q2 in a session where just hundredths of a second could see you gain or lose places. The team at the track should be congratulated on doing a great job in changing Seb’s PU very quickly as a precautionary move after FP3 and also for the way they prepared for and executed what was a very complex qualifying session. As usual, in the race, we will try and bring home as many points as possible. It won’t be easy as everyone is very evenly matched but if we do everything perfectly we could do something worthwhile."
Racing Point were one of just three teams to get both cars into Q3, which was a job well done. Perez was an impressive fifth overall, which considering he is down on power after running older PU components to avoid a penalty, is a pretty solid result. Stroll couldn’t get his timing right on his final run and was also carrying some damage after running wide in Q2, which combined meant that he had to make do with P10 in the end.
Sergio Perez, 5th, 53.790
“I’m happy with qualifying today; I think it was a strong result. I don’t think P4 was possible because it was a good lap from Charles [Leclerc] and it would have been difficult to match that. It’s not been an easy challenge finding the perfect set-up for the car at such a different and challenging track, but I think we found a rhythm in qualifying and that was a big positive. We made good choices in qualifying by running just the one set of softs in Q1 and saving two sets for Q3 because that helped us get P5 on the grid. Overtaking might be a challenge here, we’ll find out tomorrow, but the strategy will be very important because even in qualifying we could see that tyre degradation was a factor. The key could be making the soft tyre last longer in the first stint and, hopefully, that will open up some opportunities through strategy. I think we’re capable of making that work and the race could come to us, but we need to focus on putting everything together until the final lap and making sure we score good points.”
Lance Stroll, 10th, 54.200
“I’m a bit frustrated with qualifying today. I think it was clear that we had good pace, but on my second run in Q2, I picked up damage to my floor on the kerbs at Turn 8. We’ve seen this weekend that Turn 8 is a really crucial corner and that the middle sector can be punishing on the cars. But thankfully, we’d already secured a time good enough for Q3, but it cost us any chance of starting higher than P10. We need to look at the floor in greater detail because it wasn’t a hard hit – and I’m surprised it was damaged. It meant that we lost a lot of load on the rear of the car, which was costing us significant lap time as a result. The positive is that the traffic wasn’t too bad out there, so if we get a strong start to the race and settle into a good pace, we can fight for a good amount of points tomorrow. We know the pace is there, so we’ll go away and review today’s work and come back stronger in the race.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“It’s a very tight grid, just as we expected, but I’m pleased we got both cars through to Q3. On such a short lap, with so much traffic, the session had the potential to become a bit of a lottery and every tenth was critical. P5 and P10 is a solid effort and we are well-placed to score points with both cars. We’ve got a competitive car here and I’m confident our race pace is a match for our qualifying speed. Lance picked up some damage in Q2, which had a knock-on effect in Q3, and we will need to see if repairs are needed ahead of the race. It’s going to be an interesting Grand Prix because there are quite a few unknowns on a new track layout, but we’ve done our homework and feel well prepared heading into the race.”
After Kvyat impressed yesterday, in FP3 it was the turn of Gasly to turn heads by finishing third. The AT01 has looked quick from the word go, so both drivers making Q3 was no surprise. But once there, Kvyat was the one to nail his lap for what he described as his best qualifying of the year. Gasly wound up a slightly dispiriting ninth after admitting to damaging his floor but could well try an alternative strategy in the race tomorrow as he did last weekend and progress forwards.
Pierre Gasly, 9th, 54.154
“It was a difficult quali for us today. In Q1 we damaged the floor and from then it was just a messy session. We only just made it into Q3, but it was very difficult because I struggled with the front and had a lot of understeer everywhere. After what we showed in FP3, it’s a bit disappointing to only be P9 in the end. We showed strong pace all weekend but considering all the damages to the car, I don’t think there was much more we could do today. Overall, I think we have a good package, I’m a bit more worried about not breaking other parts on the car tomorrow as the track is quite aggressive, but as for the rest I’m quite confident that we can have a strong race.”
Daniil Kvyat, 6th, 53.906
"I’m very happy with today as it was a great session, I would say it’s my best qualifying of the year. It was very tricky out there with the traffic in the beginning. In Q3 I put in a very tidy lap, kept it clean and cool, and I’m quite proud of myself and how I drove today. As a result, we're starting from a competitive position tomorrow. We have been strong all weekend here, Friday was also very good, and while this morning I wasn’t too happy with the car, we changed back to what we knew and it was strong again in qualifying. It will be important to have a solid race, the traffic and tyre management will be interesting, so we’ll do our best dealing with that. Our race pace looks competitive, so hopefully, we can carry the momentum into tomorrow.”
Claudio Balestri, Chief Engineer - Vehicle Performance
“After a good Friday where we showed a strong level of performance on both low and high-fuel runs, during this afternoon’s FP3 we focused our attention on quali preparation, using one set of Base and one set of Option tyres. Similarly to all the other sessions here, traffic was extremely difficult to manage on such a short lap, especially in Q1 when we tried to use one set of Prime. However, we weren't able to set a competitive lap time to see us through to Q2, so we decided to use a new set of Options on both cars at the end of the session. Q2 was a different story, we knew it was going to be difficult, so we decided to use two sets of new Options on both cars at the beginning of the session, which was the right call because once again we were able to make it to Q3 with both cars. We finished today's qualifying session with Daniil in P6 and Pierre in P9, despite the fact Pierre had some damage on the car. After a good Saturday, we now switch our focus to the race, ready to score points with both cars.”
Ocon had looked the pick of the two Renault drivers all weekend so it was a surprise when he was knocked out in Q2, especially since traffic wasn't to blame. With free tyre choice all is not lost for the Frenchman, despite a somewhat disappointing result. Ricciardo though delivered a great lap under pressure to make Q3 although admitted to also being slightly disappointed with seventh on the grid. But 87 laps is a long race so plenty could still happen to help those Renaults move forwards…
Daniel Ricciardo, 7th, 53.957
“I’m a little bit frustrated with the result because I definitely felt the car could have finished inside the top five. We had a good final practice session this afternoon and then come qualifying we got through to Q2 with both cars looking strong. But my lap in Q2 wasn’t great as I hit the kerb in the last corner and my two laps in Q3 weren’t that strong either. We’ll take a look at it tonight to see what happened. Despite the frustrations, I do think we can make some moves tomorrow and get some decent points from both cars.”
Esteban Ocon, 11th, 53.995
“It was very tight in qualifying and I’m a bit disappointed with the result given how well we’ve been performing at times this weekend. The car was good yesterday, but there has been less performance at some moments, and we have a few things to understand there. The positive is we have a free choice of tyres for tomorrow and, in a race where strategy will be difficult, that could be interesting. It’s not about where you start, but about where you finish, so we’ll give our all tomorrow. It’ll be a long race like last weekend, so we have a bit of hope for a good result.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“It’s fair to say we’re a little bit disappointed with today’s running after a decent day yesterday and good preparation for qualifying. We were hoping to get both cars higher up on the grid than seventh and eleventh. All is not lost, of course, and it’s a very long race tomorrow and Esteban, starting eleventh will have a free tyre choice and we will do our best to exploit that. We look forward to scoring good points with both cars.”
Norris had a curious session. He lost a lap time in Q2 after exceeding track limits, which left him in 15th and under pressure. He went out earlier than the rest of the field but aborted his first lap. Mechanical woes were suspected but when he went for a second flying lap it seemed the move was tactical, until the youngster aborted that one too before complaining he’d been sent out too early. Sainz at least spared the team’s blushes by making Q3 and knows a thing or two about starting 15th, which might well give his team mate some ideas ahead of what could be a tricky race tomorrow.
Carlos Sainz, 8th, 54.010
“A very difficult day for us but I think we managed to save qualifying with very good execution and a very good performance. It hasn’t been an easy weekend for us, but we’ve taken steps in the right direction since yesterday, and today we managed to out-qualify a few cars that have been quicker all weekend, so we can be proud of that. We took good strategic decisions and put some very decent laps together. Tomorrow we expect a tough race, but we’ll fight hard to keep position and take advantage of any opportunity as every single point is key for the championship.”
Lando Norris, 15th, 54.693
“A bad quali in lots of ways and we need to work out what went wrong. In Q2 the first run was okay, but the second one was a combination of not doing a great lap and also not going out at the right time. We had to do a very slow out-lap to not catch any traffic, but while doing so the tyres got too cold and then it just got a bit messy from there. I couldn’t put the lap together with one lap of fuel. On the track, I needed to simplify it a little bit. We just made a small mistake and it cost us today. It’s going to make our life a bit more difficult tomorrow, but we’ll give it everything to score some points.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“We have mixed feelings this evening after qualifying. The team here at the circuit, back at the MTC and the drivers did a good job improving the car for today after we weren’t really competitive in yesterday’s sessions. This gave us something to fight with for a position in Q3 today.
“Well done to Carlos for progressing through the sessions. P8 gives us a good starting slot from which we can score good points. On Lando’s side, we couldn’t get the laps in during Q2, which leaves him down in P15 – but nobody scores points on Saturday. We’re expecting another grand prix with interesting tyre and strategy choices, which open up opportunities for him to fight back.”
Magnussen was the most likely of the two Haas drivers to escape into Q2, but the Dane just missed out by less than a tenth. He did do job number one which was beat his new team mate, as Fittipaldi propped up the field seven-tenths back. The Brazilian did know he had a raft of grid penalties for new PU components that were fitted following Grosjean’s crash last time out, so to be fair was always starting from the back anyway and sacrificed much of his session by trying to give his team mate a tow...
Pietro Fittipaldi, 20th, 55.426
“It was my first qualifying session in Formula 1, obviously I was really looking forward to it. I’ve always loved qualifying, that’s when the car is at its best with new tyres – you can really push. Knowing that I’d have the grid penalty for tomorrow the team thought it was the best strategy to help Kevin (Magnussen) on the second and third outings by giving him a tow on the main straight, so we did that. Obviously I had to put my lap together after that, so it was a bit of a struggle – but in the end it was the best thing for the team. I’ve experienced my first qualifying and now I’m focused on the race.”
Kevin Magnussen, 16th, 54.705
“We were close to getting into Q2, I think we were just behind a Red Bull – that’s the first time this year we’ve qualified right behind one of those cars. Obviously, they made it further up, but we gave it our best and P16 is actually the best we’ve been for quite a few races I think. We’ll see what we can do from there tomorrow. There’s a good chance it could be a crazy race with a lot of blue flags to manage. If overtaking proves to be easy, lots of things could happen. We’ll be ready as always. It’ll be key to stay out of trouble and not get penalties for blue flags – there’s going to be so many as the lap is so short. Some people might also be on a three-stop race, that could make it an exciting race.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It was a solid FP3 to start the day. Then in qualifying I think we really got the best out of it that we could by executing teamwork. Pietro (Fittipaldi) gave up his fastest laps to try to help Kevin (Magnussen) get into Q2 – which he just missed out on slightly. We tried something as a team and Pietro actually did a good job in trying to help Kevin. We knew he had the 15-place grid penalty anyway, so we decided to go for it knowing he would start the race last anyway. Big thanks to Pietro for his work today and together with Kevin we look ahead to tomorrow’s race and seeing if any opportunities await.”
Giovinazzi proved the stronger of the two Alfa Romeo team mates today, making it into Q2 after a decent final practice session proved a good confidence boost. Raikkonen was another to struggle in the melee at the end of Q1 and lacked the fresh air to lay down a representative lap, which combined with a lack of pace left him behind both Williams cars on the grid.
Kimi Raikkonen, 19th, 54.963
“It’s not the result we were expecting after looking not too bad in FP3. We were just struggling in a few places and ended up being too slow to make the cut. It’s going to be a challenge tomorrow, it’s not easy to overtake around there, so let’s see what we can do when the race starts.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 14th, 54.377
“I was confident we could fight for a place in Q2 after last weekend. We knew it was not going to be easy with a slippery track and the traffic, but in the end we managed to get in the top 15 and put in a good lap in Q2 as well. I have to say thank you to the team, we have been in the right place at the right time, so it was a really good qualifying session. Now the focus is on tomorrow: the race will be messy, overtaking will be difficult and the blue flags will slow a lot of people down, so we need to play our strategy right. We can fight for a good result.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“It was an evening of two halves as Antonio put in a really good lap to claim a place in Q2 and was then able to qualify 14th. It’s a good result and one that allows us to fight for the top ten from the beginning of the race, so we can be satisfied with this. Unfortunately, Kimi was out in Q1 after a challenging session. He had a good feeling with the car in today’s earlier session, but it wasn’t possible to replicate that tonight. He will have a big task ahead of him tomorrow but anything can happen on this track. It’s going to be a long race tomorrow and we will need to be sharp from lights to flag.”
Latifi finally managed to out-qualify a team mate at the 16th time of asking, the Canadian putting in a solid performance for 17th on the grid. But Aitken deserves plenty of credit for running his team mate so close, and getting within a tenth is in many ways as impressive as Russell’s gap to Bottas. With such a short lap and blue flags likely, it could be a long race tomorrow for the duo, but Aitken will certainly savour every second of his debut outing whatever the result.
Jack Aitken, 18th, 54.892
"The aim for me has been to make a step every time I get in the car, and I have achieved that. I am a little bit gutted that the last run didn’t go as well as I had wanted it to, but I can’t complain. I think tyre management is going to play a bigger factor than we originally thought coming into the weekend. With it being such a short lap, how you play the blue flags and how that affects how many stops you make will be quite interesting. I am going to be trying my hardest every lap, so let’s see how tomorrow goes."
Nicholas Latifi, 17th, 54.796
"I was pretty pleased with the majority of my final effort as it was looking like quite a strong lap. I said to myself that I wasn’t going to leave any margin and I was going to go for it, but sadly I made a big mistake in the last corner. We made some changes to the car from yesterday to try and improve other areas and I just couldn’t get the right rhythm through that last corner all day today. I am disappointed I didn’t put my own lap together as there was definitely more in there.
"The race tomorrow is going into the unknown with nobody really knowing what to expect. I hope the field doesn’t stretch out too much and we can still be competitive and in the fight. Hopefully we can get a good start, get through the first few corners unscathed and capitalise on any opportunities."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"Both drivers had fairly clear sessions considering the short nature of the track. We knew that progressing to Q2 would be difficult and so gave each of them three sets of tyres with which to try and set a laptime. They enjoyed a close battle, with Nicholas eventually coming out on top. His final lap was very strong and but for a small time loss in the final corner, would’ve been good enough for Q2.
"Having been asked to drive the car just a few days ago, Jack and his team have worked extremely well to get him to this point, and he was able to demonstrate that today with a very professional and accomplished performance. We now look forward to enhancing his experience further tomorrow when he will be able to put into practice the tyre management skills that he worked hard on yesterday.
"There is still opportunity for this short and tricky track to throw-up a few surprises tomorrow and we are looking forward to exploiting anything that comes our way."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"It was a very open qualifying session because of the very short lap, which meant that traffic was an issue and any mistakes were magnified, with the cars being so close together. Finding a gap was crucial, and all three sessions were extremely closely-fought, which should make for an exciting race tomorrow. The two Mercedes in first and second will be the only ones in the top 10 starting on the Yellow medium tyre, so it will be fascinating to see if they can turn that into an advantage for the Sakhir Grand Prix; especially at the start, with so many cars on the faster soft tyre immediately around them. All three compounds performed well, with a two-stopper set to be the quickest choice for tomorrow. Formula 2 came down to a brilliant strategic battle that revolved around tyre choice: both title protagonists qualified lower down than they expected but made opposite tactical decisions to address the issue. As a result, the driver's championship battle goes down to the final race – typical of the close competition we have seen in F2 all year – while we'd like to congratulate Prema for winning the teams' title today".