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What the teams said - qualifying in France

23 Jun 2018

A round-up of all the action from final practice and qualifying from the Formula 1 Pirelli Grand Prix de France 2018 at the Circuit Paul Ricard...

Mercedes

Hamilton looked the pick of the bunch yesterday and so it proved again today as he grabbed his third pole position of the season. Bottas was playing catch-up having lost running in the earlier practice sessions, so it was just as impressive that he grabbed second on the grid, running Hamilton close. They will be looking for just their second one-two of the season come race day.

Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:30.029

"I'm really happy with the pole, but I always strive for perfection and there was some time left on the track, so I still have stuff to work on. I was three tenths down in the first two sectors; but fortunately, I fixed my last sector and caught it back up. Leading the field is where I want to be, so it's great to be back on pole. The track is growing on me as well; the more you drive it, the more you get to enjoy it. This is one of the most beautiful places in the world and we have so many fans coming out here, so I'm hoping the weather is good tomorrow. Ferrari will start the race on the ultrasoft tyres, we're on the supersofts, so that should be interesting. We definitely pulled together and have done a better job so far this weekend, but it's going to be close tomorrow. So I will keep my head down and try to capitalise on all the hard work coming into the race."

Valtteri Bottas, 2nd, 1:30.147

"We were strong today, the team did a really good job. I myself got an okay lap, but did not yet get a perfect lap together. It felt like I was playing catch-up all day after I missed a lot of track time in FP2 track time in FP3 was limited for everyone. So I was still finding gains in every run throughout qualifying. In the end it was not quite perfect, but it was enough to get us a front-row lockout. The team has done an amazing job upgrading the car; every single upgrade, including the engine, helped to make the car better and the total package brought us the front row today. It seems like it might be difficult to overtake on this track, so it's very good to start from the front. We will see different strategies tomorrow, Ferrari will start on a softer tyre than and it will be interesting to see what effect that has. We have a good car and should have all the tools to fight for a 1-2 tomorrow and I'll do my best to fight for the win."

James Allison, Technical Director

"That was a slightly nerve-wracking qualifying session from the point of view of the weather, with the ever-present threat of rain, but a little less so from the perspective of our pace, as the car performed strongly with both drivers in all sessions. It is really good to have our second front-row lockout of the year and to be starting from the best possible position to remedy the disappointment of two weeks ago in Canada. This was also the first time during the weekend that we have allowed the new Power Unit to stretch its legs, and the hard work that has gone into it was a helpful part of our advantage today. We are pretty happy to be starting the race on the supersoft tyre but know from the analysis of Friday's long runs that the whole race will be a nip and tuck affair, so we are hoping for a clean run into the first corners tomorrow."

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"This sport is a rollercoaster of emotions and, after the blow we took two weeks ago in Montreal, it's fantastic to have both cars on the front row here in Paul Ricard. The team has put blood, sweat and tears into our development programmes over the past weeks and months - and this weekend's package is the first part of that work to come to fruition. The headline has been the new Power Unit, which has been a massive effort from all the team in Brixworth, but we are continuing to learn and improve in every area of how we run the car, and that work is starting to pay off. Having said all of that, we didn't come here expecting to put our cars first and second on the grid - it is so close this season between the top three teams that every detail counts, and I'm really proud of the work that we have done since being caught off guard in Montreal. But today is only Saturday - the points are given out tomorrow. There is uncertainty over the weather, and we have taken a different approach to tyre strategy compared to Ferrari, so there are plenty of questions to be answered before we can consider this a job well done."

Ferrari

Vettel admitted he could have extracted more from his car on his final flying lap, improving but not enough to challenge Mercedes ahead. His team mate fared worse - Raikkonen made mistakes on both his flying efforts and ended up abandoning his final run to finish sixth, where he will have his work cut out to get past the dogmatic Red Bull duo ahead.

Sebastian Vettel, 3rd, 1:30.400

“During the session it was getting better and better and I was more confident. So, I think today we can be happy with the third place. My last run was not spectacular, though, and I don’t think it was good enough to put me n the front row. After my first attempt in Q3, I had thought I could be closer to Mercedes and hoped to improve. But, unfortunately, in my last fast run I pushed a bit too much and made some mistakes here and there. Anyway, the car is good and we proved it. Let’s see what happens tomorrow, as we start with different tyre strategies. I think the car should be strong in the race.”

Kimi Raikkonen, 6th, 1:31.057

“My car was working well today and it was a pretty straightforward qualifying until my last run. I was not able to put a timed lap together in the whole of Q3. The first run was pretty decent, but then I went a bit sideways in turn 11, and lost time. After that I was not able to improve my lap time. For tomorrow we chose the strategy that we think is the best for us, but we have to wait and see. In other races we have seen people starting with different tyres and it did not change things from night to day. For sure tomorrow will be a challenging day.”

Red Bull

It was a solid day for Red Bull. Whilst they couldn't match Mercedes or Vettel's Ferrari they will be pleased to be ahead of Raikkonen. Ricciardo had looked the quicker of the two but in the end Verstappen out-qualified his team mate by 0.190s. They opted to qualify on the supersoft tyre too and thus will start the race on that more durable compound - unlike their rivals in red...

Daniel Ricciardo, 5th, 1:30.895

“We split the cars yesterday, on the downforce levels, with Max lower than me. It was pretty evenly matched yesterday but it looked like the low was worth trying. We put that on for this morning but with the weather we didn’t get to try it. We decided not to run in Qualifying with something we hadn’t tried yet, but we still had a lot of front wing in hand but I think by the end of Q1 we had already used every bit of it and we still had understeer. In other sessions you can do other things on the car but in quali your hands are tied so it was a frustrating day. For tomorrow come race time I’ll be confident but I think we’re going to be a little slow on the straights compared to the guys in front but if it rains then we might be the lucky dogs. I think the wet will make it interesting. In the dry on raw pace we are not quick enough to challenge Mercedes, but in the wet I think it will be exciting for the fans."

Max Verstappen, 4th, 1:30.705

“I don’t think we maximised the potential of the car in Qualifying today. I was struggling a bit with front grip which didn’t make it easy, but we still qualified in fourth. It would have been nice if it had continued raining all day but unfortunately it dried up just in time for the session. We can see that on the straights we are still down on speed compared to the Mercedes but also we didn’t have the balance of the car perfect, in the long corners we were losing time also. In the race I think we will have to wait and see. My race pace looks good but so does a lot of the others and coming to a new race means anything can happen. I start on the supersoft so Sebastian should have a bit more grip, this will make it a little tricky but hopefully we will go for longer on our tyres. All weekend we haven’t really had a reference as the track is new, there are still a lot of question marks ahead of tomorrow so we just have to wait and see what happens.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“Qualifying the cars in fourth and fifth probably delivered the best we could have expected here at Paul Ricard. After a morning session hampered by rain which restricted our running to almost nothing consequential, qualification on a fast-drying track meant that it was always going to be difficult to challenge our main rivals on the grid. With Max on the second row and Daniel just behind, and starting on the supersoft tyre as opposed to Sebastian on ultrasofts ahead, it will be interesting to see how the race develops and if we can disrupt the order. Weather may also play a part, and with that anything can happen.”

McLaren

A day to forget for McLaren, as both cars exited in Q1 for the first time in a year. Neither driver reported any issue bar a lack of pace, but the one silver lining is that Alonso has a knack for scoring points from unlikely positions and getting the upmost out of an uncompetitive car. Can he make it to the chequered flag for the first time since Spain and give the fans something to cheer?

Fernando Alonso, 16th, 1:32.976

“This was a disappointing session for us.

“Our performance has usually been so-so on Saturdays, with our average position in qualifying so far this year being 13th. That said, I have scored points in every single race I have finished, and hopefully tomorrow will be one of those Sundays.

“There was nothing wrong with the balance of the car today; our lap-time was just not quick enough to make it into Q2. In our pre-quali meeting, we said we thought we would be around 14th or 15th, so this is more or less where we expected to finish.

“We know where we are, and, unfortunately, need to keep improving…”

Stoffel Vandoorne, 18th, 1:33.553

“It’s very disappointing to see both cars eliminated in Q1. There was nothing particularly wrong with the balance – the feeling was okay – it’s just that we lack pace.

“Since the start of the season, there’s been a lot going on behind the scenes to understand what’s not working. We need to keep our heads down, keep trying and hopefully turn things around.

“This weekend has not been good for us – we need to do better. Hopefully we can reverse the form of today and have a better race tomorrow.”

Eric Boullier, Racing Director

“Today was very disappointing.

“We came here with the intention of learning more about why the MCL33 lacks pace, and those tests have been useful and productive. But we still need to use that data to develop and build new components to help us move back up the order. And that will take time, particularly when there are these five races in such quick succession.

“Both Fernando and Stoffel drove well today, in slightly tricky conditions, and neither put a foot wrong. It’s now up to us to give them a car that’s more representative of their talents. Everybody at McLaren is working extremely hard to do just that.”

Force India

After a poor day yesterday, Force India were looking to bounce back but just didn't have the pace to compete with their midfield rivals. Both cars dropped out in Q2, but at least have the consolation of free tyre choice. With Ocon 11th and Perez 13th, points certainly aren't out of the equation tomorrow.

Sergio Perez, 13th, 1:32.454

“I don’t feel we maximised the qualifying today. We could have been much further up the grid. I think we were unlucky with the conditions because we were expecting more rain towards the end of Q2. I went out too early and did my laps, and then the track improved. We need to see what happens with the weather tomorrow because if it’s wet it will open up some opportunities. The track is very tricky in the wet, but it can also dry very quickly, just as we saw today.”

Esteban Ocon, 11th, 1:32.075

“I am a bit disappointed to miss out on the top ten by such a small margin [0.02s], but I am happy about my lap and how we came back as a team from a difficult Friday. We came into qualifying a bit blind after missing track time yesterday, but we were able to improve the car a lot and found a good balance. P11 is the next best thing to a place in Q3 and at least we will have free choice of tyres. Hopefully it’s going to be very hot tomorrow and the strategy can play in our hands, or perhaps it’s going to rain – I’d welcome anything that can mix things up. I have to thank the fans for all their support. I could see them with their flags and it was a special feeling to drive in front of my home crowd.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer

“Today’s result is not a huge surprise considering the lack of track time we’ve experienced in the lead up to qualifying. It’s disappointing not to have made it through to Q3, but P11 and P13 give us the freedom to choose our tyres for the start of the race. The light rain at the start of Q2 certainly complicated the session and there’s a good chance of more rain showers affecting the race tomorrow. We didn’t do a huge amount of race simulation on Friday, but our race pace is usually one of our strengths and we will be targeting points tomorrow with both cars.”

Renault

Renault were pleasantly surprised to be 'best of the rest' at their home race, with Sainz grabbing P7. Hulkenberg was pleased with his lap despite coming home in 12th and felt there wasn't anything else to extract. Could the team in yellow split race strategies to try and force the hand of their rivals?

Nico Hulkenberg, 12th, 1:32.115

“It’s a disappointing position, but I was pretty happy with my lap, I lost a tenth in turn nine with some oversteer, which you have sometimes when you’re on the limits. It’s been nip and tuck all weekend and slightly tricky. I haven’t found the love or harmony I usually have with the car, so it’s been a little difficult. In a tight midfield battle, you particularly need that confidence and if you don’t have it, it’s enough to miss out on Q3, like today. We’re starting twelfth tomorrow so we can do something with the strategy as we have some flexibility. There’s a lot of love and support from the home crowd so we’ll give it our best shot and recover as much as we can. I’m confident we can get points.”

Carlos Sainz, 7th, 1:32.126

“I’m very happy with today’s result! It’s a very positive qualifying performance. We didn’t expect to be the best of the rest but we managed to do a great job and grab the chance. We look forward to the race where we’ll aim for a clean start and try and have a bright outing. We’ll see about the weather first. Mixed or wet conditions always makes it more interesting and I always enjoy it. Hopefully we can get a strong result in front of the team’s home crowd.”

Alan Permane, Sporting Director

"It was a good effort from Carlos to qualify seventh to start the race in a strong position tomorrow. Nico hasn’t had the weekend he normally has and he’s been playing catch-up on set-up throughout. Obviously, there was an interrupted Q3 session, but Carlos delivered exactly what we needed from him so we’re happy with that. It’s always good to come to a new circuit, it’s one we know from the past but with the 2018 car it’s a very different challenge. It’s fun, a nice circuit to drive and the drivers enjoy it. There is a lot of grip and some very challenging corners. For the race we are expecting it to be warm and sunny and this should allow for a straightforward race for Carlos. With Nico we have some options starting from twelfth and we will be looking closely overnight at what advantages we can gain from strategy variations."

Haas

Haas looked to be heading the midfield, and got both cars through to Q3. They opted to run out of sync with the other teams and it proved costly as Grosjean lost the read of his VF-18 which pitched him into the barriers, wrecking his team mate's lap in the process. Magnussen at least could run again, but got caught in traffic and could only manage ninth.

Romain Grosjean, 10th, No time set in Q3

“I went into turn three and lost the rear end. There’s no obvious reason, so we’ll investigate to understand a bit more. We’ll look at the data. I was pretty much doing as I was before, so it’s a bit strange. It’s frustrating. We haven’t had much luck since Australia. I was hoping this weekend would run smoothly, and that was the case. It’s not what we wanted, but there’s the race tomorrow, and we’re going to do our best to come back and get seventh, where we should have qualified.”

Kevin Magnussen, 9th, 1:32.930

“It was looking good. We got both cars into Q3, but then we didn’t get anything out of the session. It was a good performance up until Q3. I didn’t get a lap in Q3, I had Kimi (Räikkönen) overtake me on my fastest lap, then he let me by again. I had no idea what he was doing. It meant I didn’t do a lap in Q3.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“What a day… again. We ended up with both cars in the top-10, but in Q3, for one reason or another, we only managed to qualify ninth and 10th. All in all, it’s not a bad result, but we should be seventh and eighth. I think the car is at that level, so tomorrow we have to make up spots at the start.”

Toro Rosso

Hartley was facing a raft of grid penalties after Toro Rosso changed his power unit overnight, and therefore wasn't overly disappointed to exit in Q1. Gasly did make Q2 but couldn't hook together a lap when it mattered and had to settle for P14.

Pierre Gasly, 14th, 1:32.460

“I think Q3 was a bit of a longshot today, I really hoped we would be able to make it but unfortunately we just didn’t have the pace. I was really close with Sergio, so maybe one more position was possible, but we lacked performance in qualifying. Of course it’s a bit disappointing not to get a better result in my home race, but I think we did the best we could. We seemed to have some trouble with the second sector on the long straights, so we need to have a look at the data and see where we’re losing time, because in general the car feels OK. I think yesterday it felt a bit better than today, but it’s so tight in the midfield and we lacked a couple of tenths. It’s been really amazing to drive in front of my home crowd, they give me a lot of support! We have one more battle tomorrow - the most important one - and hopefully there will be a lot of fans there to give me a boost. I’ll fight a lot and try everything to get back in the points, the last time was in Monaco and it would be amazing to score points in France!”

Brendon Hartley, 17th, 1:33.025

“We’re starting tomorrow’s race from the back of the grid because of the engine penalty we received, but we’re pretty positive because the car’s felt decent all weekend – especially on the long run simulation yesterday. Qualifying started pretty well for me, I think I was in the top 10 after the first run, then on the second one I ran into a bit of traffic. It also started to rain a bit towards the end of the lap, so it didn’t feel like we got everything together. If the weather is as unpredictable as today, there might be some opportunities tomorrow.”

Guillaume Dezoteux, Head of Vehicle Performance

“Everybody got caught by the rapid change of conditions at the start of FP3, but we still managed to get half a dry lap with Pierre. Brendon instead had to go for an installation lap following his PU change, so it means he did not complete a timed lap on dry tyres. The rest of the session was compromised by the rain as we had to save the wet and intermediate tyres in case of a wet qualifying session. Qualifying was very disappointing as we were expecting more from the pace shown yesterday. The changeable conditions made the session quite difficult, especially at the start of Q2. Brendon's lap in Q1 wasn't enough to make it to the next session by only 0.2s and he was improving up to T14 so it was very close. For Pierre, he was able to put a strong lap together at the end of Q1 but we have never been in a position to improve in Q2. He suffered from an excessive amount of understeer in the last run and was not able to extract more from the car. We will analyse all the data to understand what were the main players in that issue. For the race tomorrow, we are flexible with the tyre choice so we will evaluate all the scenarios and hopefully come up with some interesting proposals, for Pierre starting P14 and Brendon from the back of the grid.”

Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director

“It was unfortunate that we were unable to do any meaningful running in P3 because of the rain so we made our settings choices based on yesterday’s data. The actual result of qualifying is a bit disappointing, with Brendon not getting further than Q1, while Pierre could only manage 14th on the grid for his home race. For tomorrow, it would be good to start this run of races on three consecutive weekends with some points, which is still a possibility from 14th on the grid.”

Williams

Williams lacked the pace to compete here and lost both cars in Q1. Stroll had a big moment, straddling the kerb which bounced him across the run-off area and damaged his floor, costing him the chance of improving his lap time.

Sergey Sirotkin, 19th, 1:33.636

"It’s tough. The car didn’t feel that bad. The conditions weren’t as hot as we predicted. It was just about to rain, so the track was cooler with less sun. Throughout the lap, the car balance was much more together, as was the corner balance. It was not bad, but today is where we are and it’s the limit of what we can achieve. The race pace yesterday was better than the qualifying pace. The car felt better, but we’ve said this before and it has turned out completely different in the race, so I don’t want to say too much. What I can say that’s right is that we’re working and investigating, but there’s not much we can do from where we are."

Lance Stroll, 20th, 1:33.729

"It was a tough session for the team, but I have to be honest and say I expected us to be where we are. Unfortunately, the situation is we are missing about six tenths to 18th and the next team. That is not ideal, so we have to keep our heads down and keep pushing. I had a snap when trying to get more speed, went wide and the rear went away from me. I hit the sausage kerb and the car went up into the air. It was a pretty hard landing and I think there could be a bit of damage there. Anything can happen tomorrow, maybe a bit of rain, so we will see what happens. Looking forward, it is a long season, so a lot can change."

Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer

"Both drivers made two runs on the ultrasoft tyre. The circuit had actually dried by the time we got out there following the rain during FP3. Both drivers managed reasonable first runs to plan. On his second run, Lance got a little bit out of sync with those around him and then he hit a kerb heavily, but he did manage a final lap and got his best time on the board. Sergey meanwhile, did a good first lap and then was improving on his second lap but locked up into turn eight. Overall, we could have actually gone quicker on the timesheet with both drivers, but unfortunately it wouldn’t have made any difference to our grid positions."

Sauber

Ericsson made it through to Q2 for the first time this season, which given his lack of running so far this weekend was an impressive performance. But what was even more so was his team mate making it all the way to Q3, and qualifying a career-best eighth on the grid. Can Leclerc bring home points for the fourth race out of five?

Marcus Ericsson, 15th, 1:32.820

"After the weekend that I have had, I can say that I am satisfied with my result today, especially considering that I missed both FP2, following an incident in FP1, and FP3 due to the rain. Given the limited amount of time we had, I did not think that Q2 was possible. Instead the qualifying went well. Q1 ran smoothly, and I had a good lap that let me progress to Q2. In Q2 I had strong pace, but unfortunately lost some time in my last fast-lap attempt after making an error. I am happy with the result. The whole team did a good job. Having one car finish in Q2, and the other in Q3, is a great reward for the whole team – both at the track and at the factory. I look forward to tomorrow."

Charles Leclerc, 8th, 1:32.635

"I am very happy with my qualifying today. It was not only a success in terms of the final result, but also because since yesterday we made a huge step forward. To finish qualifying in P8 is an amazing feeling, and I would like to thank the team for the job they have done. The car feels great and I feel very comfortable on track. I look forward to the race very much, and am excited to see what will be possible."

Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal

"We are very pleased with today’s result. Having one car in Q2 and the other in Q3 is a great achievement for the whole team. Charles did a perfect job in managing his lap and picking up the pace and Marcus made it into Q2 for the first time this season. We made a great recovery with both drivers since yesterday, with Marcus only having one practice session ahead of qualifying and Charles struggling to find a good balance. The most important thing for us is to stay focused and to concentrate on continuing to do a good job tomorrow."

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing​

“Track and air temperatures were a lot cooler than they were yesterday, with the rain in FP3 also washing away much of the rubber that had been laid down earlier. This meant that teams had to cope with changing track conditions, during a tricky qualifying hour made even more complicated by a red flag interruption during the final Q3 session. In the end the times were extremely close, with little to split the top three teams. With Ferrari’s third-placed Sebastian Vettel being the only car in the top five to begin the race on the fast-starting ultrasoft compound, we should be in for an interesting start to the race tomorrow”.