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Saturday in Melbourne - team by team

19 Mar 2016

A round-up of the qualifying action at the 2016 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne's Albert Park...

Renault

Palmer messed up a little in FP3 after being quicker than Magnussen on softs, but out-qualified the Dane and will thus start his maiden Grand Prix from 14th on the grid. It was a good effort from the Briton on his first appearance at Albert Park.

Kevin Magnussen, 15th, 1:27.742

“We didn’t think we would be as strong as we were today, we hadn’t expected to get out of Q1 and actually we got both cars through. My lap wasn’t perfect, there was more to get out of the car so that is encouraging. It was frustrating that things didn’t go our way in Q2, we had traffic which meant we didn’t get a chance to set a better time, but qualifying is the same for everyone and at some point it will work out in our favour.”

Jolyon Palmer, 14th, 1:27.601

“It was a pretty busy qualifying, obviously as it was the first one with the new system. It really built up and we were going quicker and quicker all the time so you had to make sure you kept your head above the water and not get knocked out. We’re happy to be in Q2; we didn’t really expect much more. I hadn’t done many laps in the dry here so I was trying to build up to it a little bit and then on the last lap, I knew I had to give it everything. It was enough to make Q2 so happy days!”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director

“We are reasonably happy especially as the session went very smoothly for us execution-wise. Both cars ran reliably and as we’re starting in the midfield tomorrow there’s every chance to score points. If we do achieve points on the team’s debut, especially after the tough winter we’ve had, it would be fantastic so that’s absolutely our aim.

“Jolyon spent particular time in the simulator last week to prepare for this circuit as it’s a new one for him. He’s really enjoyed being out there and that’s showed; he’s done a great job so far, especially given that it’s his first GP weekend, a new circuit for him, and there are new qualifying rules. Kevin unfortunately was in a bit of dirty air from traffic on his Q2 lap but really, we were on scrubbed tyres and fighting each other.

“We had to approach it with a completely different mentality compared to the old system and we spent a long time working out what was best to maximise our performance. We felt we were going to be on the Q1 cut-off so it worked out pretty well for us today.

“The weather should be similar to today, with less chance of rain but still cool and overcast. Everyone is likely to be racing on tyres one step softer than previous seasons so there is a good chance we’ll see more pit stops than in the last two years.”

Ferrari

Qualifying was a big disappointment for Ferrari after Vettel had been within two-tenths of Mercedes in FP3. As the Mercedes went out for second runs in Q3, Ferrari elected not to do likewise and to save tyres for the race. Raikkonen also did just one lap, and said he was struggling to get his front tyres up to temperature.

Sebastian Vettel, 3rd, 1:24.675

"In comparison to the Mercedes drivers we are a bit further behind than we expected, but we are happy with 3rd and 4th, especially for me as it was a bit difficult to find the rhythm in Qualifying. I felt quite good with the car in P3, but then it took some time to get back, and only in Q3 it really started to happen. I had a very good lap, and in the end, because the gap was quite big, I felt that my first lap had been good enough. There really wasn't another half a second in there, so we called it off, and saved a set of tires, although surely we would have loved to be closer. As for the qualifying format, I don't understand why all the people are so surprised now. It was going to happen, there were plenty of engineers and other brains that, basically, had sort of predicted what would happen. It was crazy at the beginning with all the cars lining up at the end of the pitlane, and everybody trying to set a lap time to avoid the risk of being eliminated. And then it was very quiet, same in Q2 and equally in Q3. So I don't think that it is more exciting, it's definitely the wrong way to go. Nothing has changed from what we had said a few weeks ago, but apparently somebody liked it, otherwise we wouldn't have had this format..."

Kimi Raikkonen, 4th, 1:25.033

"It was not the ideal qualifying, but not too bad either. The car feels pretty good, and even if the Mercedes are faster than us I don't think we should be too worried. I was struggling a bit with the front tires to get them working at the first three corners, but apart from that we had a very good package and it was getting better and better. Maybe for us it would have been better to have warmer conditions. The new qualifying format is obviously different, from a driver's point of view it's a slightly different feeling than it was before, but if you watch it on TV I think that there is a much bigger difference.I think today we did a good job as a team, this being the first time of the year. In Q3 we did have another set of tires available, but it wouldn't have changed a lot to go out, so we decided to keep it for the race. So far it's ok, it can always be better but we'll see what we can do tomorrow."

McLaren

Though they ended up only 12th and 13th, FP3 and qualifying were encouraging for McLaren. The Honda engine still lacks power, but the MP4-31 looked much better than it had in Spanish testing.

Fernando Alonso, 12th, 1:26.125

“The car was fantastic today. “I felt very comfortable and very happy with the performance of the car all weekend. We didn’t expect to be too fast here because our car is still limited in performance in certain areas. But we were more competitive than we anticipated, have some new things coming for in the next few races, and we’re looking to be stronger in the future.

“Perhaps we need to give the new qualifying system a bit more time. However, I believe it favours the strongest teams and is a bit unfair towards the less competitive teams.

“Because we’d used two sets of Supersofts in Q1 – where I finished third – we only had one chance to run in Q2. On my first run I felt competitive, I was 10th, running under the same conditions and on the same rubber as everyone else; I was only 1.2s off the Mercedes, which was a nice surprise, but then I had to sit in the garage and watch how quali developed, which was a bit sad.

“Of course, the top teams don’t need to use both sets of Supersoft tyres in Q1, so the onus is on us to get back to being a top team again, and only use up one set of Options in Q1. But maybe we should do what Moto GP did in qualifying last year – where the less competitive teams could use softer tyres in qualifying. In Formula 1, we’ve chosen to do the opposite.

“Tomorrow will be interesting – hopefully we can get both cars into the points.”

Jenson Button, 13th, 1:26.304

“Twelfth and 13th on the grid is slightly better than we expected before we came here.

“The car didn’t feel too bad, although I think people struggled with the drop in temperature between FP3 and qualifying. I enjoyed driving the car, although, at the end of Q2, we didn’t have any Supersoft tyres left, and weren’t quite quick enough.

“The only problem we encountered with the new qualifying regulations was in the pit-lane: the four cars behind us were being wheeled backwards into the garage at the same time as we were trying to stop in the box, change tyres and run again. It’s quite a narrow pit-lane here, so it turned into a bit of a mess.

“Winter testing was positive in terms of mileage, but less so in terms of pace, so we’re all positively surprised with how close we were to Williams and Force India. I actually believe we have a better race car than a qualifying car – which is a turnaround from last year – and our deployment is almost as good as anybody else’s, which will benefit us more in the races.

“Today isn’t too bad a starting point – much better than where we were this time last year.”

Eric Boullier, McLaren-Honda Racing Director

“Today’s qualifying hour was exciting for the first few minutes of Q1, but it then petered out very disappointingly.

“Like many of my opposite-numbers within other teams, on behalf of our sport, I have to say I’m saddened that the new qualifying format produced such a lacklustre spectacle.

“As regards our own form, well, 12th and 13th isn’t much to write home about, but, having qualified in the middle of Q2, we have freedom of choice re tyres for tomorrow, so we’ll now move on from a day that did our sport no favours and crunch data in an effort to optimise our race strategy.

“Encouragingly, both our drivers reported that our car felt very nice, and that its balance allowed them to push it in the way that all racing drivers hope for of a good racing car. So MP4-31 is clearly well conceived, and its development will continue apace.

“In the meantime, as I say, let’s see what tomorrow brings.”

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

“Today's performance shows great progress from our results in the Barcelona test, and we had a good, solid run from this afternoon's FP3 through to qualifying. The new qualifying format and the tyre allocation made it tricky for us to strategise, and, although we may have had the potential to move on to Q3, we finished the session in P12 and P13.

“Both drivers are satisfied with the car, which is a positive for the team, and hopefully we can be in a position to score some points at the end of the race.”

Mercedes

Hamilton was fastest for Mercedes in both FP3 and qualifying. The world champion said he was delighted with his car and that it behaved really strongly. Rosberg seemed less at ease. He was ragged in Q1 and on his first run in Q3, when Hamilton dominated him.

Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:23.837

"I have to take my hat off to the team. What they’ve done to raise the bar once more, for the third year in a row, really inspires and motivates me. I really enjoyed driving the car in qualifying today. We got the setup just right and they were some sexy laps! They felt so good – flowing nicely with no real mistakes. That’s all you can hope for – to always improve – and that’s what we’ve done, so I’m very happy. There’s still a lot of work left to do tonight and especially tomorrow, though. There’s a lot more studying for us drivers with the changes to the radio rules. We can’t be told if the strategy is changing through the race, so we have to be able to anticipate what’s happening if you end up in a different situation than expected. I’m excited. It’s a new thing and I hope it adds to the spectacle. I highly doubt it… but we shall see."

Nico Rosberg, 2nd, 1:24.197

"We have to be careful, as it’s very early days. But I have to say it’s very impressive how the team has come out as the quickest here by a good margin for the third year in a row. It’s amazing to see, as the risk when you’re dominating is that you start to become complacent. It’s a big risk too – one that we’ve seen before – but everyone seems to be pushing on through. Of course, I’m not happy with second place today. My last lap in Q3 was good – but Lewis just did a better job, so that’s it. Still, there are a lot of opportunities starting from P2 so I’m looking forward to the race."

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"First, it’s good to finally be back on track – especially with our cars on the front row after all the hard work over the winter. Congratulations to the whole team on a top job – and to Lewis on an impressive pole. Second, we need to look at the qualifying format again. I’m the first person to say that we shouldn’t talk the sport down but when the evidence is there before your eyes, you cannot shut them and deny reality. The new format is pretty rubbish – much too complicated to follow and a damp squib at the end with nobody running. These were the downsides that we expected to see – and they outweigh the upsides, that much is clear now. We wanted to listen to the promoters who were calling for a change – but my personal opinion is that we have found the wrong solution and we need to think carefully about what we do next."

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

"As I said before the weekend, qualifying here is the most important hour of the year. It’s where you really see what kind of car you’ve got for the season and the first time you meet your competitors head on, on the limit, at maximum power and minimum weight. So, it’s been a very tense build-up to this session as always – and a hugely satisfying conclusion to see that we have a quick car once again. Congratulations today go to everyone at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart, who have been involved in this project over many months, for a tremendous achievement. Both drivers put in good laps today and the forecast is looking better for tomorrow, so we look forward to a good race."

Force India

It took Force India a while to find their rhythm, and neither driver was quite able to break into the top eight, but like Williams, free tyre choice could yet prove the ace up their sleeves.

Sergio Perez, 9th, 1:25.753

“I am happy about today's result. The team did a great job and I think it's a very positive way to begin the season. Starting ninth gives us many more options in terms of the strategy because we can choose the tyres for our first stint. This could be one of the key aspects of the race so it’s good to be in this position.

“As for the new qualifying system, we need to see how the fans react. I think it’s a system that favours the big teams and puts more pressure on the middle of the grid because any mistake during your lap means you will almost certainly be eliminated. You don't have any opportunity to go out again and improve your time, which adds a lot of pressure - much more on us than on bigger teams. It's not just pressure for the drivers, it is for everyone in the team, also the mechanics and engineers - you're in a race against the clock just for the opportunity to get another lap in.

“We still have question marks about how the race will unfold, but I think pretty much everyone on the grid is in the same position because of the limited running in the dry. It will be an interesting Sunday and we have the potential to score good points.”

Nico Hulkenberg, 10th, 1:25.865

“The new qualifying format didn’t really change my approach, although you are certainly under more pressure to deliver a good first run to avoid being at risk of dropping out early. So your first runs in Q1 and Q2 are probably the most important of the day.

“In terms of the result, I’m pretty happy with tenth and it’s more or less in the ballpark of what we felt we could achieve today. Under last year’s rules it would have taken us through to Q3, but with the new format it’s actually a really good place to start because it opens up some nice strategy options with the free tyre choice for the start of the race.

“There are still a few unknowns for tomorrow, especially in terms of race pace because nobody was able to do their usual long run programmes yesterday. Also, the first race always has the potential to be unpredictable and eventful. I expect a tough race because the grid is very tight, but I want to come away with some big points.”

Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal

“I think the whole team can be satisfied to see our cars lining up on the fifth row of the grid for the first race of the season. It has been quite an unusual and disjointed weekend in the lead up to qualifying, so to come through that and qualify inside the top ten is a good achievement. The new qualifying system didn’t really impact on our approach to the session and probably didn’t change too much in the end. Going into the session we knew that ninth and tenth would represent a good result, especially given the strategic options it opens up. The task now is to convert today’s performance into solid points tomorrow afternoon.”

Williams

Massa ran strongly all day and was pretty pleased with sixth overall, but Bottas went wide at the end of his best lap and lost the time that might have seen him get through to Q3. The Finn, however, has the potential advantage of free tyre choice for tomorrow, which might help.

Felipe Massa, 6th, 1:25.458

"It was a good qualifying. I managed to qualify the best I could, but unfortunately lost out on fifth place by a very small gap. That is the only negative point. I did some good laps and the car behaves well, so I am happy. It is tricky, and not easy, going through the session knowing the countdown is on every few minutes. Fortunately, I didn’t have any problems on my laps, but if you go out in traffic and you have any problems, it could be a lot closer that it was today."

Valtteri Bottas, 11th, 1:25.961

"It was a disappointing session. I was struggling with grip today, so we need to have a look to see if we got everything out of the tyres, the pressure and temperatures. I was hoping to get to Q3, but tomorrow is a new day and from 11th it is still possible to have a good race."

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering

"We planned this qualifying much more extensively than we would have done with the old regulations. One of the messages we kept giving to the drivers, was there are a few simple rules of this qualifying that we need to get our head around and we managed to do that quite well. We made sensible choices throughout and ended up in a reasonable positon. It is certainly much more complicated than the previous qualifying system, and needs a lot more thinking. But as long as you get those few golden rules right, then you’re alright. As for the performance of the car, it was a little bit unfortunate that Valtteri was unable to get through to Q3, but overall the drivers have done a good job. The car is a great baseline. We thought we’d be in that third position in winter testing, and that has more or less proved to be the case. It is very tight between us, Red Bull and Toro Rosso. Now, we need to get our head down and get a little more development, and that is all happening to get ourselves into a more solid third position. We can definitely race from here tomorrow. Valtteri is actually in a good position in P11, because he has a free choice of tyres, so that strategy is wide open for him. Felipe is further up the grid, but having to start on his Q2 supersoft tyres. We did a bit of homework on the race strategy and ticked off a few boxes we needed to understand during FP3, so we are in a reasonably good shape going into the race and hopefully we can come out with some good points."

Red Bull

Ricciardo thought that P8 was pretty much where they had expected to be, but Kvyat didn’t reckon on P18. The Russian blamed traffic on his first lap, and then the tyre drop-off on the second.

Daniel Ricciardo, 8th, 1:25.589

“To make it into Q3 is good, we expected to more or less be in the top eight. Another tenth would have probably given us a couple of more positions, but that’s always the way. As for the new qualifying system, Q1 and Q2 seemed okay, the clock ticking down added a bit more pressure and it might have been a bit more exciting for the fans, but Q3 didn’t seem to work as well, it was a bit weird to have the session still going and all the drivers out of their cars.”

Daniil Kvyat, 18th, 1:28.006

"Of course it’s frustrating to be P18 but we will learn from what we have done today. My first lap was compromised by traffic so I had to give it up, and on the second push lap the tyres lost a lot of performance so it wasn’t enough. It’s a new system and someone had to get it wrong and today it was us but we have plenty of things to analyse from our short life in Q1. I will do my best to go through the field tomorrow, definitely. It’s not going to be enjoyable to start from P18 but it’s a long race and we have to try and squeeze everything out of it and bring some points home."

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“For me, this new qualifying system did not work and really we should apologise to the fans. We have not put on a show for them at all today which is a shame, especially for the first race of the season. It’s not good for qualifying to be done with five minutes to go, drivers and cars need to be out on track fighting for pole up until the last second. We should accept that we tried it, it didn’t work and the important thing is we learn from it and address it quickly. Qualifying needs to build up to a crescendo, not what we saw here today.”

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso were able to show the true potential of their STR11, as Verstappen and Sainz got through to Q3 easily and qualified a career-best fifth and seventh respectively.

Max Verstappen, 5th, 1:25.434

“It was a good qualifying session, especially after FP3, where I was struggling a bit with the car. We managed to turn it around and to be P5 – a career best – here in Melbourne is a great achievement by the whole team! If I’m honest, I’m a bit surprised with the result – I thought Q3 was maybe possible, but to be here in P5 is definitely a better result than we expected. I think this new qualifying system is quite tricky because you only have one lap to perform, but I liked it. Over the winter the team did a great job and now we need to enjoy this moment and get ready for tomorrow’s race. I’m definitely looking forward to it!”

Carlos Sainz, 7th, 1:25.582

“We can be happy with our first qualifying session of the season – a P5 and a P7 here in Australia is a great result for the team! I’m pleased with my starting position and even though in Q3 I wasn’t able to repeat a strong lap like I did in Q2, a P7 is a good starting point for tomorrow’s race. The car feels really good and the hard work we’ve done over the winter is starting to pay off. It was quite a hectic and tricky session for us, but we hope the fans enjoyed this new format. We’ve got good pace and our objective tomorrow will be to hopefully go forward and score as many points as possible. We need to aim for that top seven, and I’m certainly looking forward to that challenge, it will be a fun race!”

James Key, Technical Director

“There were a lot of unknowns going into today in many respects. Firstly, it was not until today that we were able to run in dry conditions, so there was much to learn for all teams. Secondly, a new qualifying format and finally and most difficult to predict, to know exactly where everyone was, because winter testing is so difficult to predict. I think we did the right thing in free practice by trying to get some race data early on, as many other teams did, because clearly we were missing a lot of information due to yesterday’s weather conditions. This gave us some valuable data for tomorrow. The good news also is that the car seemed to be well balanced on the super-soft tyres for qualifying during the FP3 runs, so we were quite encouraged by that. Although Max wasn’t that satisfied with the balance of his car in this morning’s FP3, Carlos was reasonably happy and did a good and competitive lap time. For qualifying, we didn’t know how best to approach it, but we followed our plan and I have to say it worked pretty well. Both drivers did what we needed from them of their first timed lap in Q1. As a precaution, we sent Carlos out again but in the end we didn’t need to. That meant he needed to survive in the first part of Q2 with a used set of tyres, which he did well. Max was on new tyres and the second run for both of them in Q2 put them through quite safely into Q3. With only eight cars being up there, it was great to see that we could achieve it with both of our cars. A P5 for Max is an excellent result, and a P7 is also great for Carlos, even though I feel a little sorry for him because his Q2 lap was extremely competitive and sadly he didn’t quite get that lap time in Q3. I think the track was a bit slower but we know that we could’ve been on the third row today with both drivers, and I think Carlos deserved to be there. I’d also like to say thank you to the whole team for such a good job – it’s a very well deserved result after an extremely busy winter!”

Sauber

Like all the other early fallers, the Sauber drivers were denied potentially faster laps as their 90-second windows expired.

Marcus Ericsson, 16th, 1:27.435

“It was a decent qualifying. The driving felt good having a well-balanced car. The team did a good job despite the limited running yesterday. We expected that it would be very tight in Q1. We were close to Q2, but it was not close enough. Tomorrow we do our best to fight for points.”

Felipe Nasr, 17th, 1:27.958

“It was a tricky qualifying for us. The whole grid is competitive, and we know we still have a lot of work to do from our side. For the race I am confident we can move up some positions. It is a pity that I went out with a new set of supersoft tyres and could not have another flying lap as I ran out of time, but this is part of the new qualifying regime.”

Haas

Haas didn’t get their timing right and their two drivers were eliminated after the Manor duo in Q1. Both were on much quicker laps at the time, however. Notable in FP3 was the collision Grosjean had with Haryanto in the pit road, when the Manor was released unsafely into the Haas’ path. The Frenchman lost time as his floor was repaired.

Romain Grosjean, 19th, 1:28.322

“I was on a good lap and then suddenly I’m out. I don’t even get a chance to go to the end of the lap. That’s annoying because the car was good, our baseline is good, and in terms of performance, we were clearly able to go through. We just missed a bit of speed on the turnaround in the garage, so we were massively out of position. This is one of those races where it’s tricky and you need to finish. That’s our first call for tomorrow though. That’s what Gene (Haas, chairman) wants. From there, everything is possible. It’s a long race and we have new rules with the radio ban, so we just have to try to use the experience.”

Esteban Gutierrez, 20th, 1:29,606

“It was a little frustrating not to see the lap time we achieved reflected in the results. However, we know the potential is there. Overall, I think we’ve had a very tricky weekend, but with more time we’ll become more efficient as a team. The good thing is we know the lap time was good enough to be further up the grid. Looking ahead, we need to be positive, to keep working hard and moving forward.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“I think I’ve never been happy and unhappy at the same time. Today showed the potential of the car, but we were unable to use it because when we went out we made a few mistakes. Our first lap didn’t stick, and when we went out again we missed out by a few seconds. However, now we know where everyone is, so tomorrow in the race we’ll try to do the best we can to get up there. It was a challenging weekend to get here, but we didn’t do anything completely wrong, which is a success for us as a new team. Now we look forward to the race, and I can’t wait.”

Manor

Manor did what they could and neither driver complained about their laps, but the timing didn’t work out to get two clear ones and they were the first two to be eliminated in Q1. Haryanto did well to out-qualify fellow rookie Wehrlein, especially as the latter had been a star of the early going in FP3.

Rio Haryanto, 21st, 1:29.627

“After the previous Q1 system of having 20 minutes to extract the best from the car and driver, it felt pretty strange to have such a short qualifying. Today we only had time for one lap. It wasn’t a bad lap either, but it also wasn’t perfect. I could have been quicker and that’s what we’ll have to work on but even with a tenth or so to play with we would still have been out of time. Still, I completed my first qualifying, learned a lot and my job is to keep improving in every area. Tomorrow is my first F1 race and I’m very excited for that. I’m sure we can have a better day.”

Pascal Wehrlein, 22nd, 1:29.642

“Not the result I was hoping for but I can’t complain; the system is the system. This was our first shot at it and we’ll have to find a way to improve. The window is incredibly tight so while my lap time is key, we have to work hard to optimise the strategy to see where we can gain extra time. I don’t think there was too much more we could have done today on the first time out, so we’ll have to take it step by step to make it better. Tomorrow is where it really counts though. I’ve waited a long time for this moment so as disappointed as I am today, nothing will take the shine away from lining up on the grid for the first time.”

Dave Ryan, Racing Director

“A thought-provoking initiation for the new qualifying format, that’s for sure. We left the pits per plan, tried to give ourselves the right amount of gap to minimise traffic and were working towards two consecutive timed laps. We were baulked by the Sauber on the second lap and that cost us time, but the bottom line is we have some work to do in every area to optimise our performance - with the car, our drivers and operationally. It’s about putting all the pieces together better. This is the system we have to work with now and though it has divided opinion today, I don’t think we should rush to judgment just yet; it will take a couple more races to see if it delivers against the objectives. For now though, I think we can feel slightly more positive about the race. Our long run pace has been promising and we have clearly made a good step with closing the gap to the other teams. Hopefully tomorrow will give us a better opportunity to understand by how much.”

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

“More so than ever, today was all about learning and thinking on your feet. The teams headed into a brand new qualifying format with relatively little tyre data, as a result of the rain that limited running yesterday. More detailed work was done in the dry conditions of FP3 today, with some drivers only trying the supersoft compound for the first time. When it came to qualifying, the aim of the game hasn’t fundamentally changed: it’s still to get through the session using as few sets of tyres as possible. However, we already saw a number of different ways of achieving that goal, which will make for some interesting strategies tomorrow: especially for those outside the top eight, who will have a free choice of starting tyres.”