The drivers and teams report back on final practice and qualifying at the Formula 1 2018 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix...
What the teams said - Qualifying in Singapore
Singapore was supposed to favour their rivals. They were supposed to be fighting it out for the second or third row. But Mercedes have the ace in the pack - the one-lap master who can pull something special out of nowhere. Hamilton grabbed his seventh pole of the season against the odds in an epic drive to top his first session of the weekend. Bottas couldn't match his team mate's fireworks and lines up fourth.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:36.015
"That lap just started perfect and it just kept going - it felt magical. It felt like one of the best - if not the best lap I've ever done. It's what my brother and me would call a 'sexy lap'. I only had that one lap in me today, I just couldn't go any faster afterwards. This track is all about confidence, confidence in your braking points and the stability of the car, you only have a few laps to build your steps towards it. As soon as you lose it, it's very hard to build back up to it. So I'm grateful that I had the extra two laps on the HyperSofts in Q2 as I could try and understand the tyre a bit more. In Q3, it really felt like each corner was on the limit, but no more, I didn't have any wheel spin or any of that. I think the races have generally been quite strong for me this year, so I hope this will continue tomorrow. I'm going to work hard tonight to make sure the start is good. After that it will be all about looking after the tyres; making the HyperSofts last long won't be easy, but we're all in the same boat, so it should be interesting. The Ferraris and the Red Bulls in particular had good long-run pace, so we have a fight on our hands tomorrow. But I'm just so grateful that we did a better job today and so grateful for the support from everyone in the team today; this journey that I'm on with Mercedes and the entire team is just a remarkable experience."
Valtteri Bottas, 4th, 1:36.702
"P4 is obviously not ideal, I can't be happy with today's result. Everything was going pretty well from FP3 all the way up to Q2, but then the others could find big chunks in Q3 and I couldn't, I just didn't really feel the track improvement. Lewis put in a great lap, but seven tenths is obviously a big gap, so I will need to have a look and analyse what exactly the issue was. The long-run times between Ferrari, Red Bull and us looked fairly comparable, so it's a shame I couldn't qualify higher and attack from the front row. We are definitely more competitive here than we were last year. The car has been improved and we also chose the right set-up direction. So I'm optimistic for tomorrow; it's a new day and at least one Ferrari will start behind me. We still have a long race ahead of us and I will push hard to try and get ahead of Sebastian. With three teams in the mix, everything is possible. It's difficult to overtake on this track, so both the start and the strategy will decide who wins this race."
James Allison, Technical Director
"It is difficult to put into words how it feels on days like this. It is overwhelming on so many levels, first and foremost to have the privilege of being here to watch a lap of such rare quality by a driver at the peak of his powers, on a circuit that punishes even the slightest error. It was a breath-taking performance by Lewis. Until Q3, it had been a fractious qualifying session: we got through Q1 by the skin of our teeth after being overly brave running the UltraSoft tyre, and spent most of Q2 trying to get our pulses back until control before the final push. On a more profound level, this circuit has been a monkey on our team's back for several years, and it is hard for anyone who does not work in the sport to understand just how much thought, analysis and effort have gone into understanding why we have been weak here. So that makes it all the more special to have a day like today, when Lewis puts us decisively on pole position with the car handling sweetly. But that sense of satisfaction lasts only for a moment, now our attention turns to what really counts - tomorrow's race."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"That was an incredible, horrible session! Just a rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish. We nearly dropped out in Q1 after sticking to the UltraSoft tyre, which was a nerve-wracking wait to make sure we didn't shoot ourselves in the foot at the first opportunity. Then Lewis produced one of the most incredible qualifying laps I have witnessed to take pole position. I just have to say a big thank you to all the team back at base in Brackley and Brixworth, who have worked so hard to understand our problems at this circuit and to improve on our weaknesses. It's incredibly encouraging to see the step forward in understanding we have made, with Valtteri splitting the Ferraris and Lewis right at the sharp end of the grid by a healthy margin. Now we need to put aside the happiness from today because we haven't scored any points yet this weekend. The real job comes on Sunday and, like we have seen in recent races, the balance can swing very quickly. We will keep our heads down, focus on the job and make sure we deliver tomorrow."
Vettel looked to be the heavy favourite heading into qualifying, with Raikkonen struggling to keep pace with the German. But come qualifying, the Scuderia had no answer to Hamilton's first flying lap. Vettel was a full six-tenths back and then failed to improve on his second run, despite admitting that the track did get quicker. Will this prove to be the decisive moment in the championship run-in?
Sebastian Vettel, 3rd, 1:36.628
“Our laps today were not ideal and, all in all, our qualifying session was not as good as it could have been. I think we didn’t take the best out of the car. We didn’t have a smooth session, that’s it. The gap seems big but it’s partly because this is a very long track, so I am not worried. I think Lewis had a very good lap but he was not impossible to beat. Obviously, it’s always better to start from the front row, but I think tomorrow it will be fine. The car is good, so I believe we can stay with the group of the cars in front and then we have two hours of racing to work something out. You never know what can happen. Obviously, we should have done better because we had all the ingredients, but today we didn’t put them all together. I’m not completely upset because third is not a disaster, but for sure we wanted to qualify on pole and that was up for grabs today. However, we now turn the page and see how we can fight tomorrow.”
Kimi Raikkonen, 5th, 1:36.794
“This qualifying was a bit more tricky than we expected. In general, we struggled to ‘switch on’ the tyres straightaway and make them work as easily as it had been all weekend; so I was a bit surprised. Things can change quickly from practice to qualifying, that’s why there’s no reason to look at the lap times in practice, especially in places like this. The end result obviously is not great; this is the kind of circuit where if you get everything right your lap can be very good, but if you have some difficulties, the time difference gets big very quickly . Tomorrow will be a long day, everybody seems to be quite close to each other; it will be a long, tough and hectic race, and usually many things happen here. We’ll try to make the right decisions and the right calls.”
Contrasting emotions down at Red Bull - Verstappen produced a stunning lap to grab second on the grid, beating the Ferrari of Vettel in the process. But he suffered power unit problems throughout the day, and reliability must be a concern for the team overnight. Ricciardo topped Q2 and looked to be every bit in the fight for pole, but couldn't deliver in final segment and starts sixth.
Daniel Ricciardo, 6th, 1:36.996
“It was a strange session and I was surprised that we lost so much pace in Q3. We made some changes between FP3 and Qualifying and initially the car felt pretty sweet. Everything we changed seemed positive and I thought we would get quicker and quicker as the track evolved, but we just lost pace as the session went on. I don’t have any answers as to why that happened yet which is pretty frustrating. I honestly thought we had a really good chance of a front row and in the space of an hour we lost a second to our competitors. Even with two attempts in Q3 we just couldn’t improve. It felt like we did everything right but the lap time doesn’t show it. I know we have good race pace but on a street circuit Qualifying is so important. It was strange and frustrating but hopefully we will find some answers.”
Max Verstappen, 2nd, 1:36.334
“Today was the best Qualifying session I’ve had in Formula 1. Given the engine driveability issues we faced in Practice and Qualifying I was very surprised to bring it home in P2. My Q3 lap was really good and we made progress with the set-up in every session which meant the car felt great at the end. The main step was finding quite a bit of front grip, this helped a lot come Q2 and Q3. Around here if you feel it was a good lap with few mistakes it usually translates into a front row. Even with the odd false neutral we managed to be on the front row so I’m really happy. If I can take a metre against Lewis at the start, and get in the lead, there is a good chance of a win as it’s a hard track to pass on. You still need luck with Safety Cars but as always I will do my best. I can certainly say I have put myself in a good position to try.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
"After looking at the times in FP2 and FP3, for Max to finish on the front row in Qualifying today is a massive achievement. He struggled with driveability issues during all three sessions which the Renault technicians tried hard to resolve. Max was able to drive around the issues in Qualifying and to end up on the front row is a fantastic effort. Daniel looked competitive in Q1 and Q2 but unfortunately the balance seemed to move away from him during the first Q3 run and although they reverted to the initial setting for the final run, sixth was the outcome. We all know he loves street circuits so I’m sure he will be fighting hard to make up ground tomorrow with what we believe is a good race car. The start will be important and we know the Hypersoft has high degradation, so it will be fascinating to see the different strategies that everyone employs in the race.”
Force India got both cars into Q3 to continue their fightback in the Constructor Standings. Indeed, it was Perez's first top 10 qualifying performance in Singapore of his F1 career - and he wound up 'best of the rest' to boot. With Ocon two places further back, a double points finish is surely the aim for the men in pink.
Sergio Perez, 7th, 1:37.985
“It's an incredible result; I am really pleased with our performance today. I think I produced a nearly perfect lap on a track where it is hard to achieve it. We're ahead of our direct rivals and just behind the leaders. We had an advantage of four tenths on the Haas and six tenths on the Renault, and I think it goes to show that our upgrade package is already making a difference. This is a track that normally doesn't play to our strengths, so I was a pleased at the pace we have shown. Tomorrow's race is going to be a long one - nearly two hours - and there's never a boring race in Singapore with incidents and Safety Cars influencing the end result. We need to make it to the chequered flag, avoid mistakes and hopefully I can make it eight races out of eight in the points in Singapore. Starting on hypersoft tyres can leave me a bit vulnerable to those behind, but track position is very important here. It's not as crucial as in Monaco, but I'd rather be ahead than catching up.”
Esteban Ocon, 9th, 1:38.365
“I am quite pleased with tonight’s result. We had a great car and the upgrades worked really well, so we can be happy with what we achieved. My Q3 lap was not ideal because I brushed the wall and it probably cost me some time. Maybe without this I could have been higher up the grid. I feel good about tomorrow - anything can happen in the race and you need to keep out of trouble and be opportunistic. Overtaking isn’t easy around here so the first lap will be really important. I think we will have the race pace to score good points.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“The team did an excellent job tonight and we start tomorrow’s race with a great opportunity to score well with both cars. Throughout qualifying Sergio and Esteban delivered the laps we needed to progress to Q3 and seventh and ninth places are a great return for the team’s hard work so far. I want to recognise the efforts back at base to get the new parts to the track and the long hours worked by the mechanics on Thursday and Friday nights to get us to this point. Of course, it’s only Saturday and the main challenge is yet to come, but we have put ourselves in a strong position to have a good Sunday and we can be satisfied with our performance today.”
Williams have been off the pace all weekend, and so it proved with both cars propping up the field. Stroll was the first to get a slap on the wrist for running outside of track limits from the stewards, but it made no difference to the result and they will have a long race tomorrow from the back of the grid.
Sergey Sirotkin, 19th, 1:41.263
"It was really tough, one of the toughest qualifying sessions of the year, more of a survival. The way we have to approach each lap is to try and finish with as little damage and losses rather than attacking as a qualifying lap. I am very disappointed, we knew it was going to be tough, but with the change of conditions, it fell away from us. Tomorrow will not be the easiest race for us, so let’s hope for some rain!"
Lance Stroll, 20th, 1:41.334
"We need more grip to be faster, as this just didn't suit our car. Looking at the time sheets today, tomorrow is likely to be a misery, but perhaps some rain could help. We have to figure out why we are off the pace, which we are severely lacking. Looking where we were, we tried something different with the car for the last run and my first few corners were even slower than the first run. I tried to brake deep into turn seven to see what happens, but I didn't stand a chance, and just missed the corner. Tomorrow is going to be tough, but anything can happen."
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer
"It was a disappointing result as we do not have the pace this weekend. The cars are inconsistent and very unstable for the drivers, which doesn’t allow them to push consistently to the limit. We had a difficult time trying to get the best out of the hypersoft tyre, it is a tricky tyre to get in the right window, but our problems are much deeper than that. Nevertheless, it is a very long race tomorrow afternoon, our race pace in practice was more respectable than the one-lap pace we have seen today. In a long and high attrition race tomorrow, we will push to the maximum and see what we can do."
Renault must have fancied their chances of two cars in the top 10, but it was not to be - Sainz missing out in Q2 after mysteriously losing all grip. It was left to Hulkenberg to fly the flag, but he couldn't match his rivals and finished P10... and with used hypersofts, might be vulnerable at the start tomorrow compared to those fresher-shod cars behind.
Nico Hulkenberg, 10th, 1:38.588 “It’s a little frustrating because we had the potential to be higher up on the grid. The qualifying pace in the car wasn’t as bad as it looks from the timing sheets as my final attempt wasn’t good. Seventh or eighth was probably possible today, but it didn’t go our way. We have to remain positive as our race pace seemed good yesterday. Tyre and race management will be crucial. Starting on the Hypersoft tyre won’t be easy, but we have to manage tomorrow as best we can. I want to have a good race, optimise everything and get back into the points.”
Carlos Sainz, 12th, 1:38.716 "It’s a disappointing result in the end as the car felt good in Q1 and little by little we lost grip from the rear tyres. When you lose grip through the session, especially at a track like this, it’s difficult to put together a perfect lap. We need to analyse why we went backwards after a promising Q1. We remain optimistic for tomorrow, however. We have a good chance with a number of options with strategy. Our target was to be further up the grid for the start, but points are given out at the end of the race."
Alan Permane, Sporting Director "We’re tenth and twelfth on the grid, which isn’t where we wanted to be after promising pace yesterday. The car is not quick enough on a track that should have played to our strengths and we must work to understand the deficiencies.
"We have strategy options on Carlos’ side of the garage with a free tyre choice and those opportunities will be explored overnight and in the build-up to the race. In Nico’s case, it’s a little more difficult because when you make Q3 you want to be seventh or eighth and have track position. Tenth makes things slightly harder, and we have a bit of analysis to do this evening. We remain positive for tomorrow, and we will target getting both cars into the points."
McLaren customarily have struggled in qualifying, choosing to focus on race pace. But given how important grid positions are here, they went all out for one-lap pace today. Vandoorne once again failed to match his team mate, exiting in Q1 after touching the wall, but Alonso at least finished a respectable P11 and with free tyre choice, will fancy his chances of a points finish come race day.
Fernando Alonso, 11th, 1:38.641
“We have been competitive all through the weekend here and this qualifying result is good. We got back to our normal competitiveness and I’m happy about that.
“We knew that we were borderline on the Q3 cut-off, but starting the race from ninth or 10th on Hypersoft tyres can be a big disadvantage tomorrow, as those tyres seemed to have quite a lot of degradation yesterday in the long runs. So I’d rather be 11th with a free choice of tyres, and hopefully we can benefit from that. It would only be worth being in Q3 if we were fifth or sixth.
“In ten years of racing here, there has been a 100 per cent record of Safety Car periods, and we need to be ready for that in case there’s an opportunity, or a window to stop and change tyres.
“It’s a long and challenging race tomorrow and we need to stay focused and fight for points, but first of all we need to see the chequered flag. Reliability-wise, we haven’t been too strong recently, and we need to change that.”
Stoffel Vandoorne, 18th, 1:39.864
“My last run on the new tyres was extremely messy from my side – I touched the wall about four times I think. We should definitely have been in Q2 as that was when the track was at its best. It’s a shame because the pace was there to progress. I think the car is okay so that’s good.
“I tried to squeeze everything out of the car. When you do a bit too much and you overheat the tyres, the lap-time doesn’t come towards you. It’s all about qualifying here.
“I think our race pace is usually a bit better than qualifying – we’ve known that since the start of the year – but around here it’s very difficult to overtake, so it’ll have to be about a good strategy. The key will be to see what the runners on Hypersofts can do, how long they can make them last. At least we have free tyre choice so hopefully we can gamble a little bit.
“Anything can happen here in Singapore. There’s 100 per cent chance of a Safety Car so there’ll probably be one at some point!”
Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director
“Today was a very positive day for us, not only because of our good starting position, but also looking at our overall pace.
“It’s a shame that Stoffel wasn’t able to put the perfect lap together. Fernando did an absolutely brilliant job in qualifying, delivering his usual impeccable standard and getting everything out of the car.
“Overall, we feel good about our chances to score points in the race, not just because of our grid slots, but given our free tyre choice, which for this race we feel is particularly important. Racing here under the lights on this challenging and spectacular street circuit frankly brings a high degree of unpredictability, which, at the very least, will make the race super exciting to watch.”
A mixed bag down at Haas. Not expecting to be strong here, Grosjean continued his recent decent run of form to make the top 10 shoot-out, the first time Haas have reached Q3 here. But Magnussen had a "messy" lap and was a surprise Q1 elimination, and from 16th on the grid will have to do something special to get in the points.
Romain Grosjean, 8th, 1:38.320
“I think I had a great performance. On my last lap I had a massive oversteer into Turn 21. I guess I lost about three tenths of a second, so it could’ve been really tight with (Sergio) Perez. You know, Force India, they were really quick in Monaco, and here it’s the same kind of track, so I’m a little surprised. It’s a shame Kevin couldn’t make it through. I think he missed a tenth or so, and on a track like this, it’s always difficult to find the limit in Q1. You don’t want to push it too much to crash the car, but you’ve got to push it to get up there. The race is going to be super long. The hypersofts are doing about three laps and then you better be on softs. It’ll be interesting tomorrow. It’s going to be hot, there’s probably going to be a safety car and, hopefully, we get a good race pace and keep the fight going.”
Kevin Magnussen, 16th, 1:39.644
“It’s not only been in qualifying, I’ve been missing the pace to my team mate. It’s really strange. I don’t really have any answers as to why I’m suddenly a second off the pace. It feels like I just don’t have the grip to go that fast. When you have a car that is somewhat well balanced, then it can only be overall lack of grip. I don’t really know why. It’s frustrating. I hope to find some answers as we look into it.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“Definitely a case of mixed feelings today. We had a good FP3, but then Kevin never really got the speed out of the car, finishing 16th in qualifying. Romain had a fantastic qualifying, though, finishing in eighth. So tomorrow, I think we’re in a little bit of a difficult spot. A lot of things can happen here at the start, and I’m hoping we’re not involved in those things. As normal, we will try to go for points. We look forward to tomorrow.”
Leclerc once again had a moment - this time clipping the wall but reporting no damage. You can't fault his determination, but ultimately Sauber didn't have as much pace here as at other circuits and both cars exited in Q2. If they can get a good start, points aren't out of the question for either driver tomorrow though...
Marcus Ericsson, 14th, 1:39.453
“It was an interesting day for us. FP3 was rather difficult for us, and we were not fully satisfied with our performance. Nevertheless, we headed into qualifying feeling confident. The first session ran smoothly and I was happy with my performance. Unfortunately, Q2 did not go as well as we would have wanted it to. I felt good in the car, but couldn’t seem to improve enough to make it to Q3. We can see that the midfield is very tight, and will have to focus on tyre management and a good strategy to get a positive race result. I look forward to tomorrow.”
Charles Leclerc, 13th, 1:38.747
“It was a positive day overall. We made some improvements between FP3 and qualifying, and fought our way to Q2. We extracted the maximum out of our car, which is always our main target, and we can be satisfied with our performance. We have a long and tricky race ahead of us, and the high temperatures will be a good challenge which I cannot wait to discover.”
Toro Rosso had a quiet day, despite Gasly suffering issues with his steering. He narrowly made Q2 but could go no further, with Hartley once again exiting in Q1 - for the tenth time this season.
Pierre Gasly, 15th, 1:39.691
“It has been tricky for us since the beginning of the weekend because we were not as competitive as we had of hoped yesterday. Today was a bit better but there wasn’t much we could do to compete with the other teams for Q3. We struggled with balance and grip so we tried a few things to find a solution, but we weren’t able to put it together which has made it difficult to extract the most performance out of the car. We’re aiming to make up some positions tomorrow, we know in Singapore that can be difficult, but we are usually competitive on the Hypersofts in extending the life of the tyres, so that will be the target during the race.”
Brendon Hartley, 17th, 1:39.809
“We had a tricky session this morning, but we made some changes and got the car in a better window for Qualifying. It was pretty close to Q2; I had some traffic in my first run, my second run was clean but I made a couple of small mistakes in the middle sector which cost me time. Pierre got me by a tenth and a half of a second, and that was the difference between getting knocked out in Q1 and progressing to Q2. It’s a tricky track, you only get one chance around here. We were very good on tyres yesterday which was positive, so I remain hopeful we can make the strategy work and challenge for points in the race. We were hoping for better pace this weekend, but let’s see what tomorrow brings.”
Guillaume Dezoteux, Head of Vehicle Performance
“Following a difficult Friday during which our short run pace was not looking great, we underwent a lot of analysis on car setup and tyres. We had a plan for FP3 and it worked pretty well for Pierre, who was able to put a good lap together. However, he suffered from excessive oversteer in the last sector during the second timed lap, while it is not ideal we can expect it from this kind of track layout. Brendon had a more difficult time in final practice as he wasn’t happy with the handling of his car. We were definitely expecting something more from the Qualifying session here in Singapore, especially following the steps forward we made in FP3. Q1 was focussed on managing the traffic and chasing track evolution. Pierre did a good lap on his second run but Brendon made a mistake and didn’t make it through. During both runs of Q2, Pierre struggled with car balance and lacked rear stability which meant he wasn’t in a position to fight for Q3. Now we will analyse all of the data to get a better understanding of what happened and learn from a difficult session on a challenging track. The strategy for the race tomorrow is very open - between a one and two stop - and we had pretty decent pace during our long runs on Friday. Anything can happen here and our fans can count on us to try our best and fight hard in the midfield tomorrow!”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“As usual, we optimised our engine management based on the data we saw in free practice yesterday and we saw some improvements in FP3 on the PU side and also for the chassis, with the drivers commenting the car felt better than on Friday. However, this was not enough, with Brendon unable to move out of Q1 and Pierre starting from 15th. As for tomorrow, our long run pace looked quite good, so with good tyre management and strategy we will hope to move up the order by the end of the race.”
Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing
“Qualifying has set up an intriguing mix of tactical possibilities, influenced by the decision to bring the hypersoft to Singapore. Its unprecedented speed is clearly beyond question, but this has to be balanced against the degradation we have seen so far when it comes to formulating the strategy. For this reason, we have seen a few different ideas during qualifying, and it’s going to be fascinating to see which strategy turns out to be the best option. Adding another variable is the fact that the Singapore Grand Prix is a very long and eventful race that has historically always featured at least one safety car period. So the strategies will have to be flexible enough to rapidly capitalise on changing circumstances as they happen. All three compounds could definitely play a potential role in the strategy, with nearly zero degradation on the soft.”