Contrasting fortunes in the McLaren garage. Button struggled with the balance of his MP4-31 in practice and the issues persisted into qualifying, resulting in an early exit. Alonso found a set up that worked, and made it to Q3 for the first time since Singapore.
Fernando Alonso, 10th, 1:12.266
“I really enjoyed driving today and felt really confident with the car. These cooler conditions seem to suit our package a little better than yesterday’s higher temperatures, and we extracted the maximum from the car.
“Still, we were a little bit worried after FP3 as we weren’t completely on the pace, and I was even more worried when I saw Jenson go out in Q1. I just thought, ‘This isn’t going to be our Saturday!’ but – happily – my car behaved fantastically on each of the five Option tyre-sets I used in qualifying.
“The car just kept on delivering: I kept finding an extra tenth each time I went out, just finding a little extra at the limit.
“I hope the track time I lost yesterday isn’t going to cost me too much in tomorrow’s race, as everybody conducted their long runs in totally different weather conditions. Tomorrow, we’re expecting it to be cooler with the possibility of some rain, so it’s good to be starting in the top 10.”
Jenson Button, 17th, 1:13.276
“The car was really well balanced yesterday, and I was 10th quickest in FP2; today, it was a completely different car.
“There’s definitely something not right – there’s no reason why the car should feel like it does; but it’s been like that since this morning. We’re off the pace and it’s frustrating.
“When the conditions are cooler, you tend to pick up a little more rear grip and stability, and in high-speed the car is so on the nose. Then you destroy the rear tyres for the low-speed corners; you don’t have the grip because the tyres are damaged.
“Still, it’s done now, and tomorrow’s another day…”
Eric Boullier, McLaren-Honda Racing Director
“It’s been a somewhat tricky weekend so far, but we’ve pushed hard to fix our issues.
“Yesterday, we weren’t able to get either car through to the end of FP2; this morning, we had a gearbox sensor issue on Fernando’s car, which delayed him at the start of FP3, then we had to change Jenson’s ISS and ECU after an issue at the very end of this morning’s practice.
“Our engineers and mechanics have done a very solid job of rectifying all the issues and swiftly addressing them, so let’s hope that our problems are now firmly behind us for the remainder of the weekend.
“After showing well yesterday, Jenson couldn’t get the car hooked up today – he was always struggling for a balance, and was mystified by the shortfall in pace. We’ll have a close look at everything tonight to make sure he’s got a better chance in tomorrow’s race.
“Today’s cooler conditions certainly played well for Fernando. He really revelled in the car’s handling this afternoon, pushing it as high as seventh in Q2. Tenth spot is a very good effort.
“With mixed conditions on the radar for tomorrow, we feel we’re set for a stronger performance tomorrow.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“So far, it has been a tricky weekend to gauge where we are, with the boiling heat of Friday and the damp track in this morning’s FP3. In this afternoon’s qualifying, it was nice to see Fernando back into Q3. He put in a very good lap, so we were hoping for a P7 or P8, but just missed out by a few tenths.
“Jenson, however, had more of a difficult time adjusting to the condition changes from yesterday to today, and struggled with balance all of today. There is such a surprisingly big gap to Fernando, so we must look into this matter tonight, and nail the strategy for the race tomorrow.”
Ericsson only managed one lap in final practice before an engine issue was discovered. Having sat out the rest of the session, his team did well to change the engine and get the car ready for qualifying. He managed 21st, ahead of his team mate, who complained of traffic on his flying lap, and also suffered engine issues.
Marcus Ericsson, 21st, 1:13.623
“First of all, I am very thankful that my car crew managed to change the engine between FP3 and qualifying. They did an extremely good job in between the two sessions, having a very limited amount of time. Qualifying itself was rather difficult. Yesterday we had issues during my stints, so I could not do as many laps as we wanted in FP2. Because of the engine problem in FP3, I could not run a proper lap. We were on the back foot going into qualifying. With all that in mind, we could not have expected much more.”
Felipe Nasr, 22nd, 1:13.681
“I am very disappointed with this result. I was on a good lap until Turn 11. Then in Turn 12 I came across traffic, which cost me some time on the way up to the finish line. I also had a misfire at the end of this lap. My chances for a good lap time were over then. I am disappointed that I could not get a clean lap. Now I will focus on tomorrow. Anything can happen here because of the weather conditions. I will stay positive for my home race.”
Both Grosjean and Gutierrez were struggling with their tyres, repeatedly locking up in practice and qualifying. Despite this, the VF-16 looked quick and so it proved - Grosjean using his one run in Q2 to secure a place in the top-ten shoot out. In Q3 he again opted for just the single run, which was good enough for seventh, his highest qualifying of the year.
Romain Grosjean, 7th, 1:11.937
“It’s good to be back in Q3, especially after the last two races where we were out in Q1 and really struggling. Here we’ve been trying some new brakes, focusing on making them work as well as we could. The feeling was good right from the beginning and the cooler track conditions today really helped us a lot. There are still plenty of margins to improve for the future. We’re always learning more about what we need to do, but we really weren’t expecting to be in Q3 today. Generally though, when we do get things working well together, we’re quite fast, which is encouraging.”
Esteban Gutierrez, 12th, 1:12.431
“It’s been quite a competitive qualifying session with the lap times being very close. We just missed out on Q3, but it’s great that our performance is back after two weekends where we were struggling. We can now be optimistic for the race tomorrow. I’ll be aiming for the points. We’re aware of what we need to do and that’s what I’ll be targeting.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“We did a good job in FP3 to end up with a car that worked well for both drivers in qualifying. We seem to have ups and downs, but we always come back out on top. Last race weekend we were out in Q1 and now we’re in Q3 with one car and the other finishing 12th. Achieving our best result in qualifying with seventh place for Romain – it’s thanks to a lot of effort from the whole team. Starting in seventh and 12th, our aim will be for a points finish. It’s difficult to attain here, but it won’t be from a lack of trying.”
After the drama of the last few laps in Mexico, it was back to business for Red Bull. Verstappen had been quicker than Ricciardo in FP3, and carried his form into qualifying. He split the two Ferraris on a track that Red Bull hadn't expected to be as competitive at, and beat his team mate in qualifying for the second race in a row.
Max Verstappen, 4th , 1:11.485
“I was just a little disappointed with my last lap, I was expecting someone to jump ahead of me so Kimi being in front wasn’t a big surprise. It was an odd session, Q1 and Q2 felt good but then I wasn’t very happy with the grip of the new set of tyres I got. We need to look into this as the rear felt slick in sector 2, we will analyse and hopefully figure out why. We have ended up very close to third position which realistically is the best we can do in dry conditions so todays result is still pretty good. We have split the Ferraris which means we will have a fun race on our hands tomorrow, especially if the weather changes. It was a bit of a shame the rain stayed away for qualifying. We had a few drops but not enough to make conditions swing in our favour, it is supposed to rain more tomorrow so let’s look forward to that. With some wet track condition our level of grip compared to other cars should come up a bit. Long run pace looks good so after a strong start we can put on a good race. I will go out there tomorrow to perform the best I can and deliver the highest finish position possible for the team. I haven’t paid much attention to the stories of Mercedes talking with Red Bull, Nikki was in our hospitality but he just likes our food and drinks, they are very good. He is Austrian so perhaps just wanted an Austrian drink.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 6th, 1:11.540
“I feel so-so about 6th place today. I felt we made progress from Q1-Q2 and then in Q3 I was little bit disappointed with my lap. Probably didn’t get the balance right in myself. It’s a tough track and it’s quite a short lap so if you make a mistake in one corner it’s very hard to make up that time. I had a good first sector but was probably a little bit conservative, a couple of corners where I was trying to not make a mistake more than trying to gain some time. We knew qualy would be tight with Ferrari in dry conditions, and it is close and I think that’s what makes it a little frustrating, but I’ll learn from that and hopefully tomorrow we can have a good race. It’s fun when it’s that close but not fun when you are the last of the bunch. The forecast has said all week that Sunday had the highest chance of rain, hopefully that’s true, just to spice things up a bit, and if so then we’ll try and make it exciting for everyone else and give the fans an opportunity to see a good race. If it rains tomorrow it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“A very tight qualifying to end up fourth and sixth. Looking at the grid positions for tomorrow’s race there’s only a tenth and a half between third and sixth place today. Max unfortunately lost a little bit of time in the middle sector on his last lap when he was set for an improvement but hopefully, with chances of mixed weather conditions tomorrow, from those grid positions we can make good progress in the race.”
Williams were full of confidence after being third and fourth quickest in FP2 on Friday. They were both in the top ten in final practice, but in qualifying were bumped out of Q3 by the improving Force Indias and Grosjean's Haas. Massa in particular was disappointed with 13th at his final home Grand Prix - which is set to be the lowest he will have ever started from at Interlagos.
Valtteri Bottas, 11th, 1:12.420
"It’s obviously disappointing to be out before Q3. Our pace all weekend has been very good, as has the set-up; but for some reason in qualifying we were just not quick enough, while some other cars were surprisingly fast. I doubt we got everything out of these cooler conditions today, but the race is tomorrow. It will be a fight with Force India again, but at least now we might have the upper hand with the strategy."
Felipe Massa, 13th, 1:12.521
"This definitely wasn’t the greatest result because I expected to easily be fighting in Q3. The car didn’t work in the proper way and the front tyres stopped working. I was suffering from understeer and my best lap of Q2 ended up being my first one, so we need to understand what happened. But it was absolutely amazing to get out of the car and feel the support from the crowd, and to feel the love I have for these people as well as the love they have for me. I’m not happy with the result for them, but I will try everything I can tomorrow to give them a better result, as well as for my team, especially as it’s my last race here in Brazil."
Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering
"Today’s qualifying was disappointing for us because the car has been quick, especially over one lap, all weekend. When we needed to put the laps together, they just didn’t come off. It’s unfortunate because we were just a few tenths off Ferrari, right up until the time we needed to get the important laps in and they didn’t come. That’s just how it is, and we’ve got to look ahead positively to the race. We’re starting on the clean side with a free choice of tyres, so we’ll have a look at what we’re going to do with the strategy. The car is quick and it’s been very good in the long runs, so we’ll see what comes out of it tomorrow. I’m sure we can score some good points."
Both Sainz and Kvyat made it through to Q2 but could go no further. Kvyat won the intra-team battle by two tenths but it was a quiet day for the Toro Rosso team. With changeable weather conditions predicted, points are not out of the question.
Daniil Kvyat, 14th, 1:12.726
“A decent qualifying. I don’t think there was any more we could extract from the car and a P14 is the most we could achieve today. My Q2 lap was quite clean in these tricky conditions – there was a lot of wind and it was hard to find a good balance of the car – and I’m pleased with my job today. I have to say that the track conditions changed a lot from yesterday to today and we therefore had to adapt ourselves and carry on learning during the session, which wasn’t easy. Having said that, it’s always an enjoyable track to drive and every single corner is different to the next one – it’s definitely a circuit with a lot of character! Hopefully tomorrow there will be some rain so that we can have a good race!”
Carlos Sainz, 15th, 1:12.920
“Not the best of qualifying sessions for me, but not the worst either. We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy one and that we were going to struggle a bit at this track. Q3 was just too difficult to get into today. My start to the session was okay and I put in a good lap time in Q1, but from that point onwards we didn’t really improve anymore and we were out in Q2. We will now have to analyse this, see why we couldn’t find any lap time there, and get ready for tomorrow. I think it will be an interesting race – in dry conditions it will be tricky for us to fight for points but if it rains anything can happen and I also enjoy it in the wet… I will definitely do a rain dance before going to bed tonight!”
Jody Egginton, Head of Vehicle Performance
“As expected, the weather has started to have an effect on the running here in Brazil. In both sessions today we have had to be ready to adapt the run programmes and, of course, we can expect this trend to continue for the race tomorrow. Regarding today’s sessions, we managed to complete pretty much all of the FP3 programme for both drivers, setting new baselines in the cooler track and ambient conditions. Changes to tyre preparation and management were required and we tested a few items related to this, which provided some useful data for qualifying. Q1 passed without incident for us but we knew we had to try and find something extra to overcome our known limitations. This is why the second runs in Q1 were used to investigate a different approach, which unfortunately did not yield a benefit. With the midfield quite tight, Q2 was clearly going to offer a challenge and unfortunately we came up short on this occasion and were not able to progress to Q3. However, the set-ups the engineers and drivers have been working on together since FP1 have provided a good general balance in long and short runs so, although we are disappointed with the qualifying result, it’s just a case of ensuring we optimise the set-ups for the race conditions. As we know from the weather forecasts, tomorrow’s race could present some opportunities, so we are looking forward to it.”
Ferrari had to work hard to get Vettel's car ready for qualifying after a hydraulic issue was detected. Once able to get in his SF16-H, Vettel swiftly put the problems behind him, comfortably making it through to Q3. He looked to have the beating of his team mate, but Raikkonen was one of very few drivers to improve on his second run, to grab an impressive third on the grid. Despite this, the Finn initially described his lap as 'average'.
Kimi Raikkonen, 3rd, 1:11.404
"Today everything felt a bit more normal than yesterday and I was happier with the car. Overall it was easier for everybody, the cooler temperatures helped, yesterday the track was very hot. To be honest the feeling in the last lap was not so good, the front was sliding in the first two corners and I struggled a bit in the middle sector to put the lap together. I knew that it was better than the previous one but I thought it wouldn't be enough because it was not an ideal one; It was good enough to be third and I'm positively surprised. Mercedes was too far but today it worked out pretty well and we can be happy with this result. There is potential in the car, we are getting where we should be. Tomorrow we can only do our best, with weather conditions you never know and things can quickly change."
Sebastian Vettel, 5th, 1:11.495
"Today my last run in Q3 was not ideal: I think third position was possible, but I was probably a bit conservative around the last corner. All in all, though, I think it was a good session: the car was behaving well, but maybe in the end I could have pulled out a little bit more out of it. Yesterday on a single lap we were not particularly strong, we struggled a bit, but I think that in the long run we were quite good: so for tomorrow, if it's dry, we should be in reasonable shape. Mercedes looked very fast also yesterday in the long runs, so obviously we'll try to stay with them but our main rival I guess will be Red Bull, which had similar pace to us today. In the race I think we're usually a little bit faster, so hopefully we can get the job done tomorrow. If it rains it will be the first time for everyone this weekend: but it is what it is, I think we have enough rain tyres..."
Force India had looked to be lagging behind their championship rivals Williams on pace but, come qualifying, both drivers found a little extra to make Q3 at the expense of Bottas and Massa. Hulkenberg struggled on his first run, complaining of a loss of power but it proved to be a small blip, with the German finding the pace he needed on his second run to beat his team mate by just six hundredths of a second.
Nico Hulkenberg, 8th, 1:12.104
“I’m happy with eighth place and I think it was pretty much the limit today. It was close with Checo just behind me and it means we’re starting the race in a strong position. My laps were pretty clean and tidy, although I didn’t get a great exit out of the final corner at the end of Q3 - it’s been a difficult corner for us all weekend. I think we have a good car for tomorrow, so we need to get the job done and score solid points. The long runs we did yesterday looked promising, but we have to wait and see what happens with the weather. At the moment it looks like conditions will be similar to today – overcast with some light drizzle. If we get some heavier rain, it would certainly spice things up because it can be quite difficult to overtake here in the dry.”
Sergio Perez, 9th, 1:12.165
“We made a big step forward from practice to qualifying and it was enough to get us through to Q3. The session was a real fight, especially in Q1, and the margins between progression and elimination were tiny. This is a very short track and you need to really hook together the perfect lap, because any mistake can make a big difference. It was very tight with Nico; we were within a few tenths of each other all afternoon, but in the end I fell just short. I made a small mistake in the final corner and it cost me some time, so I could have been a bit quicker. Overall I think we can be happy with the job we did today. We have kept some quick cars behind us and I believe we can be strong in the race. We now need to see what the weather brings tomorrow.”
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal
“Getting both cars into the top ten was the target today so we’re very pleased with the outcome. The team worked hard on Friday night to make the necessary changes to extract performance from the car. The progress we made overnight and this morning made the difference and helped us squeeze through to Q3. It sets us up nicely for a strong race tomorrow. Our race pace looks solid and we’re pretty relaxed about the changeable weather. Come rain or shine, we have a car capable of converting our qualifying effort into important points.”
It was another dominant display from Mercedes, grabbing their 14th front row lock-out of the season. For the third race in a row Hamilton edged his team mate, posting the fastest times in all three sections of qualifying. Rosberg was comfortably second, half a second clear of the rest.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:10.736
"It’s been feeling great all weekend. Every session today I was up front and able to maintain that position, finding a little bit more each time I went out. So, I’m really, really happy with it. I don’t know how obvious it is watching at home but, with this being one of the shortest circuits on the calendar, it’s somewhere that even the smallest margin can make a huge difference and it’s usually close out there. It’s a really tricky track to get right. For example, all weekend my first sector times were quite good but then I never really got it together through there in qualifying. When you have such a short lap, getting your tyres ready for the first flying lap is often difficult, so you can go into the first three corners without them being fully up to temperature yet. It’s quite bumpy in places and the middle sector puts a lot of heat through the tyres, so overall it’s definitely a tough circuit. It’s all about having a good balance of patience and not being too greedy in some places. I’ve felt strong in every aspect and in all conditions throughout this weekend, so I’ll prepare the best way I can for tomorrow and see how it goes from there. I’m ready."
Nico Rosberg, 2nd, 1:10.838
"That was a pretty intense qualifying out there today. I was able to improve my times from lap to lap which felt good and it was all going very well. I found a good balance, a good rhythm… a good everything, really. Then, on my last run I was able to improve again – but at the end Lewis was just that little bit quicker. But that’s the way it is and there is still a lot to play for tomorrow. To win the race is definitely still possible from this position. The start is always a possibility and also with strategy it could be interesting tomorrow. I also had a good long run this morning, so I am looking forward to a great race in front of this fantastic crowd."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"What a fantastic qualifying session with everything coming down to the final lap between the two boys. Lewis did a great lap and was quickest in every part of qualifying – but Nico was actually a few hundredths ahead on his final lap until Turn 12, where he couldn’t get on the throttle early enough and lost the advantage up the hill. It was just a really tight session with both drivers on the limit and slugging it out on track, just like it should be. Looking ahead to the race, the weather forecast looks uncertain and it will be down to our drivers to make the most of their opportunities. Our job is to make sure that we don’t let them down. The other positive from today was a surprisingly good gap to the teams behind – bigger than we have seen recently. But that can easily change in different circumstances during the race."
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
"Very interesting conditions out there today – although not as bad as they might have been. We saw some very light drizzle drifting in every five to ten minutes but fortunately never enough to significantly slow the track. So, in the event we ran a straightforward programme – opting to head out early in each session to ensure we got our laps in while the track was still dry. The Q3 finale between our two drivers was incredibly close and very exciting to watch. Nico was actually slightly up coming into the last corner but just lost a fraction in those final moments, with Lewis holding on to a very strong pole position. Congratulations to them both on what was a really spectacular performance to lock out the front row. The stage is set for a closely fought battle tomorrow, in what has been a tightly contested title battle all season so far. We look forward to seeing how the latest chapter in that story unfolds tomorrow."
Palmer, fresh from the announcement that he is staying at Renault, looked to be brimming with confidence and made Q2 for the third time in four races. It wasn't without incident however, as he was blocked by Ocon in Q1 - a transgression that earned the Frenchman a three-place grid penalty.
Kevin Magnussen, 18th, 1:13.410
“Today’s result isn’t what we hoped for. We looked good yesterday and I felt comfortable in the car however I struggled with balance all day today and missed out on accessing Q2 this afternoon as a result. We need to understand why and will work on that overnight. I look forward to having a better performance in the race tomorrow.”
Jolyon Palmer, 16th, 1.13.258
“I’m pleased with reaching Q2 again today even though I wish we could be a bit higher on the grid for the race. I had a couple of lock-ups during my last run and had no rubber left on my front right, which is why I ran wide. It is a shame as FP3 this morning was really good and we could have done better still this afternoon; I wanted a little bit more ! Nonetheless tomorrow is race day, we will have to see what the weather conditions are first and then we will be pushing to the limit as always.”
Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director
"We had a good practice session this morning, but for whatever reason we didn’t seem able to put a good lap together this afternoon. Jolyon went through to Q2 again, as he has been doing recently, only to struggle on both runs there. He had some traffic issues to start with, followed by problems making the front tyres work properly. Kevin suffered with balance in the car today, which we will have to look into ahead of tomorrow’s race.
"We are likely to see more rain tomorrow. Temperatures will be cooler and there is a higher chance of rain than today. We’re certainly not expecting a hot race and there is every chance of the strategy being affected by rain. We’ll have to be alert and ready to evolve our plans as we need to. This is generally a two to three pitstop race here. In these cool conditions however, it may move more towards a two-stop race, while a wet afternoon will make things harder to predict. It all depends on water levels and how the intermediate tyres work."
The Manor drivers were unhappy with each other - Ocon claiming he was blocked by Wehrlein, while the German complained of his team mate overtaking him when he should have been backing off. Despite the squabbling, they out-qualified both Saubers.
Pascal Wehrlein, 19th, 1.13.427
"It was a tough day yesterday, so to get in the car today and find it was more or less where we needed it to be was a huge relief, given the job ahead of us for this afternoon. We lost some time and important preparation along the way, but it’s nice to recover from that quite quickly and be in a good position for qualifying.
"On the one hand, we’re in front of both Saubers, so that’s important and the box ticked for what we needed to achieve today. But there was more to come and that’s a little frustrating. My best lap was on my first set of tyres and with three runs, that should have been two more opportunities to improve. On the second set I made a small mistake, which cost me a couple of tenths. We were only a couple of tenths away from Q2 today, so it’s disappointing that we had to abort the final run, but there was so much traffic in the last corners. Conditions were quite tricky today; could be the same tomorrow also. I’m looking forward to making the most of that."
Esteban Ocon, 20th, 1.13.432
"I can’t say I’m satisfied with qualifying. We did get ahead of Sauber – both of them – but unfortunately that doesn’t count now because I have to line up behind them. That’s how it is and we will have to hope for a good start and push hard to get ahead of them.
"Yes, that’s true. The track here is awesome and I love it, but it is very small and the last corner is pretty slow, so there was a lot of traffic. The first corner will be interesting tomorrow, so it’s important that we don’t get caught up in any situations and focus instead on using them to our advantage. We have a job to do as a team tomorrow and that is what I’m focused on."
Dave Ryan, Racing Director
"Generally, an improvement today, getting on top of the problems that challenged us on Friday to give Pascal a more straightforward FP3, ensuring that both drivers were well prepared for qualifying. As we predicted, our one-lap pace was pleasing and we were very close to Q2 again. Collectively, we didn’t make the best of the opportunity to improve on the final run, and though we have one car starting ahead of Sauber, we should have had two. Tomorrow, will bring its own challenges and, I’m sure, some opportunities. The conditions today have been tricky and that looks set to be the case for the race, so we go into Sunday with everyone clearly focused on what we need to do to achieve the best result for the team."
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director
“We experienced track and air temperatures today that were a lot lower than they had been on Friday, which consequently had an effect on how the tyres behaved. The rain that fell yesterday and this morning also washed away a lot of the rubber that had been previously laid on the surface, re-starting the cycle of track evolution. With quite a speed margin between the medium and the soft, we saw just the softer tyre used in qualifying. This is what the top 10 will start on, but with variable weather and relatively high degradation on the soft, it’s going to be difficult to predict the optimal strategy tomorrow.”