Technical problems for Ericsson limited his running in FP3, but nonetheless both drivers managed to scrap their way into Q2, an improvement on Bahrain.
Marcus Ericsson, 15th, 1:40.742
“I am glad we are back with the qualifying format from last year. With both cars in Q2 that was a step in the right direction. This is something we should be pleased about. In Q1 especially this was a very good effort from me making it to P13. For the race tomorrow we should have some good chances and be fighting for one or two points, because the long runs on Friday were quite promising.”
Felipe Nasr, 16th, 1:42.430
“First of all, I was happy we went back to the old qualifying format, which gave us another opportunity to run an extra set of new tyres. I feel like I did a pretty good lap, although I am still experiencing some issues with breaking, as I have done in the previous events. I am confident the team will solve the issue very soon. The race could be interesting with all the tyre choices, especially seeing how quickly the supersoft is degrading.”
Haas struggled for pace, with Gutierrez exiting in Q1 and Grosjean never challenging in Q2. On a track famous for its tyre wear, the F1 newcomers will be hoping a clever strategy might score them points for the third consecutive race.
Romain Grosjean, 14th, 1:39.830
“I think the car is better than it was yesterday, and we were much closer in terms of lap times. That’s a positive. We were very unlucky with that red flag at the end of Q2. We didn’t get to run a new set in Q2, so here we are. Not the best position but tomorrow, the race is long. The tyre degradation is huge, so we’ll try to get the best from that. Not an easy weekend for us between FP1, which was non-stop red flags for various reasons, then FP3 being wet. Everything’s been made a little complicated for us. Tomorrow is a different day, but not ideal today.”
Esteban Gutierrez, 18th, 1:38.770
“It was quite a tricky session in the beginning. I was planning to do as many laps as I could as, basically, it was the first time I was out running on track. It was very difficult to get up to speed. I did my best with the conditions. Our focus now is on the race tomorrow and getting the best out of the car.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“A very exciting qualifying. It was good to be back to the old system. For us it was the first time with this format, so we had a few hiccups, but in the end we got out OK. Our starting position for Romain is alright, P14. Unfortunately, Esteban didn’t make it into Q2, so he will begin P18. I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow and hope it will be as exciting as qualifying has been. I’m sure it will be with the tyres playing a big role here, so I think it’s going to make for a great race.”
Palmer lost time in FP3 after a rear puncture, and neither he nor Magnussen had the speed to challenge in qualifying.
Kevin Magnussen, 17th, 1:38.673
“It’s been a tricky weekend so far here in China; this afternoon was the first time I’d driven the car round the circuit in the dry. I think that I did a decent first qualifying lap and I was able to improve a little bit on my second run. We were so close to being in Q2 today and that is frustrating as I think that we should have been there in under more normal circumstances but this is where we are at the moment. We know that things will only get better and we are aiming to improve step by step. I hope that we can have a good race tomorrow with a solid pace and fight in the midfield. Let’s see, I’ll be going for it.”
Jolyon Palmer, 19th, 1:39.528
“The car felt ok on the first run but it was still a bit damp and I was quite cautious. The second run was a struggle, with a real lack of grip. I didn’t have such problems yesterday or this morning so we need to try and understand where the loss of performance is coming from between myself and the team. For tomorrow, normally the race pace is a bit better than our qualifying speed but we’re still starting near the back and that makes things challenging.”
Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director
"It was a frustrating qualifying session for the team. The result doesn’t reflect where we want to be – we want to be quicker and further up the grid. We know that improvements will come but it will take time and we need to keep working hard.
"It was particularly frustrating for Kevin today because of the lack of running he did yesterday, then FP3 was wet this morning. His first dry laps were in qualifying this afternoon. When Jolyon did his qualifying lap, he had a good first sector and was running well until halfway through the second sector when he then felt that the balance of the car wasn’t there. This meant he didn’t set a time good enough to make it through to Q2 unfortunately.
"We have been very close to scoring points in the last couple of races with good strategies and racing better than we qualified so of course our aim will be to get our cars as far as we can and get into the points.
"Certainly for Kevin who hadn’t driven in the dry. It was a real disadvantage for him. Jolyon drove quite a bit in the dry yesterday so it was a matter of preparing the car in case qualifying was going to be wet."
Eclipsed by their sister team, Toro Rosso had a quiet day. Both Sainz and Verstappen were comfortable in qualifying in the top ten, with Sainz winning the intra-team battle.
Carlos Sainz, 8th, 1:36.881
“I’m happy with my qualifying today as I’d say we couldn’t have got much more out of the car. It’s true that I lost a bit of time in the last sector, but to start from P8 tomorrow is not a bad result and we will try and go forward in the race. All in all, I’m also satisfied to have finally put a good qualifying session together from start to end this year, as during the previous two in Australia and Bahrain it’s something that I hadn’t been able to do yet. I think that tomorrow’s race is going to be very interesting strategy wise and I hope to fight for good points.”
Max Verstappen, 9th, 1:37.194
“I think we’ve qualified in quite a good position for tomorrow, and to get into Q3 is always good. Of course, you always hope for more, but today it didn’t really all come together unfortunately. The conditions out there were quite tricky: the car felt a bit different compared to yesterday and the track was a bit more slippery. However, we are in the top 10 and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s race.”
James Key, Technical Director
“A very eventful day. Today’s qualifying was an exciting session, with a lot going on. I think we come away happy to have both cars through to top ten relatively easily but a little bit frustrated that we didn’t really pull it together with the final runs in Q3. Both cars lost quite a bit of time in the third sector during their final run, which means that we are 8th and 9th when I think we could’ve been a little bit higher than that. We clearly need to look into this and understand what happened, but it’s history now and our immediate priority is to move on and concentrate on preparation for the race. There are several strategies that need to be considered given the combination of tyres available so there may be some different approaches tomorrow. It’s also a bit difficult to predict because conditions look like they will be pretty warm so we will need to consider how this may affect the tyres and what implications there are for our plans”
An extremely contrasting day in the Mercedes garage. Whilst Rosberg grabbed a superb pole, Hamilton's qualifying never got going after a technical problem meant he was unable to set a time in Q3. Starting last, it will be a case of trying to salvage as many points as possible for the reigning world champion.
Nico Rosberg, 1st, 1:35.402
"It's great to have my first pole of the year. It's always best to be able to start your race from the front and I'm very happy to have that opportunity again. Of course, it's not good that Lewis' car broke down and a shame that we couldn't battle for pole. We definitely need to investigate this as a team but, in any case, I'm sure he will fight his way through the field tomorrow. I made a few mistakes on my first effort in Q3 but my final lap was pretty good. Saying that, Kimi said he made a mistake on his last lap, so with that in consideration I don't believe the gap is as big as it seemed on the timesheet today. On Friday the Ferraris were on the same level as us, so we must be prepared for a strong challenge from the red cars. In the race we could see some surprises. There will be a lot of different strategies, so there's a long way to go yet. But I'm feeling good in the car and looking forward to a battle."
Lewis Hamilton, 22nd, no time
"Of course, it's disappointing not to get out there today. It was going to be a tough weekend anyway with the grid penalty. But these things are sent to try us. No-one wants it easy - at least I know I don't. We might be in the mud right now - but we'll dig our way out. We've got a great car and the team are doing a great job. There are areas we can improve but it's still early in the season and I know we'll get there. It's important that nobody lets their head drop. The best thing we can do is learn from it and move on. I'm sure the guys are just as gutted as I am - but what will be, will be. We win and lose together, so we'll work hard to figure out what happened and try to make sure it doesn't happen again. The positive news is that you can overtake here and the car is quick, so hopefully we can get it fixed for tomorrow and have a good race. I've been in this position before. I came from the back of the grid to the podium in Hungary two years ago, so anything is possible. The tyres don't last as well here, so it's perhaps not as simple as it was in that race. But, of course, I'll give it everything I've got to try to get back up as far as I can. We'll at least get into the points and then I'll see what I can do from there. It's never over until it's over..."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"It was a really bittersweet day for us. Nico did a monster lap in Q3 - he saved it all for his final run and really did a fantastic job to put the car on pole. But I'm sorry for Lewis. He had an uphill battle with his gearbox penalty and that became a mountain to climb after he wasn't able to do a timed lap during qualifying. It was interesting to see that the old qualifying format actually delivered a pretty mixed-up grid today: Daniel Ricciardo will be starting from the front row and hopefully he can make his car pretty wide, because we definitely didn't see the full pace from the Ferrari drivers in Q3. There will be a mix of tyre strategies at the front, with Nico starting on the soft compound, those around him on supersoft, and Lewis charging from the back. There will be plenty to keep an eye on tomorrow afternoon. The first key point will be the start and we have seen already this season that the new rules are making things much more variable from race to race. There will be lots of opportunities to do something different on strategy, so I think we should expect an action-packed afternoon."
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
"A very eventful qualifying session. We erred on the side of caution with an exploratory first lap on the intermediate tyre. But, as it turned out, the track was almost entirely dry from the outset - with the exception of two patches along the start / finish straight. During that initial out lap, a problem unfortunately occurred on Lewis' car which we later identified as a failure of the MGU-H. It's a shame for Lewis and we apologise to him for setting his weekend back. With one car remaining, we used the supersoft to get Nico through an unpredictable Q1 session and then ran the soft for his first run in Q2. The logic here was to then have the soft as a hoped-for race tyre in the event he could pull out a good enough lap to make it into Q3. He did that in impressive style, which stands him in good stead for tomorrow. In the Q3 shootout, Nico made a few errors on his first run but put together a fantastic lap on his second, taking a well-deserved pole. It will be an interesting race tomorrow, with Nico on a different compound to the cars around him and Lewis starting from the back. We still remain hopeful of getting both cars on to the podium, so that's the target."
Having looked strong in free practice, Ferrari must have hoped to challenge for pole. It briefly looked as though Raikkonen had done enough after his first run, with Vettel opting to have just the one attempt. But faultless last laps from Rosberg and Ricciardo - and errors from the men in red - left the Scuderia drivers sharing the second row.
Kimi Raikkonen, 3rd, 1:35.972
"It's more of a disappointment than anything else: today we had the chance of getting a better result. I don't know if pole position could have been possible, but for sure we could have easily been second fastest. In the second last corner I ran wide and lost a lot of time. The position could have been much worse after that mistake, but we still have third place, which is not such a bad starting point for the race. It's hard to predict what will happen tomorrow, it will depend on so many factors, the weather and the different tactics from the teams. In the race things are different: we'll try to do our maximum, be the fastest and see where it brings."
Sebastian Vettel, 4th, 1:36.246
"I don't think I deserved to be in the top three today. We saved tyres, so we start tomorrow on supersofts. I thought I could make it in the last lap, but my only run wasn't special overall. I asked too much from my tyres already at the beginning and then I did a couple of small mistakes here and there, which cost me a lot of lap time. So in the end my run was not so good, but this is how it is and we can't change it now. All in all, I think it has been a good weekend for us so far, and I think tomorrow it can be even better. Race strategies are different from one team to another, which is interesting. Maybe we can have already a shoot at the start, the one we had in Australia was very good so perhaps we can repeat it. Our target is to go forward from where we are..."
Both drivers through to Q3 was a good result for Force India, who had a poor race last time out in Bahrain. However, their day was marred by Hulkenberg's left wheel coming loose towards the end of Q2, resulting in a red flag. As a result, Hulkenberg was unable to run in Q3 and the stewards handed him a three-place grid penalty.
Sergio Perez, 7th, 1:36.865
“I am very happy with the car’s performance this afternoon. Even this morning, in the rain, we looked really competitive and to finish the day in seventh place is a result that shows the potential of our car. We made some steps forward with the balance overnight and we saw the result of that today. The track was slippery in places and it was very easy to make mistakes, but we kept our focus and came away with the result we deserved. It should be an interesting race tomorrow, with a few different strategic choices, and I am optimistic about scoring some good points. Tyre degradation will be one of the key factors in the race, but I feel we have a good understanding of all the compounds and can choose the right strategy.”
Nico Hülkenberg, 10th, 1:37.333
“To be honest I don’t know what happened. We all saw that the wheel came off, but why and how, I don’t know. It was attached properly when we left the garage because everything felt normal. It didn’t feel loose and there was no indication from the steering. When it came off, it happened suddenly, but I was at low speed and could park the car quickly and safely. It’s disappointing because we’ve been competitive here this weekend and I would have liked to be out there during Q3. The race tomorrow is going to be interesting and hopefully things will work out a bit better than today.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer
“We’ve looked competitive here in all conditions so it was good to see both cars inside the top ten this afternoon. Sergio had a clean session and delivered a good lap in the final moments of Q3 to secure seventh on the grid. It was disappointing to see the issue with Nico’s wheel towards the end of Q2, which prevented him from going out in the final part of qualifying. It’s unusual to see a wheel come off and we need to investigate the issue further to understand exactly what happened. Looking ahead to the race tomorrow, I think we have every reason to be optimistic of scoring points. Hopefully, a clean race will allow us to show the true potential of our car and fight towards the front.”
A stunning final Q3 lap from Ricciardo to grab a place on the front row was somewhat unexpected, not least by the Australian. Nonetheless, the RB12 has looked quick all weekend and Kvyat will also fancy his chances from sixth.
Daniel Ricciardo, 2nd, 1:35.917
“Compared to last year we’ve certainly got a bit more from the power unit. We’ve seen the trend in the first couple of races and the deficit hasn’t been as big as last year on the straights but I didn’t expect to be standing here unless it was a wet qualifying. To be front row in the dry is pretty cool. A few people joked saying it’s the haircut so maybe that’s what it is: aerodynamic. The positive is that Nico’s on the Soft and we’re obviously starting on the Super Soft, so the start should be interesting. Hopefully we’ll battle the Ferraris for the podium. New or old qualifying system, we seem to be competitive so that’s nice.”
Daniil Kvyat, 6th, 1:36.399
"I’m quite happy with today’s qualifying, P6 is my best qualifying so far this season and I think we have found our rhythm. I think what cost us a little bit of time is I did my best lap on scrubbed set of Options, so I think there is a little more time to be found there. Daniel did a good lap to qualify P2, it’s a good result for the team. It should be an interesting race tomorrow, hopefully we can fight for a podium, but we will see what the race brings."
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“An absolutely blistering performance by Daniel, none of us could’ve dreamt of a front row start in the dry at this circuit, so to be lining up on the front row, alongside Rosberg, is probably one of Daniel’s best ever qualifying performances. Dany did a solid job to start on the third row of the grid, another tenth and he would’ve been ahead of the Williams. It was a good team performance today and hopefully we can turn that into a decent race result tomorrow.”
Some bad luck here in qualifying- both Button and Alonso saved fresh tyres for a final run in Q2, which they were unable to complete due to the red flag. They certainly felt that Q3 might have been on the cards for the first time this season.
Fernando Alonso, 12th, 1:38.826
“I think both Jenson and I could have got through to Q3 today: we had the pace, and we had been saving tyres and engine ready to go for it… until the red flag ended the session.
“It was massively frustrating not to be able to complete my final lap in Q2 – there really was a lot of potential in the car today.
“Let’s put it into further perspective: not too many races ago, we were just making it into Q2, now we’re frustrated not to be in Q3. That’s definitely a good direction in which to be heading.
“Finally, I slept like a baby last night: 10 hours without waking up once. Today I was full of energy. When I’m in the car, I still feel a small something through the corners and over the bumps, but I didn’t take any pain-killers today.”
Jenson Button, 13th, 1:39.093
“Ironically, although it was neither successful nor popular, the qualifying system we used in the first two races of the year would probably have been better for us today!
“However, it’s just one of those things: we ran used Options [tyres] for our first Q2 run, then we waited until the circuit was at its best before fitting new tyres. Like a few others, we were caught out by the Q2 red flag, which was frustrating.
“Being just outside the top 10 has its positive side though: we can choose our starting tyre, and there are plenty of options with the three different compounds.
“The damp patch in Q1 was a little bit scary on slick tyres – I think a lot of people therefore kept their DRS closed, which is what we did. You don’t have any control of the car in those situations, but I still don’t think we needed the red flag.
“And, by the way, in the next few races, we will get through to Q3!”
Eric Boullier, racing director
“It’s a telling testament to our hearteningly inexorable advancement that, after qualifying today, we find ourselves disappointed not to have made it through to Q3 with either car.
“Undoubtedly, but for the red flag triggered by Nico’s [Hulkenberg] mishap, both Fernando and Jenson would have been comfortably inside the top 10.
“So, although we’re always wary of over-promising, it’s undeniable that we’re a team very much on the move.
“Working hard, together with Honda, we’re getting there; and, what’s more, we’re enjoying the journey.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd head of F1 project & executive chief engineer
“Though FP3 was a mixed session due to the changing weather conditions, the team was able to setup the car nicely for this afternoon’s qualifying.
“Throughout both Q1 and Q2 sessions, we were able show the potential of the car, and both Fernando and Jenson were looking strong contenders for Q3.
“Therefore, it was massively disappointing to see both cars having to abort their final flying laps through no fault of their own. Tomorrow’s weather looks to be stable and dry, so hopefully we can show our race pace and finish in the points.”
An early bold call by Manor to put both drivers onto supersoft tyres on a drying track didn't quite pay dividends. Wehrlein hit a bump and a puddle simultaneously and spun off into the barriers. Haryanto managed to keep his car on track to qualify 20th.
Rio Haryanto, 20th, 1:40.264
“I’m not so happy with my lap today. Yesterday we were quite competitive and in the mix with Sauber but today this wasn’t the case. It was difficult to get the tyre up to temperature because we’d already completed a lap before the red flag. We’ll need to look at how much of a factor that was for us when we examine the data this evening. Our race pace looked good in free practice yesterday so I’m still positive for tomorrow.”
Pascal Wehrlein, 21st, no time
“The track was pretty dry by the start of qualifying and so slicks was the right choice. There’s a bump on the start-finish straight and behind that a patch of water, which I hit, lost the rear and spun. It was very unexpected as everywhere else on the track was fine but difficult to see as it was hidden. I guess I was just unlucky as there was nothing I could do. The only fortunate thing is that I didn’t hit the Armco too hard; it could have been a much bigger job ahead of the race. I’m disappointed not to qualify but the race is another day and our pace looked good in practice yesterday. It’s not easy to start from the back but that’s what we did in Australia and things didn’t end so badly for me. We’ll see what tomorrow brings and for my part I’ll be giving it my best shot as always.”
Dave Ryan, Racing Director
“As Rio’s early performance on his opening run demonstrated, our decision to go early on the supersoft could have gone either way. Sadly with Pascal it didn’t go the way we wanted it to. We hadn’t used the supersoft all weekend so given the track was pretty much dry we thought it would be worthwhile doing our first run on that tyre early in the session to give us time to make any adjustments ahead of the second run. Unfortunately the bump we all knew about upset Pascal’s car such that combined with the wet track at that exact same point he was just a passenger; there was nothing he could do and unfortunately that was the end of qualifying for him. Rio’s lap had a better outcome thankfully, so it was just a bit of bad luck on Pascal’s part.
“We haven’t made things very easy for ourselves for tomorrow but as Australia and Bahrain showed, if you can get a good start and beat the back of the pack on the opening lap, there is still plenty to fight for. We’ve got a way to go to perfect our approach to qualifying but I’m hoping we can still enjoy a good race tomorrow.”
A disappointing day for Massa, who was another to fall victim to the late red flag in Q2. Bottas did make it through to Q3 and will hope for another strong start from fifth on the grid.
Valtteri Bottas, 5th, 1:36.296
“It was a good qualifying for me, and as a team I think fifth was the maximum position. It felt great to do the lap on my second run in Q3, it was clearly my best lap of the weekend, so that was a good feeling. It’s always nice to finish qualifying knowing you’ve made the most out of it and as a team I think we are in a good position for tomorrow.”
Felipe Massa, 11th, 1:37.347
“That’s not the position I wanted to have. I was a little bit unlucky with the red flag, but tomorrow in the race you never know. We have to try and do the best we can. I hope choosing the right tyres will have a positive effect, we will see tomorrow, but I’m not really happy with my position.”
Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering
“If we start with the positives, and I think there were plenty of them, it was a really great lap from Valtteri. He dragged the most out of the car and I’m very happy with that, as was he when he crossed the line. So that’s absolutely fantastic. We’ve actually moved up a bit, in respect to the frontrunners, as we’ve made up a bit of time through some good car changes here. They’re starting to pay dividends and help us learn more about the car. On the other hand, Felipe was desperately unlucky but we have a free tyre choice starting from 11th tomorrow.”
Paul Hembery, Motorsport Director
“The rain in the morning added a different dimension to the action today, complicating the strategy at what is already a complex race by depriving the teams of dry running before qualifying. That may have been one of the reasons why we saw such an action-packed qualifying today, with some incidents that have helped to shake up the grid for tomorrow, as we returned to the previous system of qualifying. The supersofts clearly have a speed advantage here, but there is scope for an interesting alternative strategy by starting on the soft, as Nico Rosberg has shown. There are a couple of potential three-stops winning strategies in play for the race: the teams will have to be reactive, so we expect to see a wide variety of different tactics in play.”