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Qualifying - selected team and driver quotes

23 Aug 2014

Sebastian Vettel on why a pre-qualifying downpour actually played into his and Red Bull's hands; Toto Wolff on why Mercedes fear their rivals will close back up in the dry; and Nico Hulkenberg on how driver errors and a strategy gamble backfired. The drivers and senior team personnel report back after a frantic, rain-hit Saturday at Spa-Francorchamps...

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo (5th, Q3 - 2:07.911)

"I had a moment on Blanchimont; that corner is tricky in the wet. It's never full, it's always a lift or a dab of the brakes and knowing that the chequered flag was just there at the end of the session, then I just pushed it a bit too much. I guess in hindsight it cost a bit of time, but you never get the perfect lap in these conditions. Spa is unique, as the track is so long and some parts of the circuits are drier than others, so nearly every lap you're driving blind. It's great to drive here though."

Sebastian Vettel (3rd, Q3 - 2:07.717)

"Yesterday was a different story to today. Today we did a lot more laps and I think the rain helped us, in dry conditions we couldn't have qualified so high up. So, it was a good day for us and a good result and we should be a little bit more competitive compared to Mercedes in the race tomorrow, so let's see."

Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal

"A great recovery by Seb after a difficult Friday and very little mileage to get third on the gird and with Daniel, despite running wide on his final flying lap, he managed to qualify fifth in a very low down force configuration in very tricky conditions. So, a tremendous job by both drivers and good grid positions for tomorrow's race. Hopefully we'll have a more competitive race car than qualifying car."

Thierry Salvi, Renault Sport F1

"Obviously difficult conditions for this qualifying. The heavy rain appeared straight after FP3, making the management of both cars tricky, particularly at the end of Q2 when the rain increased. Seb was not able to change his tyres, but had the pace to go through to Q3. After that, the plan was to run as much as possible to cope with any unexpected weather conditions. Let's see the race tomorrow with again some unexpected events to come."


Nico Rosberg (1st, Q3 - 2:05.591)

"It's fantastic to start from pole here at Spa. It's never easy here in these conditions, which make the track even more challenging. But today was very stable with intermediate conditions throughout, so not as tough as in previous years. It was a great qualifying performance today and I have to thank the team for their great work. My engineers helped me to find the right setup with all the opportunities to change something during a session. The car went better and better at the end, so I'm very happy and also a bit surprised that the gap was so big to the other teams. Having said that, I hope to have a good start and a clear race tomorrow because, like we have seen in Budapest, Sunday is the day that counts. But I'm quite confident as we have a fantastic car. I'm looking forward to the race."

Lewis Hamilton (2nd, Q3 - 2:05.819)

"I was a bit nervous going into qualifying - wondering if everything would come together after the troubles I've had during recent weekends. But it's great to see that all the hard work the team has put in is paying off. This circuit is a big challenge in the wet. It's probably more fun in the dry, when you're right on the edge of performance, but the conditions were pretty stable so it wasn't too bad. This is a circuit where you need confidence on the brakes but unfortunately, on my Q3 run, I had a glazed front left brake which made the car pull to the side. When it does that, it's really hard to recover and get the temperature into the brake, so it meant I kept losing a bit of braking power on my final laps. I'm not too disappointed, though. Last year I was on pole, then Seb came flying past me down the Kemmel Straight, so I think P2 could be the best place to be. It may just be a blessing in disguise with the grid slot."

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"Sometimes in these wet conditions, you just hit the sweet spot with both the car set-up and the tyres - and that's definitely what happened for us today, with a car that was the class of the field on the intermediates. But you then need two fantastic drivers to deliver and it's very encouraging to see both cars on the front row for the first time since Canada. However, the performance gaps we saw today were not normal and we are taking nothing for granted. Our rivals will be dangerous in the race if it's dry, and we will be working hard tonight to make sure we find the right strategy for both drivers to fight for the win tomorrow."

Paddy Lowe, Mercedes team executive director (technical)

"We never like to see rain ahead of qualifying because it always means lots of stress - and this was our fifth wet qualifying session in 12 races so far this year! But on the other hand the conditions were pretty kind, as it was consistent intermediate tyre weather throughout which saved us any difficult decisions on which tyres to use. We are also pleased to see that the car enjoyed a significant pace advantage in the conditions, which made life easier - and set things up for a fantastic competition for pole between our two drivers, who had a great battle today. The only issue we saw was brake glazing - in particular on Lewis' car. But overall, we are most happy to have both cars at the front and to have enjoyed a clean qualifying session - which we have not seen for a number of races. Well done to everybody in the team."

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg (18th, Q1 - 2:11.267)

"It was a difficult session in tricky conditions. Initially it was looking good; I was on the pace and we chose to stay out on one set of intermediates for the whole session. Maybe that was a factor in missing out on Q2 because my tyres were quite old and worn by the end of the session. Q2 should still have been possible, but I made mistakes on my last two laps and out-braked myself going into the final corner, went wide and lost time. For the race tomorrow I believe we can recover because we've got a solid car and the long run pace in the dry yesterday looked promising."

Sergio Perez (13th, Q2 - 2:10.084)

"It was not the easiest day for us. I was struggling in the wet conditions and that was the main issue today. I wanted to be further up but we did not maximise everything. I'm feeling more optimistic for tomorrow and we should have strong race pace. P13 is not a bad place to start the race and I'm sure we can move forward and make up some positions."

Robert Fernley, Force India deputy team principal

"It was a wet qualifying session and I think we ended up well short of the positions our pace should have warranted. Conditions were very difficult for everyone and we were unlucky to lose Nico so early. Checo did a good job to reach Q2, but as the track became more and more slippery at the end of the session he was unable to improve his time enough to make it into the top ten. We will have a big job on our hands to get both cars in the points tomorrow, but the indications we have seen yesterday show we have a good race pace. The weather can once again play a big role so we will need to be ready to maximise every opportunity we may get."


Esteban Gutierrez (20th, Q1 - 2:13.414)

"It has been an unfortunate weekend so far. It is very disappointing considering all the technical issues. The team is pushing hard to put everything together. Also from my side, I am trying to extract the most out of the car. However, under the current circumstances we are very limited on track time. With the mixed conditions it makes it even more challenging, and it is very difficult to get the most out of what we have. It is an unacceptable situation, and we need to change something to sort out all the technical issues. We have to make sure it does not happen again in the next sessions."

Adrian Sutil (14th, Q2 - 2:10.238)

"Again a wet qualifying in Spa, the same as last year. It was difficult to assess the situation on track, especially trying to work out how much water was still in the corners. Particularly during the rainy sessions, the car is still difficult to drive. Based on the weather forecast for tomorrow's race, we chose a dry car set-up for qualifying which resulted in the balance of the car not being optimal. Under these circumstances we can be happy and it was important to finish qualifying without making mistakes. The team did a good job, and I got the best out of the car. I am satisfied with the outcome of qualifying."

Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber team principal

"Adrian put in a solid performance and got what we could expect here. We will see tomorrow what this means for the race. Regarding Esteban, it is disappointing that his weekend has so far been dominated by problems with the powertrain. This makes it very difficult for him and his crew to find the optimal set-up for the car, because track time is so limited. No doubt he is in a difficult position for the race."

Giampaolo Dall'Ara , Sauber head of track engineering

"It was a challenging session with difficult weather conditions. However, on the procedural side of things everything went smoothly and the team did a good job. Unfortunately once again we lost a car due to a technical issue with the powertrain. Esteban had to stop out on the track due to a problem with the battery pack. This is frustrating because we are losing valuable time in preparation for the race. Adrian did solid job and is more or less where we can realistically expect to be. Now we have to make the best out of this for the race."


Valtteri Bottas (6th, Q3 - 2:08.049)

"The final practice where I finished P1 showed that we have a very strong car in the dry, but wet conditions allow other cars to move closer to us and unfortunately we didn't qualify as high today as we can. I lost some tyre temperature in my warm up lap because of traffic which is crucial for us and this made my final run trickier than the ones before, and throughout qualifying we were losing time in the second sector. Our wet pace has improved a lot though since the beginning of the season and P6 is still a good grid slot. We can still do a lot tomorrow and if it is a dry race then we stand a good chance of challenging Ferrari and Red Bull."

Felipe Massa (9th, Q3 - 2:09.178)

"The rain was very tricky today and prevented us from showing our true pace. Our pace looked solid in Q1 and Q2, but I had traffic in Q3 on my warm up lap and because of that I was not able to warm my tyres up properly which stopped me getting the full performance out of the car on my flying lap. Even though the track was drying and getting quicker in Q3, I was slower than my Q2 time so that shows that I could have gone faster if my lap had come together. Tomorrow is another day and hopefully we can show the pace we have and move up the field."

Rob Smedley, Williams head of vehicle performance

"These sort of variable wet conditions are always very tricky and can catch people out. We played it sensibly and managed to get both cars through into the top 10 which is positive and we need to be satisfied with that, with Valtteri only three tenths adrift of third position. We saw on Friday that we have strong long run pace in dry conditions and we expect a largely dry race, so we are confident that both drivers can make up places tomorrow and secure some good points."


Romain Grosjean (15th, Q2 - 2:11.087)

"Spa is a circuit where you have to be quite brave even in the dry, so in the wet it's pretty good fun! P15 is quite disappointing. We got through to Q2 but then we were one of the slower of the cars in that session. We knew that the Q1 conditions would suit us a bit better than in Q2 due to the amount of rain on track. We look to the race now and as it's Spa, you never know what can happen. We're on the grid and we'll push as hard as we can for the best result possible."

Pastor Maldonado (17th, Q1 - 2:11.261)

"It was pretty tough at the beginning of the session, but then the track was improving all the time in Q1. We changed for a second set of intermediate tyres and were pushing hard - even with a bit of a spin on one of my laps - but we couldn't get the improvement in lap time that we wanted. It's going to be a tough race tomorrow and we don't know what the weather will bring so our fingers are crossed; we'll do our best."

Alan Permane, Lotus trackside operations director

"Romain did a good job in Q1 but he wasn't as comfortable with the rear end of his car in Q2 so ended the session in P15, which obviously isn't where we want to be. We'll have a good look at his car and the aero data to determine where improvements can be made. Pastor was looking set to be in the top ten late in the Q1 session but unfortunately spun on his fastest lap. He wasn't able to progress through afterwards when the rain got worse so unfortunately that ended his qualifying. Tomorrow looks to be dry at this stage and both the medium and soft compound Pirelli tyres are working well here from the data we saw on Friday. Two stops is likely to be the norm, with free choice of starting tyre for all, which could make for some different strategies through the field."


Jules Bianchi (16th, Q2 - 2:12.470)

"I'm really happy to make it through to Q2 again, especially as it repeats a good performance here last year. I love this track and it's also very special to me personally, so it is always a really nice feeling to do well here. I was a little surprised that we had such a strong qualifying, simply because the tricky conditions were the same for everyone, yet we have fared better than some of the teams further up the grid, finishing ahead of a Lotus, a Force India and a Sauber. I also made a little mistake in Turn 10, so there was even a bit more to come. I'm really pleased for the Team as this is a nice reward for them and I hope we can carry it through to the race now. We can't be sure what the weather will bring tomorrow. Ideally it would be dry, but I think we are still missing a little bit of performance, so we will be do our best whatever the conditions."

Max Chilton (19th, Q1 - 2:12.566)

"It was pretty tricky out there so I was quite happy with the lap as I had no battery - I used the energy on the previous lap when the tyres weren't at their best. I was closer to Jules on the first run so without the energy problem, who knows? Maybe Q2 was possible, but then Jules pulled a mega lap out of the bag, so credit to him. We are still a good chunk ahead of the Caterhams and I think we can have a really strong race. Spa is a great track so I'll be giving it my all and I hope for a good team result tomorrow."

John Booth, Marussia team principal

"Overnight we hadn't really made any significant changes, but still there was plenty of optimisation of every area to try achieve that last little bit of performance. This morning we maintained the good progress that we've made this week and again the drivers were happy with the balance and performance of the car. The FP3 session started out wet and with the forecast of rain and the knowledge that qualifying would be important, we chose to do a run on inters. Many of the others in the field didn't do that, however we felt it was important to have some kind of preparation before qualifying and it seems that this has paid off. The downpour just before qualifying made conditions difficult to call, however we got it pretty much spot-on in terms of strategy and Jules delivered an excellent lap for P14 to make it into Q2. Initially he suffered some glazing on his brakes and this did make it difficult for him on the opening laps. Unfortunately we didn't have the tyres or time to stop for a second set, however his last lap was looking very good before we decided to abort because of some balance issues in Turn 7 and a small mistake in Turn 10. There has been some fairly extreme weather so far this weekend but tomorrow looks a little more ‘normal', although for Spa that means there could still be the threat of rain in the race. Both drivers are in a good position tomorrow with Jules in P16 and Max ahead of both Caterhams. On balance I think we favour a dry race tomorrow, as our car performance seems a little better in the dry, however we will be ready for any opportunities."

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat (11th, Q2 - 2:09.377)

"That was a tricky qualifying session and until the last run I wasn't too happy with the car handling. But we tweaked a few things and in the end I was much more comfortable. I would say that my last run in Q2 was quite representative, even though I think we could have been faster if it had been dry. Tomorrow will be a different situation, since the race is very long and anything can happen. We will definitely push hard and hopefully we can grab some points."

Jean-Eric Vergne (12th, Q2 - 2:09.805)

"Q1 went well but then unfortunately we had an issue with the exhaust system, which compromised my Q2, being able to run only three laps and the timing was not the best one. It's a shame as we had the car to make it to Q3 today. Nevertheless, we have seen during the weekend that we have got the pace to do well, long runs looked pretty good. Considering that tomorrow the race should be in dry conditions, starting from P12 is not too bad, as everything is possible."

James Key, Toro Rosso technical director

"A tough session today. Obviously we are disappointed not to have made it to Q3 as, looking at our car performance along the weekend, that was definitely our target. Q1 was very much a game of getting the right tyres on at the right time. The team did a very good job and the drivers responded really well. Q2 was tricky as it started to rain at the beginning of the session. Daniil ran two sets of tyres, unfortunately he didn't quite make it to Q3 at the end for just a tenth. We'll have a look to understand why. With JEV, unfortunately he had a clap on his exhaust system which came loose and needed to be tightened up. That meant that he missed the initial run and he had a single opportunity at the end. I also think we probably could have sent him out a bit later than we did, because the track was definitely better towards the end of the session but at that time it was difficult to tell. All these factors really effected his session. All this said, I'm still convinced that we are in a position to fight for the points tomorrow."

Ricardo Penteado, Renault Sport F1 track support leader

"As always in Spa when it rains, it's very difficult to put everything together absolutely perfectly. We continued to refine the Power Unit maps during FP3 and everything worked well in qualifying, even if we constantly tweaked the settings as conditions evolved. We had the pace for the top 10 so it's unfortunate to just miss out but we are well placed for the race nevertheless."


Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

"The teams have a tough task ahead of them because we expect a dry race following a wet qualifying, meaning that the data from today might not necessarily be relevant to tomorrow's grand prix. As usual the challenge in qualifying was not so much dealing with the rain, but coping with the fact that the rain was inconsistent, with some parts of the circuit very wet and others parts more dry. As is always the case under those circumstances, this led to a very exciting qualifying session where the timing of the fast laps was crucial. We're expecting two pit stops tomorrow, but it's possible that some teams might try three if they feel there is a pace advantage, given that no slick tyres were used during qualifying and they will all have new sets of dry slicks for the race tomorrow. As a result, they all have enough new slick tyres to keep every option open."


Andre Lotterer (21st, Q1 - 2:13.469)

"This is definitely a speedy way of learning how to drive an F1 car! Yesterday was dry while today was wet, so all this is now covered and I know exactly what to expect in both those conditions. I think it was a very tough qualifying session for me. I had to figure it all out while I was out there, so I'm very happy that I brought the car back without making many mistakes - it was so easy to lose it out there! In the end I managed to complete two decent laps and I'm really happy with my result.

"The most difficult part of this weekend is figuring it all out in such a short period of time: understanding where the grip is, where to brake, how to handle the throttle and the power... I've accumulated a lot of experience in a very short amount of time and I feel that I can do a good race tomorrow. I did some long runs yesterday and I found a good rhythm. Hopefully the conditions won't be too tricky, because if not I will need to find out where the limit is while I'm racing - that's my biggest concern. Nevertheless, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's race, I'm ready for it!"

Marcus Ericsson (22nd, Q1 - 2:14.438)

"I think we could've been quite competitive in the rain but unfortunately we were in the wrong place on track all the time so I didn't get a single clean lap. I'm disappointed because we could've done much better if we had put a lap together.

"It doesn't really matter what weather conditions we race in tomorrow, I think we're going to have a tough race anyway, but we need to make the most of the opportunities that come up during the race tomorrow. In the dry this morning we were out early on the option tyre, so that's why we were a bit off the pace, but the car felt a lot better today in the dry, so if there's a dry race tomorrow I think that there's potential to do well."

Cedrik Staudohar, Renault Sport F1 track support leader

"Given the track conditions everything went very smoothly on the engine side of things, with no issues. We had to manage the energy management lap by lap as the track improved, which kept us busy, but we extracted the best performance we could from the Power Unit. The drivers are quite closely matched and Andre did a good job considering it was his first time in the wet in this car. There's everything to race for tomorrow, particularly if the conditions remain changeable."


Kevin Magnussen (7th, Q3 - 2:08.679)

"The conditions were extremely tricky today. In fact I almost failed to make it through to Q2 because I acquired bad flat-spots on both my front tyres at Turn One of my first lap, so I had massive understeer and couldn't really push. But, despite that, I just about managed to make it through, so that was okay. I then made it through Q2, and Q3 worked out pretty well too. I nailed a strong lap and had a good feeling in the car. Okay, P7 might not be a fantastic result, but it's not a bad position from which to start tomorrow's race.

"I simply can't over-state how much I love driving here. It's truly amazing to drive this track in any race car. It's superb fun, and hopefully tomorrow we can do what we came here to do, namely get a good result and score some good points. A dry race tomorrow would be nice."

Jenson Button (10th, Q3 - 2:09.776)

"But, during my second run, on new Inters [tyres], in the slightly drier conditions, I locked up at the top of the hill - and, as soon as you lock up, that's it really. I went straight on, and that was the end of my lap. I tried to continue, but I was 1.5 seconds down, so I was never going to get that back. It should have been the run that got me the lap-time I wanted, but it wasn't to be, which was a pity.

"With regard to tomorrow, I'd prefer it if it were dry. The wet is always a real mess here, especially at Eau Rouge. After the first lap it always gets pretty horrible if it's wet, in fact, so as I say I'd like it to be dry. It'll be a better race if it's dry, in fact."

Eric Boullier, McLaren racing director

"There's nothing more challenging for a Formula 1 driver than tackling a wet qualifying hour at Spa, but I'm pleased to say that both Kevin and Jenson met that challenge very well this afternoon. Their performances were particularly impressive in light of the fact that their cars were both running low-downforce set-ups, not ideal for today's wet conditions, but which we'd deliberately selected in anticipation of a dry race tomorrow.

"Kevin did a particularly doughty job, ending up in P7, which was a mighty fine effort, especially bearing in mind that he achieved it with a low-downforce dry-weather set-up. Jenson, too, did well, and would have done better still had he not locked his brakes at the top of the hill before Turn Eight when he was running his quick Q3 lap on new inters. A dry race is forecast for tomorrow, and both Kevin and Jenson, in P7 and P10 respectively, are well set to put in controlled but combative drives in an attempt to bag a useful haul of world championship points."


Fernando Alonso (4th, Q3 - 2:07.786)

“I think today’s qualifying went well, even if it wasn’t easy, because every time you went out on track, you didn’t know what conditions to expect and exactly how much grip you would find from the track surface. Fourth position is a great result and now I think we can expect a very interesting race. We tried various aerodynamic configurations and, if we seemed more competitive, maybe it’s because we managed to adapt better than some other teams. The rain certainly helped, but we also had good pace on the long run in the dry yesterday. Tomorrow, whatever the conditions, we must simply try to run a perfect race and above all make the right tyre choices. We have all new sets available and, of the two compounds, I think the Soft will be the one to use at the start and in the early part of the race. The Medium is a bit slower, but similar to the Soft in terms of degradation, so it will be a case of running it for as little time as possible in the race and to make the change at the right moment.”

Kimi Raikkonen (8th, Q3 - 2:08.780)

“After lots of unforeseen incidents on Friday, this morning I was reasonably happy with the handling of my car. In the afternoon, the arrival of the rain made everything more unpredictable, the car was sliding all over the place and putting together a good lap wasn’t easy. On my last run in Q3, I tried my best, but some mistakes cost me a few places. Even if I’m a bit disappointed, now I want to just think about tomorrow’s race, which will be a long one, with the chance of very variable weather. I will try and make up as many places as possible and in order to do that, it will be very important to make the right decisions at the right time.”

Pat Fry, Ferrari chassis director

“We are reasonably pleased with the outcome, even if we cannot ignore Mercedes’ performance, given that we want to get back to being in the top positions. Fernando only just missed out on third place, having produced a fantastic lap. I hope he can have a good race from fourth on the grid. Kimi lost out a bit in all three sectors, but I believe he drove as hard as he could, even though he wound up eighth. Certainly, we can’t forget all the difficulties he experienced yesterday, because I’m sure that with a bit more track time, he could have been a bit higher up the order. Tomorrow’s race will be long and difficult: the forecast is for less chance of rain than today, but here at Spa, it’s impossible to be sure. The important thing is to be ready to adapt our strategy to whatever conditions we encounter.”