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Qualifying - selected team and driver quotes

29 Mar 2014

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton on the relief of hanging on to pole in treacherous conditions; Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel on claiming second after technical worries in FP1; and Daniel Ricciardo on needing to close the gap to his four-time world champion team mate. The drivers and senior team personnel report back on a thrilling qualifying session in Malaysia...


Lewis Hamilton (1st, Q3 - 1:59.431)

"I'm really happy with our result today. It was a very close session and I'm relieved to come away with pole position as it was pretty tense towards the end. The lap was far from being my optimum: I should have been able to eke out a little more time but thankfully it wasn't needed. Conditions were incredibly difficult and it would have been so easy to get it wrong today. At times towards the end it was almost impossible to see if anyone was behind me. The team have done a great job once again, we have a great car, and we now have to convert this performance tomorrow."

Nico Rosberg (3rd, Q3 - 2:00.050)

"I didn't feel very comfortable on the extreme wet tyres at the end of Q3, especially on the brakes, but I was still able to improve enough to claim third from Fernando which was the positive for me. We've definitely improved the way we manage the sessions since Australia, so I was the last car to cross the line, but unfortunately the track didn't really improve. It will definitely be a difficult and eventful race as the weather is predicted to be the same again, but that will give me opportunities to gain some positions. I'm looking forward to the race and I want to get the best out of it, like we did in Melbourne."

Toto Wolff, Mercedes team executive director

"That was another difficult qualifying session with constantly changing conditions. It was tricky to find the right track position, at the right time, on the right tyres and for the drivers to deliver a mistake-free lap. The team ran a calm session, making the right calls at the right time. Lewis was able to convert his speed into pole position for the second race in a row. Nico was not quite so comfortable on the full wet tyre, but still claimed P3 as in Melbourne two weeks ago. It is a special pole position because we are at the home race of our title partner, Petronas, who have played such an important role in developing the lifeblood of our new power unit and that gives us extra pride in our achievement. We aim to build on these strong starting positions tomorrow but we know that we have a very tough race ahead of us, whether it's wet or dry."

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel (2nd, Q3 - 1:59.486)

"My heartbeat was rising very quickly in Q1 when we realised there was an issue. We came in and restarted the car, which seemed to solve the problem and after that it was fine. It was good to go out and get another feel for the car in the wet conditions. Q3 was not perfect; I would have loved to have had a second go - on my first attempt I felt there was a little bit of time to gain here and there. It was very close, maybe too close, as if you look at the margin it was possible to go faster, but then if Lewis would have had another chance he would have improved also so, would should, could, at the end of the day it’s good to be on the front row and it should be the good side of the grid for tomorrow - it depends on how our start is, but I’m happy with the result."

Daniel Ricciardo (5th, Q3 - 2:00.541)

"When it rains here, it definitely pours and the weather was our biggest challenge today. Finding space on the track can be tough and the visibility is so bad, the spray comes from hundreds of metres away so just getting some clean road is something you really have to try and take care of. I was a bit off in Q3, so I’ve got to try and understand why, but nonetheless I think top five is not too bad, considering the conditions. I think we’ve definitely got a better chance in the wet. Mercedes were really quick this morning in the dry, so it would be good if it’s like this tomorrow. Sebastian had quite a big gap to me, so I’ve got to see where I can improve really as his pace was really good and close to pole."

Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal

"An exciting session today that wet weather in Malaysia always brings, and a great performance from both drivers to navigate their way through to Q3. Both drivers potentially had better laps in them had it not been for traffic in what was always going to be a slightly scrappy session, but to have Sebastian on the front row and Daniel in P5 was beyond our expectation and a great starting position for tomorrow’s grand prix."

Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne (9th, Q3 - 2:03.078)

"I am happy having finished ninth and in the top 10 for the second race in a row. But it was a difficult qualifying and the car was not easy to drive. We've never been really fast but in Q2 I could manage to do a very good lap that brought me into Q3. We have to look at all the data now to understand why we were quite slow in the wet. I'm really confident the team and I can do a good job tomorrow and I hope we'll finish in the points here like we did in Melbourne. We definitely have the car to do so."

Daniil Kvyat (11th, Q2 - 2:02.351)

"It was a shame to be knocked out of Q3 right at the end by my team mate, but Jev was faster than me today and I was too conservative on my last lap. As for the incident with Alonso, the visibility was very poor for everyone and I think he didn’t see me and in the end, he turned into me. I think it was quite normal that he didn’t see me because there was so much spray. Now, let’s see what happens tomorrow, as it really depends on the conditions out there. Q3 could have been possible today, but all the same P11 is a good starting point."

James Key, Toro Rosso technical director

"We struggled for some reason this morning in the dry conditions compared to yesterday and the car balance was not quite right. Then everything changed, as it was very wet and we weren't really set up for wet conditions. It was definitely a tricky qualifying session. We got caught in traffic but in any case we didn’t manage to do so well in either Q1 or Q2, but the team and drivers did a good job in the difficult conditions. It’s a shame that Daniil missed out on Q3 by only 2 tenths of a second. Jev did a great job, securing a strong ninth place, which means we can aim to have a good race with both cars."


Max Chilton (21st, Q1 - 2:04.388)

"A slightly frustrating qualifying session after having been on the pace all weekend. In those conditions, you get one chance to pull everything together at the same time and the only time I got a clear lap was the lap where I didn’t get any ERS. I also had traffic on my push lap, so it was a bit of a messy session all round, which is a shame as I felt quite confident with the car. We don’t yet know what tomorrow will bring but I’m prepared for any eventuality weather-wise and I think we have a car to take advantage of any opportunities."

Jules Bianchi (19th, Q1 - 2:02.702)

"I think it was a good qualifying session and one where we did not experience any issues with the ERS management, so this is positive. Now we have to work on the difficulties we experienced in the wet for the first time. The conditions were very changeable so timing was always going to be critical today. Now we will keep working for the race tomorrow, as I think we can achieve a good result if circumstances go our way and we make the best of everything."

John Booth, Marussia team principal

"It was clear in FP3 this morning that the changes we had made overnight represented a positive step for Max, however with Jules we were not quite so on top of the car balance issues and he was more unhappy with the car than he had been in FP2. On his side of the garage we spent a lot of the morning stepping back through some of the changes but by the end of FP3 we had set up most of our systems for qualifying and we were reasonably happy that with some further changes we could improve the car balance. Qualifying obviously threw up a lot of challenges. We spent most of the 50 minute delay monitoring the radar and it was quite clear that the start of the session would be good for intermediate tyres, however with the potential for more rain we made sure we were out straight away at the start of the session. The timing of the laps is now far more crucial with the need to recharge the ERS system between push laps. While we didn’t quite manage this with Max, everything went to plan with Jules. In hindsight stopping one lap earlier for the second set of inters may have been of benefit, however I’m happy that the pit wall made the right calls today. Although the gap to Q2 is significant and there’s a feeling of disappointment within the team that we could have got more out of both cars, we are heading more and more in the right direction in terms of the way we are running this new car in varied conditions and sessions. Now we look forward to tomorrow, when we will be ready for any eventuality."


Felipe Massa (13th, Q2 - 2:02.460)

"In dry conditions we are normally fighting for a top six position and the car feels good, but when it is wet the car lacks grip and can feel unstable with lots of sliding which is something we need to address. It's a shame as this qualifying result is not really reflective of where we should be. The good thing is that the cars seem to be very close in terms of lap time so that will help us overtake tomorrow, and I'm hoping that we have very different weather conditions as the car feels completely different in the dry."

Valtteri Bottas (15th, Q2 - 2:02.756)

"It was a difficult qualifying session for us today and it was very reminiscent of our qualifying in Melbourne. The more water there was on track the more we struggled with the rear grip of the car. We tried both the intermediates and the wets but we just couldn't get the grip we needed from either tyre. The wet conditions highlight where our weaknesses are, so we have a clear direction for where we need to improve the car. I still think we have a chance of fighting for some points though if we have a dry race."

Rod Nelson, Williams chief test and support engineer

"On the whole it was a disappointing day for us. In Q2 Valtteri was keen to start on intermediates and Felipe felt that the wet tyre would be the best choice. They were both reporting a lack of grip and rear instability as the rain continued to fall, and switched tyres to try and improve but were not able to find the sort of lap time needed to progress into Q3. The car is clearly struggling in wet conditions compared to the competitive pace it has been showing in the dry, so this is something we will be analysing closely. The conditions here in Malaysia are so changeable that we will have to prepare for the possibility of rain again tomorrow, but obviously drier conditions will be beneficial in allowing us to make our way through the pack in a similar vein to what we managed to do in Australia."


Adrian Sutil (19th, Q1 - 2:02.131)

"Our strategy was to get out onto the track a bit later, as the track normally has the best conditions at this stage. However, more rain started to fall again. We would have improved, but due to the red flag we did not have any more time left. The car was very difficult to drive in these conditions, as the tyres never had enough grip. There is a lot of work ahead of us. At the moment it is difficult to drive a good lap. We need to improve step by step and be patient."

Esteban Gutierrez (12th, Q2 - 2:02.369)

"It was a good qualifying. In the morning we were really busy and we tried to put everything together. Everyone did a great job, and we managed to overcome some small issues to have a reliable car. I really want to thank my team and also Ferrari, as they have been working very hard to further improve the power unit. The conditions on the track were quite tough. However, we managed to improve the car during qualifying, trying to adapt the aero balance and also the tyre pressures. It was a good day. P12 is a great starting position considering our overall performance. Tomorrow we are going to do our best."

Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber team principal

"This was a typical Malaysia qualifying in wet conditions, where it was all about delivering the maximum performance at the right moment. With positions 12 and 18 we are only partly satisfied, but overall it has been a good weekend for us so far. Our cars worked reliably, and we were able to make progress with the power unit and the braking. Now it will be important to keep this reliability for the race, which might put us in a position to score a strong result."

Giampaolo Dall’Ara , Sauber head of track engineering

"Adrian had the potential to make it to Q2, but, when he was trying to improve his lap time right before the end of the session, he was hindered by the red flag and consequently got stuck in Q1. He was struggling a lot all weekend trying to make the tyres work, which is something we have to look into. Esteban did a good job, grabbing 12th position. He did everything right and was on the correct tyres at the right time. Tomorrow, a lot will depend on the weather. As things looked today, it might be easier for us to race in the wet while our long run performance in the dry still has potential for improvement."


Kamui Kobayashi (20th, Q1 - 2:03.595)

"Yet more problems with the car meant I was only able to complete seven laps in FP3. Even with that limited running we were still able to make a bit of progress, and with the data generated from my team mate’s car we were able to set the car up for qualifying, but obviously this isn’t how we are going to find out what the car is really capable of.

“In qualifying we went out with the pack on inters and as much as I was pushing I wasn’t able to get any more out of the car, especially as I couldn’t get the inters into their working range so never had them running properly. Bearing in mind the tiny number of laps we did all weekend, and the problems we had on Saturday morning, the fact we were even running in qualifying was down to the hard work the team put in, so to have got out there and put in laps after all the problems we’ve had is a small reward. Now we focus on tomorrow and hope we can have a full race. If it rains like it did today anything could happen - I just want the chance to race properly!"

Marcus Ericsson (21st, Q1 - 2:04.388)

"After the first FP3 run it was clear we’d made a good step from last night, both with the overall handling and with the driveability of the power unit. On the first run we were out on the primes and even though it was an improvement from Friday there was still pretty low grip. We then did one run on options with a couple of set-up changes and the car immediately felt better, still not really close to an optimum set-up but a bit closer. Unfortunately after that second run we found an oil leak which meant we had to end the session just after the performance run, but we went into qualifying with a bit of an idea of where we would be in terms of outright pace in the dry.

"The rain started before qualifying and we went into the delayed session knowing we’d start on a wet track. That was my first ever wet running in F1, in any session, so from the first lap it was all a new experience for me. It didn’t start too well with the car cutting out while I was waiting in the pit lane, but we fired it up again in the garage and I re-joined right in the middle of a pack of cars on their first Q1 quick laps - that was pretty interesting I have to say!

"With every lap I was learning more and more and we made a quick stop with a few minutes left to put on another set of inters, but then on the final quick lap I made a mistake in sector one and crashed. I’m really sorry for the team. They’ve worked so hard all weekend on the problems we’ve had, and now they have another huge job ahead of them to prepare the car for tomorrow, but I know they’ll keep pushing and we’ll all come back fighting tomorrow. This has been another big lesson for me - my first wet running in F1, my first Q1 on inters and my first big off - it’s all part of being a rookie in F1 and I will learn from every single thing that happens."


Kevin Magnussen (8th, Q3 - 2:02.213)

"The car isn’t too bad in these rainy conditions, but I think we just got the timings a bit wrong. I’m still learning about Inters and full wets, so it was hard to make the right calls this afternoon. But I’m discovering more all the time, and overall I’d say today was good experience for me.

"Eighth isn’t too bad, but it isn’t too good either. It’s certainly not satisfying, because it’s not where we want to be. It’s a shame I went off near the end of Q2 - the trip into the gravel caused some damage to the floor - I don’t know how much performance we lost, but I think we could have done a little bit more in Q3 if the car had been in one piece.

"Our car feels good, and it definitely has untapped potential. I think we can do a better job tomorrow. The pace probably isn’t quite there yet for us to be able to fight for outright victory, but we’ll be in the mix. Let’s see what happens."

Jenson Button (10th, Q3 - 2:04.053)

"The decision to run on Inters in Q3 was my choice. I usually make those kinds of calls - and tend to get them right - but I got it wrong today.

"When you’re quick enough to be fastest on full wets, then choosing to run on inters isn’t worth the gamble; but, when you’re fighting at the back of the top 10, it’s worth giving it a go to see what happens. And into that final qualifying session, just as it looked as though the conditions were heading back towards favouring the Inter, it went and rained again.

"Funnily enough, though, I’m not too disappointed that I made the wrong call. We might have qualified only a couple of places higher if we’d called it differently, and that’s not what we’re aiming for - so it was worth a gamble. Besides, if it’s wet tomorrow, it’ll be tough for everyone - the tyres give us no grip in these conditions, since all the cars are obviously running lower downforce than last year.

"No-one knows what’ll happen tomorrow - but one thing everyone knows is that, if it rains, it’ll be tricky.

Eric Boullier, McLaren racing director

"That was a very difficult qualifying session for all the teams, as is always the case when the weather conditions are wet yet changeable.

"Kevin had a minor ‘off’ near the end of Q2, as you saw, and damaged the fences of his rear diffuser as a result. He duly embarked on Q3 without them, which adversely affected the handling balance of his car. That being the case, his eventual P8 in Q3 was a very creditable performance. Jenson moved through Q1 and Q2 smoothly and calmly, as you’d expect of a campaigner as experienced as he. In Q3, however, he opted to run on Inters instead of full wets - and, with hindsight, perhaps he may have been able to earn himself a slightly better grid slot for tomorrow had he not done so. But there’s no point in our speculating about that because we’ll never know.

"Besides, in truth, it’ll probably make little difference. Tomorrow’s race may well be affected by unpredictable weather, just as today’s qualifying session was, and for that reason I’m relieved that both our drivers will be starting from positions from which they can drive measured yet spirited races towards points finishes."

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg (7th, Q3 - 2:01.712)

"It was pretty challenging with the weather conditions today. There was so much rain, standing water and spray. Visibility was an issue and it was hard to see your braking points. It's tricky to drive these engines with lots of torque in these conditions and you need to be really smooth with the throttle out of the slow corners, but I enjoyed the challenge. We're in P7 and in the top 10 on the grid for the second time in a row, which is a result we can be satisfied with. I think we have shown all weekend that we have the speed to be top 10 material whether it’s wet or dry and I hope to score a good helping of points tomorrow."

Sergio Perez (14th, Q2 - 2:01.712)

"The conditions out there were very difficult and they kept changing with every lap, especially during Q2. I had a better feeling on the intermediate tyres and when I changed to the full wets I struggled to keep the temperature in them, which made it hard to put together a good lap. Tomorrow we will need to try and recover from P14, but we have to see what the weather will do. I also need to solve the rear locking which is affecting me under braking in the wet conditions. I’m still confident we can have a good race and I will keep fighting to score as many points as possible."

Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal and managing director

"Another very wet qualifying session in Sepang presented us with challenging conditions today. Nico looked comfortable in the wet and matched his starting position from Melbourne with seventh place. He has been in the top 10 in all the sessions this weekend and should be in good shape for tomorrow. Sergio struggled more in the wet and didn’t have confidence on the wet tyres. We will try and solve those issues tonight because there’s a good chance of more rain tomorrow. Whether it’s wet or dry I’d like to see both Sahara Force India cars well inside the top 10."


Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

"Today was a good test for the intermediate and wet tyres in a very wide variety of conditions, on these very different 2014-specification cars. The wear on the rain tyre was low despite the high temperatures and roughness, meaning that we have seen a good improvement on the wear profile of this tyre as a result of the new design. The intermediate also continues to do the very good job in marginal conditions that it has always done, but the truth is that wear and degradation on these tyres is always so rain-dependent that it’s hard to draw too many firm conclusions. However, we haven’t heard any complaints about aquaplaning in these very extreme conditions, which is quite an achievement when you consider that the new wet tyre for these radical cars was developed in one test session with a 2010 Renault and an unplanned rainy day in Jerez during the pre-season test there. What our engineers have achieved is quite exceptional, really. Tomorrow we’re expecting between two and three pit stops if the weather stays dry: we’ll have to look at the data tonight to have a more accurate idea. However, with the drivers having saved plenty of slick tyres today, those who have the speed in the car to make three stops have the option to do so with a new stock of tyres."


Fernando Alonso (4th, Q3 - 2:00.175)

“I am really pleased with this fourth place, because to get into Q3 with the problem I had with the steering is really a good result. In a season when it takes a lot of time to make any sort of change to the cars, the guys managed to change the suspension in just a few minutes, which is a real record. They also got me back out on track at the right moment, which meant I could get into Q3. The incident with Kvyat was unfortunate for both of us and was inevitable, because by the time I saw the Toro Rosso it was too late. As usual in the rain, visibility is significantly reduced and it becomes a lottery. The team was super again in Q3 when it was a case of working out when to fit the set of new extreme wets we had: we did it at the start when the track conditions were better and so we were immediately able to do a quick lap. Starting from fourth and sixth places, I think the podium is possible and, apart from the form shown by Mercedes, the performance among those chasing them is reasonably close. This weekend, we opted to work more on race pace than on our single lap performance and the feeling is positive. But we know it will be tough and the uncertainty over the weather means it’s hard to know what sort of race to expect.”

Kimi Raikkonen (6th, Q3 - 2:01.218)

“The rain made this qualifying very difficult. I knew that in the wet it would not be easy, but I didn’t expect to have so many problems. I had poor traction and on top of that, with the extreme wet, for some reason I was losing grip after the first lap. Now we have to find out why, as it will be useful for the coming races. Cleary, I’m not happy with sixth place, but given the circumstances, I cannot say I’m surprised and now I only want to think about doing well tomorrow. It will be a tough race with particularly high temperatures, but I am reasonably confident, because we have gone better here than in Melbourne and if we don’t have any problems, we can think in terms of getting a better result. Overall, my feel for the car is improving and even if there is still a way to go, we are working in the right direction.”

Pat Fry, Ferrari chassis director

“We can regard this as a positive result. Qualifying was extremely close because of the weather and also because of the condition of our cars. The start positions are not really those we were aiming for, but all the same, they show the team is working in the right direction to close the gap to Mercedes. Q1 was relatively straightforward to read and then the mechanics did an amazing job on Fernando’s car, changing the steering arm in just a few minutes, after the collision with Kvyat’s Toro Rosso. He was back on track in record time and from then on, Fernando still had to fight to control the car and I think, in that situation, not many drivers could have done the lap he did in Q3. He really deserves our congratulations. Kimi’s performance was no less impressive: we know he’s not yet completely happy with the feeling of his F14 T and in the wet, he had some car balance problems, but I think he can have an attacking race from where he is on the grid. Once again here, Mercedes is setting the pace, but we will try and make the most of any opportunity, although the priority is to finish the race, because more than ever this year, you can’t take reliability for granted.”


Romain Grosjean (16th, Q2 - 2:02.885)

“It was definitely a good surprise to reach Q2 today, and I think we would have had the potential to reach Q3 had it not been for a miscommunication towards the end of the session when I should have come in for new tyres. At the moment we're just trying to make the best of everything we have and then to put that together. It's clear there has been some good progression; today we made some strong improvements and didn't have many problems, so we just need a bit more of that! The car was on the track when we wanted it to be, and we were able to try a few different things - some of which worked, and some of which didn't - and it was a good Q1. Q2 could have been better, but overall we'll hope that everything goes well tomorrow and then we'll take it from there.”

Pastor Maldonado (17th, Q1 - 2:02.074)

“I was on a good flying lap when the red flag came out and, for sure, I would have improved my position if I had been able to finish my lap. At the same time, I think we were a bit late with new tyres, so we'll need to analyse that. In these conditions it's a bit like a lottery, and this time I was unlucky. The important and positive thing is that the car is running quite well, and there were no problems today, which is very good. We're very happy and hopefully this is a big step forwards and we can start to develop our performance from here.”

Alan Permane, Lotus trackside operations director

“It was a difficult session. Pastor struggled to find grip after having so little track time all weekend. Romain had a very good Q1 and was looking strong in Q2 before a miscommunication meant he didn’t come in to change to a new set of tyres. These should have left him very close to the top ten. We’ve certainly taken a step forwards. I’m happy that our cars have run when we’ve wanted them to run and we can start to learn about how to extract more performance from them. We have learnt some more about wet weather performance too, which could come in useful tomorrow. Obviously, we want to be as reliable as possible and get as many laps as we can as that is how we learn and develop. Both Pastor and Romain are coping well with all the difficulties we have faced so far this weekend so we’re certain they will deliver the very best that circumstances allow.”