What the teams said - Qualifying in Sao Paulo
Mercedes topped the timing sheets in FP1, but that was despite suspension issues for Hamilton and the news that he was set for a grid drop for taking on a new ICE. So all things considered, to bounce back in such emphatic fashion with the reigning world champion fastest in all three segments of qualifying is a pretty impressive afternoon’s work. The gap to his rival was eye catching too, as Bottas couldn’t quite match his team mate’s exploits and had to settle for third for the Sprint tomorrow.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:07.934
"I'm so happy to be back here in Brazil! One of the marshals just said to me that I should use more often the Senna colours and flag because that's the first pole in a long time! Just a big, big thank you to all the team because they've been working flat out. It's been so hard coming from the last race to here, taking the car apart and rebuilding it... just the man hours are insane but today was a really good qualifying session, I'm super happy with it. We've got the penalty on Sunday but we'll give it everything we've got tomorrow, then I'll do my best to try and get through the field. I don't know what tomorrow will hold in the Sprint but I think the weather will perhaps be a bit better which will make it a little bit more difficult for everyone, but I feel really grateful. It's crazy because it's been a while, so it feels like the first!"
Valtteri Bottas, 3rd, 1:08.469
"First practice today was a bit of a tricky session and I didn't feel quite comfortable with the car, especially in the first sector. It got a bit better in qualifying but still the main place I was losing out to Lewis was Turns 1 and 2, and a bit on the straight, so I'm not fully satisfied with P3. But obviously it's still a good starting place and there is everything to play for tomorrow in the Sprint. Hopefully lap one will be full of action and we can make some progress towards the front!"
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"A very impressive session from Lewis to secure P1 for the Sprint tomorrow and Valtteri only narrowly missed out on locking out the front row. The sprint format does throw a few challenges our way, only having one hour to do the work we normally complete in three hours means that we must be quite selective with our priorities going into the practice session. It also puts a huge importance on arriving with a car that is balanced and performing well. While we didn't look great on the first run in free practice, it was clear by the second run that we had good pace in the car but because the track is evolving so quickly here, you still need to adapt the car for qualifying to take account of the grip coming up. We'll see tomorrow how our long run pace holds up, we're also expecting cooler conditions in the Sprint than the race on Sunday so it's going to be interesting to see how the performance picture unfolds, but overall we've got off to an encouraging start."
When Verstappen put his RB16B top on the medium tyres early on in FP1 with a time no one could match despite the track evolving fast, it looked like being a good day for Red Bull. Perez wasn’t far off his team mate either which was boding well – but come qualifying, they couldn’t match the might of Mercedes. The good news is that Verstappen managed to get ahead of Bottas and knows all he has to do is stay out of trouble and pole is his for the race. The bad news is that the gap to Hamilton out front was pretty big and they could have their work cut out if his pace advantage is as large in race trim.
Max Verstappen, 2nd, 1:08.372
“I’m happy to be second, that’s a good position to start from in tomorrow’s Sprint. I always want to be closer but sometimes you have to be realistic. Mercedes have taken a new engine so naturally they have more power this weekend, so for me it’s not a big shock that they are ahead. There are not many points to gain tomorrow in the sprint race, so I hope we have a good start and we’ll see what happens from there. Of course, the most important race is on Sunday and I think it’s going to be a lot warmer which will change the behaviour of the car as well, so we’ll see.”
Sergio Perez, 4th, 1:08.483
“It was a bit tricky today, especially in Q1 having to use two sets of tyres, so we started on the wrong foot in qualifying, but we were progressing well and gaining into Q3. Then I think the track cooled down a bit and we didn’t read the conditions as well as we could have. We got it together for our final lap and we only lacked half a tenth or so to be further ahead. That said, fourth is a strong position to start the sprint race from. I think Mercedes’ new engine seems to be working pretty well, Lewis was untouchable today, but we will see tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow we can have a good sprint race because the car has shown some good pace and I think it should be looking good.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“I think the new Mercedes engine has definitely given them some extra horsepower so I think second was the best that we could have hope for. To be on the front row tomorrow, we can be happy with that. So much can happen in the Sprint, as we’ve seen this season, so you’ve just got to go for it at the start, then see where you are. I think we’ve got a good race car and it’s going to get hotter throughout the weekend so that will also be a factor here, it’s been pretty cool on track today so let’s see in the race tomorrow.”
Both drivers looked quick in FP1, despite Gasly complaining about the handling of his car. The Frenchman continued to struggle in qualifying but it didn’t show on the timing sheets as he put in a series of impressive lap times to make Q3, and once again qualifying as ‘best of the rest’. Tsunoda couldn’t join him there after a disappointing lap in Q2, but in a car that clearly goes well here, should be in good shape to try and make up some places in the Sprint.
Pierre Gasly, 5th, 1:08.777
“Today I’m really, really happy. FP1 was quite difficult for me and I struggled a little bit in quali too, but every time I went out I managed to find a little bit more, playing with everything inside of the car and making small improvements each time we ran. I managed to put it all together when it counted and I think it was a really incredible lap in Q3 today, so I’m really pleased with that. It’s really amazing for us to be qualifying right behind Mercedes and Red Bull, it’s a critical moment in the championship and the team did a fantastic job today. Of course, it’s only Friday so we’ve got two more days, it’s going to be pretty intense, but we’ve put ourselves in the best place possible."
Yuki Tsunoda, 13th, 1:09.483
“This is another new track for me, so practice was really important this morning and I think I managed to get up to speed quite quickly, which was good. The car feels good round this track, so it’s a shame I couldn’t make it through to Q3 today. I think the Sprint tomorrow is going to be a bit tricky starting from this position, but I’ll try to make my way forward so I can start Sunday’s race in a stronger place.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“Sprint weekends are typically more intense on a Friday than the normal race format, so we had a lot of preparation work to cover in FP1. The focus was on the short-run performance and how to optimise the balance around the lap, which is often difficult to achieve here as you have understeer starting the lap, then oversteer at the end. We didn’t have the smoothest free practice session as our runs on the new soft tyre at the end of the session suffered with traffic. So, heading into quali we knew we had some work to do, but believed we had some performance left in our pocket. Q1 was perfect for both drivers and they easily progressed through on a single new set of tyres. Yuki then struggled more with the car in Q2 and could not match his Q1 time. We need to go away and understand why that was, but it was still a very respectable lap from him. Through Q2 and Q3 Pierre was flying, showing he had huge confidence in the car whilst continuing to improve every lap, eventually extracting the absolute maximum possible from the car, with only Mercedes and Red Bull Racing faster than us. So far it has been a great effort by the team, but unfortunately there are no points for today so the focus tomorrow in FP2 will be on long runs in preparation for the Sprint.”
It was a good day for Ferrari on the whole, although a scrappy one for Leclerc personally. He ran wide in FP1, and repeated the trick in Q1 – losing his lap time for good measure and winding up in P20. Under pressure, the Monegasque managed to deliver a time good enough to progress, but never looked quite on the pace of his team mate today. Nonetheless, both Scuderia drivers start ahead of their McLaren rivals, with Sainz looking in impressive form.
Charles Leclerc, 7th, 1:08.960
"We’re going to do everything we can to maximise our potential for tomorrow’s Sprint, which will be the final one of this season.
"To start from sixth and seventh is a solid job from the team, and even though I had higher expectations for myself, what is most important for us is that we kept our direct competitors behind us today. Q3 was tricky. I did my first run on used tyres which was not ideal for getting into a rhythm, and on the second run we didn’t extract everything from the car.
"We still have some work to do and will push to bring home good results tomorrow and, even more importantly, on Sunday."
Carlos Sainz, 6th, 1:08.826
"It was a positive qualifying today as I keep improving my driving style and the feeling with this car at all types of tracks and in all conditions. I am performing more consistently in qualifying and today was a good day.
"The only downside is that the AlphaTauri seems to have a bit more pace, so the aim for tomorrow is to try and beat Pierre Gasly and lead the chase to the teams ahead. A clean race tomorrow is key to have good chances on Sunday, so we’ll make sure we are in the best possible position to maximise the weekend.
"I want to thank the entire race team for staying up late and doing such a good job yesterday night to give us a competitive car today. On to tomorrow!"
Laurent Mekies, Racing Director
"Not a bad qualifying in terms of helping us achieve our goal in this final part of the season, namely to finish third in the constructors’ championship. Today it was important that we managed to get both our cars ahead of those of our closest title rivals. It would have been nice to have got ahead of Gasly in the AlphaTauri too, but we knew that on this track they would be very competitive, as was the case in Mexico.
"It’s always very close behind the two top teams and it takes very little to lose or gain several places. Today with Charles, we paid the price for not having two sets of new softs for Q3 while all the others did, as he had to use an additional set in Q1 and details like this can make the difference when the gaps are so small.
"Finally I’d like to congratulate the whole team for their work over the past two days. It was not easy condensing the job of setting up and preparation which usually takes two days into just 14 hours, but everyone did their bit in a well organised and determined way. It meant that today everything ran smoothly, just like a normal day."
McLaren only ran the medium compound tyres in FP1 and as such, their true qualifying pace was something of an unknown. When it came to it, both drivers had enough in hand to make Q3 but were narrowly pipped by the Ferrari cars. In the end there were just two tenths in it between the four drivers, who look set to resume that season long battle tomorrow.
Daniel Ricciardo, 9th, 1:09.039
“It’s only an eighth and ninth but from where we were this morning we can be happy with that. We didn’t run the soft earlier, but I felt like we didn’t have a whole lot of pace to show either. It felt better on the soft and to get both cars in Q3 is not a bad afternoon. I know it’s towards the tail-end of the top 10, but the deficit is a lot smaller than we thought. We’ve still got to get them on track but we’re there, we’re in the fight, and we can put some pressure on them now. We’ll look to move up from here but the step we made from this morning to this evening was pretty good.”
Lando Norris, 8th, 1:08.980
“I think we have to be happy with qualifying, because we were struggling quite a bit this morning in FP1. After making some good improvements coming into quali, I felt a lot more confident with the car. We would’ve loved to have been ahead of the Ferraris, but we have to take P8 and P9 today because they were quicker. We’re in a good position to fight them tomorrow."
Andrea Stella, Racing Director
“At the end of the first day of this Sprint event in Brazil, we’re relatively satisfied. We’re in the game, that’s the important thing. I’d like to acknowledge the good work done by the engineers here trackside, with the support of the factory, working together with the drivers, to stitch together the data from FP1 and improve the car before qualifying. Additionally, the mechanics in the garage did a good job late last night in difficult circumstances to get the cars ready to perform. We now have to carry on that work in FP2, have a good Sprint and progress towards scoring good points on Sunday.”
Alpine opted to stick to the harder compound tyres in practice, much as they did in Monza for the last Sprint weekend. Saving softs for qualifying didn’t help Ocon overly much as he was narrowly pipped in Q2, but he will have some for tomorrow’s Sprint if he wants to gamble and start on that compound. As for Alonso, he did make the top 10 shootout and has a fairly healthy Sprint record to boot in what could be a strong weekend for him.
Esteban Ocon, 11th, 1:09.189
"It was very close out there today between a number of cars. We fell on the wrong side of the coin on this occasion, but that’s the way it is sometimes. All the way through the sessions, the positions were decided by only a tenth or so, and that was the difference between reaching Q3 or falling just short. It’s a little frustrating as the aim is to always be inside the top 10, but we can be pleased that we’re back to where we should be after a run of difficult races. The performance was good, we’re knocking on the door of the points and we can look forward to tomorrow. We have an opportunity in the Sprint tomorrow to make up some positions and put ourselves in contention for Sunday’s race.”
Fernando Alonso, 10th, 1:09.113
“It was super close today. I feel we had a productive morning and the car felt quite good and was behaving well. Qualifying also started reasonably, and we progressed into Q2 quite comfortably. But then I think from Q2 I was doing very similar lap times and I think we found the limit. We wanted to be a little higher and start on the clean side of the grid because the start could be crucial tomorrow. But let’s see what our day is like, as it’s Sprint after all and we’ve done quite well with them in the past. I will be aggressive tomorrow as always and let’s try to have some fun.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“First of all, it’s good to be back in Q3 as it’s been a couple of races since we’ve achieved that. It was a shame it was only one car, but Esteban is right in there as well in 11th. We’ve been taking it step by step after some tough races in recent weeks and I think we now look back to where we should be. Both drivers extracted the maximum from the car today, especially Fernando by getting into Q3. It was very difficult to go under the 1min 9second mark, so we’ll settle for tenth and 11th on tomorrow’s Sprint grid. At the last two Sprint events in Silverstone and Monza, we’ve gone quite well, so we’re looking forward to seeing what we can do tomorrow. We have some tyre evaluation work to do tomorrow in FP2 in order to make the call on the what will be the right starting tyre. The aim, of course, is to improve our starting position ahead of Sunday’s main race and we will evaluate the risks and rewards of the various options.”
Not to be for Aston Martin, with Stroll exiting at the first time of asking at a track where he tends to struggle in qualifying. Vettel at least made Q2 but could go no further, with both drivers needing a good start in the Sprint tomorrow if they are to challenge for the top 10 come Sunday.
Sebastian Vettel, 12th, 1:09.399
“Unfortunately, we didn’t quite have the pace to challenge the top 10 today, but overall I think we had a decent qualifying session. I pushed hard from the outset and, given that we have the Sprint tomorrow, 12th is a reasonable position from which to start. I am hoping that in race conditions we will be more competitive so I feel quite optimistic tonight.”
Lance Stroll, 16th, 1:09.663
“I am disappointed with my qualifying result. Throughout today, I have been struggling with the balance of the car and I think that is reflected in the end result. However, because this weekend features the sprint format, we have a chance to fight forward tomorrow and, if we can make up some ground, we should be able to start in a better position for the race on Sunday.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Lance very narrowly missed getting through to Q2, and he will therefore start tomorrow’s Sprint from P16. Soon after, Sebastian very narrowly missed getting through to Q3, and he will therefore start tomorrow’s sprint from P12. That is not as good as we had been hoping for - clearly - but in tomorrow’s Sprint both drivers will be pushing as hard as possible to get through to the top 10, so as to optimise their chances of scoring points in Sunday’s feature race.”
Both cars made Q2, with Giovinazzi’s last gasp effort at the end of Q1 particularly impressive as he catapulted himself well into the top 10. But they had to run on used tyres at the start of Q2, and after switching to fresh rubber couldn’t make much of an impression on the field.
Kimi Raikkonen, 14th, 1:09.503
“P14 is probably all we could get from the session today, so we will take it. In the car, the conditions didn’t feel too inconsistent, so we were able to just focus on the driving. We start the sprint with the aim to make up a few places ahead of the race, so hopefully we can make our job easier ahead of Sunday.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 15th, 1:10.227
“Our pace wasn’t bad. My Q1 lap was really good, unfortunately we had to use three sets of tyres in the session and only had one new set for Q2. I had a lock up in turn one with my remaining new set and the lap was gone. We still have the Sprint tomorrow, so we will try to gain more places and set us up in a good place for Sunday. As always with sprint qualifying, we don’t have a lot of data, just a few laps from this morning, so it’s hard to know what to expect. The weather is predicted to be better tomorrow and on Sunday, let’s see what we can do and what we can get out of the race.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“We were able to put two cars in Q2 for the second week running, which is a positive, and to start in 14th and 15th will allow us to put up a good fight in tomorrow’s sprint. Both drivers did a very good job in Q1, Antonio’s final lap was especially good as he climbed to P7. This allowed us to clear the first hurdle, which was a good result given how incredibly close the field was. We will be aiming to make up some more places ahead of Sunday, and we are confident we can give a good account of ourselves tomorrow.”
Russell’s one-lap record finally came to a close, as he was beaten in qualifying proper for the first time by a Williams team mate. Latifi wasn’t overly impressed at finally getting the better of his team mate though, the Canadian and Russell both struggling with a car that never tends to go well in windy conditions.
George Russell, 18th, 1:09.953
"Unfortunately, it didn’t quite come together for us today. I couldn’t get the tyres working and it was a little bit gusty out on track, so it wasn’t particularly favourable for us. My lap felt okay but nothing special. It’s only the second time in 19 races that we’ve not progressed into Q2 so we need to put our thinking caps on and understand where we can find some improvements. FP2 will be a better indication of our race pace but I think the Sprint will still be a tough one for us tomorrow."
Nicholas Latifi, 17th, 1:09.897
"Right from the start in FP1 today it was tricky, as we just couldn't get the feeling from the car that we needed. We always seem to make a step in qualifying, but we didn’t quite manage to make a big enough step today. I would’ve loved to progress into Q2 but the good thing about this format is that we have another chance to make up some places in the Sprint tomorrow. The last time we had this format was in Italy and we managed to move forward, so hopefully there are some opportunities for us on Saturday."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"Today was not easy and we struggled more than we expected, especially in the tricky middle sector where the drivers were never able to hustle the car as they wanted. Fortunately, our long run pace in FP1 was better than our low fuel pace and so we will be looking to make some places tomorrow and again in the Grand Prix on Sunday. It won’t be easy, but this is a good circuit for racing and the warmer conditions on Sunday will offer further opportunities."
Mazepin was left disappointed with his final flying run in Q1, as he struggled for grip on what was a relatively green track. Schumacher faired slightly better, winning the intra-team rivalry once again. Starting so far back, they might have a long weekend of it as they set about moving forwards.
Mick Schumacher, 19th, 1:10.329
“The car feeling was amazing and that’s why I’m a bit gutted that we didn’t get through. I think it’s the case of everybody being so compressed, so tight together and maybe the car just has that tiny little bit of a deficit and it seems that I couldn’t make up the difference this time. We live and we learn. It’s nothing to be frustrated about because we still managed to get something out of the car which felt great, so hopefully for the race we’ll be a bit closer.”
Nikita Mazepin, 20th, 1:10.589
“The tyres are on fire by the time you get to Turn 12 so everything you can gain or lose before the long straight really pays off or really hurts you. I just tried too hard and was too eager to get on the power with perhaps the rear grip not being there. The good thing is that I caught it, but the bad thing is I lost time. It’s what makes this format exciting, that’s why you see some mistakes because drivers like myself are more eager to try and explore things that I’ve never had the opportunity to do before.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“First off let me start by thanking our crew for doing an amazing job to have everything ready to go today. We were affected by the freight issues coming into the weekend but the whole team did an amazing job to turn things around once we finally had all we needed on-site. On track, it was a tough task for Mick and Nikita today – with just one practice session at a brand-new track for them both. That said, I thought they both put in a great effort in qualifying. They looked good on their final runs, but unfortunately Mick had his final time deleted and Nikita came up just short after a good opening sector with a small mistake at the end of his lap. They can be pleased with their efforts today – but I know they’ll both be frustrated. We’ll see how the Sprint plays out tomorrow, maybe there’ll be an opportunity for something there subject to the conditions.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"We saw a lot of track evolution throughout FP1 and also qualifying today. The quite cool conditions on a slippery track also led to a bit of sliding and consequent light abrasion, especially in free practice. Compared to qualifying at previous Brazilian grands prix, today was a different strategic challenge, with all the drivers having to run the soft tyre from start to finish under the sprint qualifying rules, which also use a different tyre allocation compared to conventional weekends. As is often the case, the weather looks set to remain somewhat unpredictable at Interlagos for the rest of the weekend, which will be a decisive factor when the teams come to consider which tyres they will run in the Sprint and the race. Tomorrow's final free practice session will provide yet more valuable information on tyres ahead of the racing action, before the teams finalise the strategy – which seems likely to revolve around the medium and the hard."