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In quotes - Saturday in Russia

10 Oct 2015

Ten teams, 20 drivers, and one official tyre supplier report back on Saturday's qualifying action for the 2015 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix...

Force India

Nico Hülkenberg, 6th

“I’m very satisfied with sixth place today and our qualifying performance is a great team result. Even though we’ve had limited running here in practice, I’ve had a good feeling with the car – there is a nice balance and it’s giving me confidence. The result today is probably the maximum we could achieve when you look at the cars ahead of us and it means we’re starting in a great position for tomorrow. The race is going to be interesting because there are still some unknowns about how the tyres will behave over long runs and the strategy calls won’t be easy. I’m looking forward to the race and converting this grid position into some good points.”

Sergio Perez, 7th

“It's always tricky to get the car where you want it to be when you don't do much running in practice, but it's a good result for the team and I believe we got the most we could from the session. This is not an easy track to put a good lap together and getting the tyres to the right temperature is a challenge, so I think we can be pleased with this result. I set my best lap on used tyres, which shows that the supersoft tyres take a long time to reach their best. There are still a few question marks about the performance of the tyres during long runs, which will make it very interesting tomorrow, but I don't expect degradation to be very high. We have a very good chance to be competitive in the race; it will be a tough one but I’m confident we can come away from it with some big points.”

Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal

“It was hard to separate our two drivers this afternoon with just four hundredths of a second between Nico and Sergio at the end of Q3. We knew coming into this weekend that we had the potential to get both cars inside the top ten and our performance today is another demonstration of just how competitive the VJM08 has become as the season has progressed. Getting the tyres in their correct operating window was a challenge today and considering the lack of mileage leading up to qualifying the team and drivers did a great job to optimise things as much as possible. What is important now is that we convert these promising starting positions into good points to strengthen our fifth place in the championship.”


Valtteri Bottas, 3rd

“It was a strong job by the team today – we managed to set-up the car well and maximise our performance. I felt very good in the car all day and managed to get in a rhythm quickly and put in consistent lap times despite the limited number of laps we had completed in practice. Tomorrow is where it really matters but I have put myself in a very good position to capitalise.”

Felipe Massa, 15th

“I made a mistake at turn eight in my first timed lap in Q2, and then in my final two attempts I came up against a lot of traffic which lost me a lot of time. On my final run my tyres were gone at the rear and that was the end of my chances. It’s a shame and I’m very disappointed, but I have a quick car around here so we need to have a good strategy and use our pace to move up into the points tomorrow.”

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering

“Valtteri did a fantastic job today. He kept chipping away and putting in good laps, and when it counted he delivered what he needed to do. We had very little data to go into that qualifying session with, but the team worked really well to try and understand what we had to do in terms of tyre strategy and that bore fruit for Valtteri in Q3. Felipe’s qualifying didn’t go to plan which is a shame because with the pace of the car he was definitely on for a second or third row position. The car is looking very quick around here so we need to convert this into a podium for Valtteri, and with Felipe we have the car to make our way through the pack and score some good points.”


Kimi Raikkonen, 5th

“So far, it has been a compromise weekend because of the weather and many other things that happened. Qualifying today was not the easiest one, it was a bit tricky to get temperature in the tires as we wanted in just one lap, because of the cold conditions. When the tires were working, though, the handling of the car was pretty good. In the last run in Q3 there was no time to do more than one lap, the start of the lap was ok but then I went wide and lost significant time. Tomorrow in the race it will be a bit unknown for everybody: obviously, we don’t have enough data from the long runs, so it’s hard to know what is going to happen, but I think we should be ok. I’m sure that when the tires work exactly as we want, the lap times will be a lot different We’ll try to make a good start then hopefully we’ll have a strong race and will be able to take the fight.”

Sebastian Vettel, 4th

“I’m not entirely happy: I think that qualifying was close and third place was possible. We started very well in qualifying, needing only one lap in Q1; then… I don’t know, as qualifying progressed I lost a little bit of feeling and didn’t manage to put the lap together in the end. Maybe there’s some ideas why this happened, we’ll have to have a look at that; but to be honest it’s irrelevant because tomorrow it’s a different format, a race with many laps, so we have to see what the day brings. We didn’t have the opportunity to really change much on the car, but I think everybody is in the same situation. Strategy is a bit unknown at that point, but we’ll try to do our best. I think is possible to fight with Williams, I believe we have a very good car so it should be a good race: I’m actually very confident for tomorrow. As for Mercedes, I think they have been more or less one second away but I also think tomorrow it will be a lot closer, I expect that the gap will be smaller, but we’ll see what we can do. If we have the chance, of course we must take it. Obviously it would have been a bit easier if we had been a bit closer to pole position. Let’s see what happens tomorrow. Today, the most important message is that Carlos is fine.”

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 10th

“We were slower with the set-up we had in Q3 but we’ve learned which direction to go in for tomorrow, so that’s a positive. Even with a good lap, at this track, we were probably looking at ninth for quali at best, so we didn’t lose too much. We’ll do what we can in the race; we have some strong teams around us, but we will push. On a positive note, it’s good to hear that Carlos is doing well.”

Daniil Kvyat, 11th

“I felt I did all I could this afternoon. Unfortunately, we only had one quick lap available on the last set of tyres so we had to go out a little bit later than we would have liked to. On the first timed lap I didn’t feel the tyres were ready and I could easily have improved on a second lap, because that was the pattern, but we just didn’t have time for a second push lap, so it’s a bit disappointing. Starting P11 is okay and at least it gives us a free tyre choice. I will fight hard and hope to finish in the points, which would be a good result. With Carlos, it was a bit scary at first, but then we saw him give the thumbs up. He’s a strong guy and I’m glad he’s okay.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“Firstly, it’s good to hear that Carlos is doing okay following his shunt in FP3. As for qualifying, we knew this track was going to be difficult for us as it doesn't play to the strengths of our car. Tenth and eleventh on the start grid represents where we are in the pecking order. Hopefully in the race we can make progress from those grid positions.”


Fernando Alonso, 16th

“In terms of power effect, this circuit was always going to be tricky for us. Whilst I’d always prefer to start up the front, I’m not really too disappointed with qualifying – with the penalties, I was always going to start last, so we tried to minimise the laps we needed to run today. And going out in Q1 means I haven’t put too many miles on the car.

“Let’s see what we can do tomorrow: this race will be important for us as we have some experimental parts we’re testing for next year’s car, and we want to get some information about them.

“I’ll go out to enjoy tomorrow’s race – and I’ll be aiming to recover some positions.

“Finally, I’m glad to hear that Carlos [Sainz] is okay after his accident – hopefully, we’ll see him back at the track tomorrow.”

Jenson Button, 13th

“This was probably my best qualifying performance of the year. Today, we got into Q2 due to our actual speed, rather than because of the others having any issues.

“Q1 was straightforward – I was only a tenth and a half off the top 10. In Q2, it cooled down a lot – my new-tyre run was three-tenths slower than my old-tyre run. That last lap was really low-grip, even though I’d done a couple of warm-up laps beforehand. I think a lot of people struggled to get the temperatures right.

“I’m encouraged, because it was always going to be a very tricky weekend for us. Nonetheless, the race will be tougher for us than qualifying was because our deployment isn’t as good as other people’s, so we’ll be affected along the long straights here. In turn, that will affect our fuel consumption – since we use more fuel because we don’t have as much deployment capability.

“Still, this is progress.”

Eric Boullier, Racing director, McLaren-Honda

“The Sochi circuit is another one that doesn’t suit our car’s performance envelope, so, that being the case, we’re tentatively encouraged by Jenson’s plucky 13th-fastest quali-lap.

“In fact, both Jenson and Fernando drove good laps, and got everything available out of the car, although unfortunately Fernando will start from the back row as a result of a power unit penalty.

“They’re sure to drive their usual efficiently combative races tomorrow, so let’s see what happens.”

Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D Senior Managing Officer - Chief Officer of Motorsport

“It was another busy Saturday after Suzuka. First, I am relieved to hear that Carlos Sainz Jnr is okay after his big accident. Second, though it was a very short FP3 session, we were able to ready the power unit deployment towards qualifying and the race.

“As for today's qualifying, it was disappointing that Fernando missed out on Q2 by such a tight margin. Though he did not make it into Q3, Jenson's comments after his run were encouraging, as he had a good feel for the car.

“Albeit a disrupted and short running day, we will use the data gathered to prepare for the long run of tomorrow’s race.”


Will Stevens, 18th

“I’m pretty pleased with how we have ended the day. I didn’t get a good lap on my first run, but it all came together for my second timed lap and I’m pleased to be ahead for the start of tomorrow’s race. We haven’t had much opportunity for preparation this weekend, but this morning I got a long run in and the car feels good. My best wishes to Carlos; I’m pleased he is okay.”

Roberto Merhi, 19th

“I was doing pretty well in qualifying but on the first lap of my second run I went off and flat-spotted my tyres. Then, on my push lap, I made a mistake, which cost me around 0.3s. However, I’m feeling positive for the race and it has been good to get a decent amount of dry running in today. Most importantly today, Carlos is okay. I was very worried for him; he is a good friend. I’m looking forward to seeing him racing when it’s best for him to come back.”

John Booth, Team Principal

“A much more productive day, in which we have been able to gather quite a bit of data in dry conditions more representative of the forecast for tomorrow’s race. We were also able to evaluate our long run pace and I think both drivers are quite pleased with where we have arrived at, given that there has been such a limited amount of running through the weekend. Will and Roberto have resumed their fiercely competitive intra-team battle, so we can expect to see them pushing each other hard in the race. It was a relief to see the thumbs-up from Carlos Sainz this afternoon after what was a nasty-looking crash. We wish him well.”


Nico Rosberg, 1st

“It was a tricky session today as we were not able to practise a lot yesterday. We had to guess what the right set up for this track will be. But we nailed it and had a nearly perfect lap in my first run in Q3. So I'm quite pleased with that. I'm in the best possible position for tomorrow, which is great. I really hope for a clean race, it will be a great battle with Lewis.”

Lewis Hamilton, 2nd

“Everyone was in the same position today with the limited practice. I didn’t get a hooked-up lap together but Nico did, so well done to him. It’s going to be a long race tomorrow though, so hopefully I might have a chance. There’s a long run down to Turn Two, so we’ll both be studying the line to take tonight. Maybe I can get a good start, we’ll see. We haven’t done a lot of laps, so I’m not really sure what our pace is like compared to the others. Our goal in the race as always is to finish well for the team, so we’ll be trying to do that.”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“A great job from Nico to take a second pole position in a row; he has been quick all weekend and kept that going through qualifying to take P1. Lewis was a few tenths off Nico’s time but I am sure he will be feeling confident for tomorrow’s race. It was a complicated session but the guys made the right decisions and did a good job to understand how to get the best performance from the tyres in tricky conditions. For the race, it will be a bit of a journey into the unknown because we have not had much running this weekend. This track is tough on the rear tyres and everybody will be watching the tyre degradation carefully. We’re starting from the best possible position but we need to take everything one step at a time.”

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

“First of all, congratulations to Nico – he was ahead during each part of the qualifying session and put in a great lap in Q3 to take pole. Lewis didn’t quite match that time, but will start from P2 to make it an all-Mercedes front row. It was quite a tricky session for us to manage because of the nature of this circuit. The track surface is very smooth and that makes the tyre warm-up the dominant factor for setting a good lap time. After we lost Friday practice for meaningful running, we spent most of Q1 and Q2 experimenting with run profiles to decide whether the first, second, third or fourth timed laps were quicker – and, of course, we were observing our competitors’ experiments, too. The main difficulty was that there was not enough time to do two runs of two timed laps in Q3 with both cars, which looked like it would have been our preferred solution, without the performance penalty of fuelling for the whole session and carrying the additional weight on the first run. So we chose to do a single run with each car, setting times on laps two and four. This was sufficient to lock out the front row but neither driver improved on their second lap. Now we look forward to tomorrow’s race, which will be a challenge for everybody after the limited running we have done this weekend. But we will be aiming to capitalise on our front row starting positions.”


Romain Grosjean, 8th

“It was a pretty good qualifying session for us. We knew the top ten was achievable if everything went right. It was quite a challenging day as we didn’t have so much data to work from so we had to make a few choices during qualifying, but it all seemed to work quite well for us. I’m happy with P8 and I think good things are possible in the race. I was glad to hear that Carlos had the thumbs-up after his accident.”

Pastor Maldonado, 14th

“For FP3 we had a better feeling with the car so we need to investigate to see why we couldn’t get the speed from the super soft tyres when we needed it. The car didn’t feel too bad, it just wasn’t quick enough when we wanted it. We all expected more from today. The main thing is that Carlos is okay after his incident earlier.”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director

“We know less about tyre performance than usual heading into the race. We saw a strong effort from Romain who is well placed for a decent result from P8 on the grid tomorrow whilst Pastor struggled for pace when he needed it, despite being quick in FP3. We’ve got more of a challenge from P14 on the grid so we’ll be considering all the strategic permutations for the race as well as searching for the pace lost in qualifying. For a number of reasons we’ve seen pretty limited running in the build-up to the race so we don’t have the same breadth of data that we usually would have relating to tyre performance. This means there are rather more unknowns than usual so we’ll all be very alert to how the race unfolds.”


Marcus Ericsson, 17th

“Qualifying was a bit like going into the unknown because of the limited track time in FP3. Qualifying did not work out as planned. On my first run I got a yellow flag when I was on my flying lap. For the second set we unfortunately had issues with sensors on the tyres, so we did not know their correct temperatures. This is obviously not ideal in qualifying. All in all, it was not a satisfying session for me, ending with a disappointing result. We need to fight back tomorrow.”

Felipe Nasr, 12th

“It was a good qualifying. A very close competition. As I did not run the supersoft tyres on short-runs in FP3, I had to find my rhythm quickly to understand them. Luckily during qualifying we made the right changes and got the tyres to work in the right window. We can be pleased with this result. P12 is a good position from which to fight for some points tomorrow.”

Monisha Kaltenborn, Team Principal

“Because of the fact that all the practice sessions were influenced by different circumstances, neither driver was able to complete the planned programme. Because of this, we had no trouble-free qualifying, which mainly affected Marcus. Felipe was able to improve, therefore, starting from P12 is a good position from which to fight for points.”


Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director

“The most important thing about today was the fact that Carlos Sainz is OK after his incident this morning. Everything else is of secondary importance. Clearly all the teams were on the back foot heading into qualifying, as there was very little clean practice time yesterday and today. As a result, there are big question marks about the optimal race strategy – especially as we have never raced here with the supersoft compound before.”

Toro Rosso

Max Verstappen, 9th

“First of all I’d like to say that I’m really happy to hear that Carlos is okay after his crash, that’s the most important news of the day. Hopefully he’s here tomorrow. I’m very satisfied with my qualifying performance today! It was my first time at this track with low fuel, so I had to get used to that at the same time during the session – I was still learning during qualifying! A P9 is a good result, I’m really pleased. It’s difficult to know what to expect for tomorrow’s race, as we didn’t get a lot of running during the practice sessions and even though our long-runs were not bad, we will need to wait and see... But I’m confident we can have a good race and fight for more points!”

Carlos Sainz, did not take part

“Hi everyone! As you can see I am fine. My back and my neck are just a bit sore from the accident, but I’m totally ready. Hopefully tomorrow I will wake up in a good shape and maybe I can try and race – this is definitely the intention! Obviously we need to be cautious... I’ve always been conscious. As soon as the accident happened I tried to talk to the team on the radio, but it wasn’t working and those must have been some scary moments… I’d like to thank everyone for their support, it’s really nice to receive all your messages at a moment like this one! I hope to see you all tomorrow out there!”

Phil Charles, Chief Race Engineer

“Our first considerations are obviously for Carlos. It was quite a big crash for him but it’s good to know that he feels well. We will now need to wait until tomorrow morning to hear if his final FIA medical checks are okay.

On the engineering side we are still finalising the details of our crash investigation. However so far there are no significant findings to talk about. From a personal point of view I am quite impressed to see that the car has survived such a shunt in quite a healthy way: the nose crush zone has worked very efficiently and the four wheels were still retained by the tethers. The monocoque looks to be in good shape as well.

Talking a little more about the car performance, both drivers were settling down nicely in P3 before Carlos’s crash, doing long-run tyre tests early on. In qualifying with Max, he did a good job as we were still evolving our approach as well, given we didn’t get a short run with either driver in P3. Most significantly we had to make a decision on the way we used the tyres selecting between build-push or push-charge-push. We elected for the second option in Q3. It is obviously difficult to say for sure which would have been better but Max put together a pretty good lap and I think we achieved most of what we could have today with our package.”

Franz Tost, Team Principal

“I’m very happy that Carlos is ok and out of hospital, this is the most important thing for us! I hope he will have a good night’s sleep and tomorrow morning he will have to go through the FIA medical checks to decide if he will be able to take part in tomorrow’s race. Now, just to clarify what happened, prior to the accident, Carlos had completed a long-run on the Option tyre, before changing to the Prime to do two further laps. On Primes the grip level is lower. In addition he had changed the brake shape on the steering wheel, which meant he had more braking rearwards. A combination of these two factors might have been the cause of the rears locking, which made the car uncontrollable.”