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In quotes - Saturday in Mexico

31 Oct 2015

Ten teams, 20 drivers, and one official tyre supplier report back on a thrilling day's running at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez...
Sauber

Marcus Ericsson, 14th

“We have done a solid job improving the balance of the car over the weekend. I have been struggling in the free practice session, and I did not feel comfortable in the car. P14 is a decent result, but I am still a bit frustrated because in Q1 I got the maximum out of the car, but then in Q2 I struggled a bit more, especially in the last sector due to not having enough grip at the rear. However, it is important that we make progress session by session.”

Felipe Nasr, 17th

“It was a difficult qualifying for me. In general I was struggling with the low grip level. On my second run in Q1 I did not have enough rear grip, so I was sliding a lot mostly in the entry to the corners. We have to understand the reasons for this. Starting from this position is not satisfying, however, it is going to be a long race tomorrow, and I will do my very best to make up positions.”

Marussia

Alexander Rossi, 18th

“It wasn’t the best start to the day, with the braking issues I experienced in FP3, but I’m pretty pleased with the way the team rectified that problem and we were able to give qualifying all we had. The grip level has improved with each new session, so this morning was frustrating because of the level of evolution I could see was happening. That was valuable preparation time for qualifying, but we don’t seem to have fared so badly, and today was in fact the team’s best qualifying performance since Monza. It was a scrappy lap because of all of that, so there was perhaps some time to be gained, but I’m happy with where I’ll start the race and I’m very excited about racing here tomorrow. It’s a great track and it provides an element of challenge that could benefit us in the same way as Austin; we just need to be prepared.”

Will Stevens, 19th

“I went out on my first run and the throttle was sticking, so I had to abort the run. On the way in I was called to the weighbridge, so I ended up only having one run. The combination of the low grip track conditions, and the fact that we haven’t had as much running as we would have liked here, has put us on the back foot, so I’m actually quite happy to be as close as I am to Alex. It’s incredibly frustrating to be honest. That aside, I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow and a good battle with Alex.”

John Booth, team principal

“While this has been a rather tricky day for us, with mixed fortunes for both sides of the garage at one point or other, this was in fact our best qualifying performance since Monza. This morning, Will had a reasonable free practice session, to complete 20 laps on a track that has been steadily improving in terms of grip level. On the other side of the garage, Alexander experienced a braking issue and he completed only 8 laps before the problem confined him to the garage while we sought a remedy. This afternoon, Will had the lion’s share of the bad luck. Shortly after leaving the garage for his out lap, he reported a sticking throttle, so with that run aborted he had only one shot at qualifying. Alex had a better time of it this afternoon and completed two solid runs, recovering quickly from this morning’s disappointments. I think we’re all looking forward to the race now; the atmosphere is going to be sensational and I hope we can leave Mexico having met our objective of a two-car finish.”

McLaren

Fernando Alonso, 16th

“We went into qualifying knowing that our penalties would relegate us to the last row of the grid. So there wasn’t much to gain from qualifying this afternoon. It was more about finding out how the car felt; using up tyres and engine mileage for no reason made little sense.

“We need some rain and chaos tomorrow. We have plenty of fresh sets of tyres - both dries and wets - so let’s see what we can do. Hopefully, we can recover some places in the race.”

Jenson Button, 20th

“We had a misfire on my engine this morning, and we had to change it to make sure everything was okay for tomorrow, which meant I couldn’t qualify.

“Whatever happened in qualifying, I was always going to start last because of my penalties. Still, the racer in me wanted to get out there and do the best I could.

“I’ve done hardly any laps this weekend, and, without any high-fuel running under my belt, the race is going to be difficult for me.

“It’s been a tough weekend - but I’m still looking forward to tomorrow. It’s always fun racing on a new circuit, and it’ll be exciting too, because you never know what might happen.”

Eric Boullier, racing director

“Fernando drove a good lap here this afternoon, carving the 16th-fastest Q1 lap in so doing.

“That may sound like a non sequitur, but, since our car’s performance envelope is ill-suited to a circuit whose main straight is 1.2km [0.75 miles] long, in fact it’s both logical and true.

“Moreover, aware of the power unit penalties he would unavoidably incur, we biased his car’s set-up more towards a race configuration than we usually would. That being the case, we’re pretty pleased with our car’s Sector Two and Sector Three pace.

“Nonetheless, it wasn’t enough to allow him to progress through to Q2, and that’s frustrating for him and indeed for all of us.

“More galling by some margin, this morning Jenson’s engine developed a misfire during FP3, whose causation we were unable immediately to ascertain. We initially suspected it was a signal failure, but as I speak our engineers are still yet to confirm the origin of the issue. Our immediate intention was to refit Jenson’s FP1 engine for qualifying, as a precautionary measure. Unfortunately, however, we weren’t able to resolve the problem in the time available, and Jenson was consequently unable to take part in qualifying and will start tomorrow’s race from P20.

“Finally, adding insult to injury, Fernando will start tomorrow’s race from P19, alongside Jenson in P20, as a result of incurring a power unit penalties. Even so, indomitable battlers that they both are, they’ll be doing their damnedest to make progress from the ‘off’ tomorrow, challenging task though that will indubitably be.”

Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer - chief officer of motorsport

“Though we had a good feeling of the car and track after FP2 yesterday, today's FP3 and Qualifying turned out to be more troublesome than expected, especially Jenson’s ICE which had a misfire and could not run for FP3.

“We suspect that this issue was caused by a sensor signal failure, and as per yesterday this meant the car's electrical system and various control systems required a thorough check. This further analysis meant that Jenson was unable to participate in qualifying.

“Fernando ran solidly in FP3, but unfortunately our prediction that the high-altitude would affect our power output was correct, and he could not join the other cars in Q2.

“Fernando’s race pace runs in FP3 were good, so despite the grid penalties, we hope that with a good strategy the race will run smoothly for both drivers.”

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, 12th

“We’re at a very high altitude, at a track with very low grip, requiring good downforce – which we know are not our strongest points - so we weren’t massively confident of our performance heading into qualifying. We did better than expected, even though we struggled to get the tyres to work. We still have a good opportunity tomorrow; it’s a long race where everyone’s brakes and engines are likely to struggle. The start will be very important; we’ll try to use all our experience and make a decent result happen.”

Pastor Maldonado, 13th

“I was hoping for a little bit better from qualifying but we were struggling for front grip and the rear stability wasn’t fantastic. We expected more of a benefit from running with the new tyres but we weren’t able to unlock it. It’s a long race, we usually have good race pace so let’s go for some more points.”

Alan Permane, trackside operations director

“It was a tricky session for us. The grip levels were changing with the temperature and the circuit seemed to get slower at the end of Q2. The trick was to be on a fast lap in the fast-slow-fast lap cycle when the track surface and temperature were at their best. We’re not a million miles away from where we expected to be in qualifying so we’re looking to maximise everything for the race.

“There’s a greater chance of rain than today which we’re very aware of as this can make for a very dynamic race. If it is dry then we can expect very low tyre degradation and close monitoring of the brakes. We should learn a lot tomorrow as the race unfolds and there’s potential for exciting battles through the field. We’re certainly targeting points.”

Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen, 15th

“This morning we had a problem with the car in P3, and we had to change the engine and the gearbox. It was a very tight call to put everything back together, but the guys did an excellent job to make the car ready for Q1 in that small lapse of time available. However there was not enough time and not everything was 100 percent, I still had a small issue with brakes. Actually, they were working, but then they locked up on one lap. Anyway, with all the penalties we are getting tomorrow, our best option was to do well enough to make it to Q2 and not really do anything after that. We did three fast laps so that we can check later that everything is ok with the car and try to make a good run out of it.”

Sebastian Vettel, 3rd

“To be fair, when I woke up this morning and even after P3, I thought we would be a bit closer to the Mercedes than we actually were in qualifying: unfortunately, they proved to be very strong. They were doing two consecutive laps, they were not using all the energy in one lap, so we need to be careful as I think they will be very quick also tomorrow in the race. But we will try our best, we are here to fight, we have nothing to lose. Nico [Rosberg] is the primary target, we want to keep second position in the championship and we’ll do everything we can to achieve that. I hope that our race pace tomorrow is going to be as good as it looked yesterday; obviously it is always difficult to know what other people are doing, but considering that we were on the harder tyre, on Friday we seemed to be very quick on the long-runs. I hope we can be quick tomorrow as well, and make the tyres last. I think this will be the key for the race because on paper it looks easy, but then, with all the sliding around from low grip surface, we’ve seen many people struggling to keep their tyres alive.”

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, motorsport director

“It was another variable day in Mexico, featuring warm weather as well as some spots of rain - so this range of conditions made it quite difficult for the teams to work out the best tactical choices. We’ve seen that tyre wear is low on account of the slippery and new surface, but track evolution is still on-going, which has closed the performance gap between the two compounds slightly as more rubber is laid down. There are a few strategy options open: while a one-stopper is entirely possible, a two-stopper might turn out to be quicker, depending on degradation rates, the individual pace of each car and the situation with traffic.”

Toro Rosso

Max Verstappen, 8th

“I’m very happy with P8! It wasn’t an easy qualifying for me today, especially after missing FP2 yesterday and struggling a bit this morning in FP3. But we managed to turn the car around very quickly; to make it into Q3 and manage to put a very good lap together, which wasn’t easy, is great! I’m very happy with today’s performance and it’s nice to be in front of both Force Indias. Tomorrow’s race will be exciting. It looks like it could rain, and that would be great news for us, as our car is very good in the wet. I like this track, and it’s very special to see so many fans in the grandstands, they are very passionate and you can really feel their support, especially when you come into the stadium section, it’s very cool! Hopefully we can put on a good show for them tomorrow!”

Carlos Sainz, 11th

“I’m quite happy with today, we made a big improvement to the car from yesterday to today and I felt much more comfortable with everything. We had good pace and it’s just a pity that we didn’t make it into Q3 - unfortunately we just didn’t put everything together and went out too early on the Option tyre; the track was evolving continuously. But to start from P11 tomorrow is not bad, we can choose what tyre to start the race on and we also have a good chance to score more points. I think tomorrow’s going to be a good day!”

Jody Egginton, head of vehicle performance)

“Some good work from the guys last night meant that we could run a full program with Max today and allow him to catch-up the time he lost yesterday. Both cars completed a good FP3 programme this morning and covered the final parts of our race and qualifying preparations. In Qualifying 1 both cars were evenly matched. Carlos was unlucky not to make it through into Q3, he was very close! Max on the other hand got through what was a very close Q2. Unfortunately on his second run in Q3 he locked-up into Turn 1 and flat-spotted his tyre on what should have been his quickest lap, but a P8 is a fair result, we can be happy with that and now focus on what will definitely be an interesting race tomorrow.”

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg, 1st

“I'm quite pleased with the first half of the weekend. I have to thank my engineers because we nailed the setup and I felt great in the car. I did a pretty cool lap in Q3, which I wasn't able to improve on the second run. But tomorrow is the day and it will be a great battle for the win between the top five - especially as we didn't have much time to practice long runs. Sebastian and the two Red Bulls look strong but I'm very confident that our car is the best prepared for the circumstances. At this point I want to thank the organizers for putting such a great event together. The stadiums are really phenomenal. I had some time to enjoy it on my in lap after Q3 and it was absolutely unbelievable. I very much look forward to race day.”

Lewis Hamilton, 2nd

“It was great out there today. I really enjoyed driving and we have an amazing crowd here too. They’re constantly cheering, which is great to see. The track got grippier so it was more fun to drive and it was quite a relaxing qualifying session in general, with no real stress. At some races pole really makes a difference. But at this one it I don’t really mind being second because it’s a long, long way down to Turn 1 and I plan on getting a good start tomorrow. The track is evolving and improving bit by bit. I don’t know if it’s going to rain tonight but, if it does, it will clean the track and then we will be learning again tomorrow so that will be a real challenge. We don’t know what kind of strategy it’s going to be or how long the tyres will last - we’ll find out tomorrow! I’m looking forward to a good battle as it was very close today.”

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“Wow, you couldn’t write a better script for tomorrow’s race. Nico put all the emotions from Austin to good use this afternoon - he’s been strong all weekend, competitive from the first run and used it to take his fourth pole position in a row. He did a perfect job. It was a tight battle with Lewis, who looked very quick through the session, and P2 is a good starting slot for him with the long run to the first corner. We know he will be determined to continue his winning streak. This has proven to be a tricky, slippery circuit to master and we’re in for an exciting race tomorrow, especially if the predictions of light rain come true. It will certainly be fun watching the boys on the run to the first corner… and how they make their way through it. Although there are lots of unknowns heading into the race, we can be certain of a mega atmosphere with over 100,000 fans in the stands. This weekend feels like a homecoming to a place the sport should never have left.”

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

“That was a fantastic battle between Nico and Lewis, plus with a very strong challenge coming from Sebastian in the Ferrari. It’s great to get the front row here in Mexico to set up a very exciting race. With tyre warm-up a real challenge at this circuit, the key to success was finding the run profile that gave you the optimum lap time from the option tyre. What’s more, the circuit temperature was falling through the session, and we saw the grip levels shift during Q3, with nobody improving on their second run. The trick on our car was to run two consecutive hard laps, with the faster time actually coming on the second of the two. That formula worked for both drivers, with Nico coming out just on top. Thank you, as well, to the fantastic crowd. It was great to see some genuine Mexican waves out there in the stands – although, presumably, they’re simply termed ‘waves’ over here!”

Red Bull

Daniil Kvyat, 4th

“Qualifying was interesting today. It was all quite clean in Q1 and Q2, but the track is new and it’s very easy to make a little mistake that can be quite costly, so perhaps no one had the ideal lap in Q3. I think P4 reflects our speed; I could have maybe been a couple of tenths quicker in Q3 but anyway it wouldn’t have put us any higher, as P3 was quite a long way ahead. We have done our best today and it gives us some good opportunities for tomorrow. In a new race on a new track, everything can happen, but we have to wait and see how fast we are and how much we can make the most of any opportunities. I’m not setting our expectations too high; I just want to have a good, clean, consistent race and grab some good points.”

Daniel Ricciardo, 5th

“Practice looked really good but then all through Qualifying I wasn’t really that happy. We just struggled to find the right feeling with the car and the set-up. The asphalt was changing every time. It had a bit of grip and then it didn’t so it’s challenging. We didn’t change much to the car but it’s one of those sessions where you always try to find that little bit more but it never came in the end. I knew that Ferrari and Williams would try to give us a real challenge. For the race, everyone will most likely try a one-stop, because it’s a new surface and not too aggressive on the tyres. It might rain overnight which will change the track again. It’s changing all the time so I hope it will be an exciting race. In the end to be fourth and fifth as a team is not bad and we can definitely race from there. On another note, watching the rugby was a bit painful as well, I really do feel for the boys.”

Christian Horner, team principal

“A very respectable qualifying from both our drivers to line up fourth and fifth on the grid. We have been competitive so far on this track, especially when qualifying has been one of our weakest areas. We’re looking forward to the race tomorrow and we are starting from solid grid positions, so it will be interesting to see what we can do. Tyre strategy could hold the key and I think with this amazingly enthusiastic Mexican crowd, that have created such a great atmosphere, we’ll be in for an exciting race.”

Force India

Sergio Perez, 9th

“I felt very privileged to be driving at home today and to feel so much support from the fans. They have given me lots of energy and I’m extremely motivated to give them something to celebrate this weekend - that’s the best way to repay them. I think we did a good job today and we are in a competitive position for the race. We were aiming to be the last car on track during Q3 to try and make the most of the track evolution, but in the end it didn’t really make a huge difference. I think eighth was possible, especially when you look at the small gap to Max [Verstappen]. For tomorrow expectations will be high, I know that, but it’s a very positive pressure and I just need to say focussed, work through my usual routine and treat tomorrow as a normal race. The car is working well, we’ve done our homework, and I want to move forward in the race.”

Nico Hulkenberg, 10th

“I think we pretty much got everything we could out of this session. I haven't felt 100 percent confident with the car, but in those conditions the final lap I did was really good. Our one-lap pace is strong enough to make it into Q3, but I’m feeling better about our long run pace and confident for tomorrow. The weather could play a part: there is a threat of rain, which could mix up the field and make the race really interesting. It's a new track so we don't have as much information compared to other places, which leaves a few question marks going in the race, but hopefully there will be a happy ending for us. It would be a good reward for the fans, as you can feel all the love and attention that we are getting from this amazing crowd. I may not be the home hero here, but I am still getting a lot of support which is an extra boost.”

Vijay Mallya, team principal & Managing Director

“I feel satisfied with our performance today. As we predicted, the grid was very tight with just four tenths separating the fourth-placed car and Nico in tenth. Both Checo and Nico drove very well today and we are well-placed to deliver a strong performance in the race. There are some question marks over what the weather will do tomorrow, and given the fresh tarmac that could make for some tricky conditions. Whatever the weather, we’ve shown recently that we can react quickly and make the right calls when it matters. Once again, I want to pay tribute to the enthusiasm of the crowd and the energy they have given the entire team. We are all determined to reward them with a fantastic race tomorrow.”

Williams

Valtteri Bottas, 6th

“The track has improved a little over the weekend and Qualifying was very close, as we expected. It is a shame Red Bull are in front of us, but we have the advantage of straight-line speed which will help when overtaking. The aim tomorrow is to move forward.”

Felipe Massa, 7th

“We are sixth and seventh so we cannot be too happy with our performance. I did my quickest time on the first set of tyres in Q3. I tried all I could on the second set but I couldn’t improve my time. It sets the beginning of what could be a very difficult race where many things can happen, accidents, cars off the track, rain, so we need to wait and see as it can all change. I hope we can move forward tomorrow.”

Rob Smedley, head of Performance Engineering

“We are a little disappointed as we think we could have been a little higher up. Our preparations were as good as they could have been, and we feel we have missed out on fourth and fifth. We are in a good position for the race tomorrow, but we must now focus on the strategy and make sure we take the opportunities on offer. It was so close today and we have just missed out.”