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In quotes - Saturday in Abu Dhabi

28 Nov 2015

Ten teams, 20 drivers, and one official tyre supplier report back on qualifying for the 2015 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix...


Valtteri Bottas, 6th

“We expected slightly more from qualifying, but I think we have a competitive car for tomorrow to fight with Force India, Red Bull and hopefully Ferrari. The balance felt good today but we were just missing some speed, as we have been all weekend. It should be an exciting race and we will fight to the end for every position to finish the season on a high.”

Felipe Massa, 8th

“The lap wasn't too bad, but the times were very tight at the top. The Force India was very strong and the two positions in front of me were split by just a tenth. Our long run pace is good, but the teams in front are strong so the race could be tough, a hard battle. But we have the opportunity to improve as there will be a few teams with similar pace to us in the fight.”

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering

“We probably got as much as we could out of today, given the conditions and how we've set up the cars. Obviously that's not where we want to be, but we're inside the top 10 and we can look forwards tomorrow and finish higher up. We’ve set the cars up well for the race knowing it would be a compromise for qualifying, so we are still aiming to finish on a high on the podium.”


Fernando Alonso, 17th

“Our car has performed better in every session than we initially anticipated. So it was cruel luck to get a puncture at possibly the most critical point of the whole weekend; the final run of Q1.

“That was unfortunate, because we’d been looking very competitive, and our car seems to be performing quite well around here.

“The race will be difficult owing to our straight-line speed deficit, but I’ll be aiming to make a good start, run a good strategy, and make up some positions. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”

Jenson Button, 12th

“We changed the set-up overnight and everything really worked well. In fact, the car feels the best it has all year, which is always promising at the end of a long season.

“My lap in Q1 was good; it was good in Q2 too, but I think the others got their laps together and put us in our place, which was 12th. So it’s disappointing to end up outside the top 10, particularly as we felt we had a fighting chance of getting through to Q3 for the first time this year.

“However, I didn’t leave anything on the table and definitely maximised everything I had; I just couldn’t find the grip on that final run in Q2.

“The race will be more difficult than qualifying, but we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”

Eric Boullier, Racing Director, McLaren-Honda

“It’s a mark of our good progress this weekend that we’re comparatively disappointed with Jenson’s P12 in Q2 this evening. His ninth position in Q1 was a real fillip for the guys in the garage, and it would’ve been a supreme validation of all our hard work had we made it through to Q3 for the first time this season.

“To have been denied by a scant 0.186s was a smidgen dispiriting, but 12th on the grid equals our best qualifying performance of the year [achieved by Jenson, in Monaco, where he started 10th following grid penalties for two drivers who had qualified ahead of him] and shows that we’re making real progress with the car.

“Tomorrow’s race, which will be run on a track that we don’t expect fully to suit our package, is likely to be gruelling. However, hard and embattled racers that they are, Jenson and Fernando will surely push hard and make the very most of the racier-than-usual position in which we find ourselves.”

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

“Abu Dhabi FP3 was a very good session, during which we analysed yesterday's running data to fine-tune the balance of the car and tweak the final deployment data for the power unit.

“The car’s balance and performance had improved greatly during FP3, and both drivers had a good feel going into the evening qualifying session. Unfortunately, Fernando suffered a rear puncture on his second timed lap and was knocked out of Q1.

“Jenson, who had struggled more with the balance during yesterday's practice sessions, had a much improved day today and went into Q1 with a nice, clean lap, which pushed him safely into Q2. It was a shame that he missed out on Q3 by a very close margin.

“Tomorrow will be the final race of 2015, so the team will give it our best and hope that we can finish the season with a positive result.”


Will Stevens, 19th

“I’m really happy with my qualifying today. Looking at the weekend so far, this has been one of my strongest races all season. As soon as I got here I felt really comfortable with the car and it’s nice to be at a track where I’ve had previous F1 experience. I’m very excited about tomorrow now; the pace is going to be good and I’m really hoping to end the season on a high. I think we’re pretty on top of it to be honest.”

Roberto Merhi, 20th

“A disappointing qualifying for me, I flat spotted my tyre on my quick lap, as I haven’t had the confidence in my brakes all weekend. I was also blocked on my other lap, so overall not a great qualifying for me. It’s a shame, as this is the final race, but I will look forward to tomorrow now and the opportunities it may bring.”

John Booth, Team Principal

“Mixed fortunes for our two drivers today. On the one hand, Will was very happy with his performance. He got a good clean lap and is clearly at one with this circuit, having raced here in 2014. Roberto on the other side of the garage had a less comfortable time of it in qualifying, which is not how he would have wished to be going into his last race of the season tomorrow. Still, both drivers and the rest of the team will be giving it everything we have to see out 2015 on a positive note.”


Romain Grosjean, 15th

“That was very frustrating, but it’s the end of the season and I think my gearbox has been around the world about three times already! I’ll be doing everything I can tomorrow; I’ve asked the engine guys to turn it up to eleven so let’s see what we can do!”

Pastor Maldonado, 13th
“We expected a difficult qualifying session so P13 is not so bad. You need a lot of downforce around here and that’s an area where we’re a bit lacking, especially at this time of the season. It’s the final race of the year tomorrow so we’ll do everything we can to get a decent result.”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director

“The race will be tough, but we’ll keep pushing. It was frustrating. It was clear from FP3 that we would struggle for qualifying pace today. Pastor’s P13 was actually quite reasonable but the issue we had with Romain’s car was a real kick. We tried everything we could to get him out, but it was not to be. Our race performance should be stronger relative to the opposition so we will be trying to work our way up the order albeit at a circuit where overtaking is not so easy. It will be a tough race but as always we will give it our best shot.”

Force India

Sergio Perez, 4th

“Fourth place on the grid is a great result for us and I’m very pleased with our strong performance all the way through qualifying. We’ve made some good decisions this weekend with the changes we have made to the car and it’s taken us in a very positive direction. I think the analysis we carried out after the weekend in Sao Paulo has really paid off and we’ve learned a huge amount. All of my laps this evening were very clean and tidy, and we managed to get the maximum from the car. The challenge tomorrow will be keeping some very quick cars behind me, but I also think we have a good chance to make up some positions at the start. I have the confidence in the car to really push and there is definitely the potential to come away with a great result this weekend. In many ways it’s a shame that tomorrow is the final race of the season because the car is working very well at the moment and I’m enjoying the racing so much.”

Nico Hülkenberg, 7th

“It was a good qualifying session for the team, although I feel I could have been higher up the grid. I was pretty happy with my laps, especially the one in Q3, so to find myself in seventh actually feels a little bit disappointing. We need to look at the data and figure out where we lost time and what we can do to recover it. Looking ahead to the race, we’ve been working hard to improve our race pace and hopefully the changes we have made will pay off tomorrow. The car is quick on the straights and the balance has felt good from the start of the weekend. Starting from the fourth row, we have every opportunity to score a good result tomorrow.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer

“We’ve looked competitive in every session leading up to qualifying, so I think tonight’s strong showing is a fair reflection of our performance level at this circuit. Both Checo and Nico did a great job this evening with clean laps in all the sessions to secure fourth and seventh on the grid. It gives us a good opportunity to end the season with an equally strong race result, especially as we can race relatively free from pressure having already secured fifth place in the championship. The big question tomorrow is how our race pace will compare to our competitors because we saw on Friday that there are very small margins between all the teams. Whatever happens we will fight hard to sign off 2015 with a good helping of points.”

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 5th

“I’m happy with the session; I think we’ve done really well. We were able to improve in every session and the weekend so far has been pretty smooth. Our lap time kept on getting better and better and that’s when you know the session’s gone well. You find a few tenths each run. Last year, one of my best qualifying performances was here and today sort of backed that up. Our target for tomorrow is definitely to keep the Williams behind us and find a way around Perez. He was really quick today. I hope they fade a bit in the race. It should be interesting tomorrow. We won’t have an easy time passing them on track but at least it’s a track where you can overtake. The DRS zones are good and you can definitely have a go.”

Daniil Kvyat, 9th

“Not running in FP3 unfortunately comprised our day and the car didn’t feel right. We were hoping it wouldn’t affect us too much this evening, but it did and I just didn’t feel comfortable out there. Not running in P3, after the small issues which we had yesterday, meant we had to go into qualifying a bit blind. Luckily we did a few long runs in P2 yesterday which was quite useful and will be helping us tomorrow. We will try to make up some places then, so hopefully we will be able to take something out of it.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“It was a fantastic lap from Daniel, possibly one of his best of the season, to line up fifth for the race tomorrow. He set a blistering pace in Sector Three, which made up for the time lost in Sectors One and Two. Dany matched Daniel’s pace in Sectors One and Two but unfortunately lost out in Sector Three and will line up ninth. We can realistically expect to have a strong race from these grid positions and we will be looking to capitalise on that tomorrow to end the season with the best results possible.”


Kimi Raikkonen, 3rd

“It has been a nice Saturday, my car has been feeling pretty good the whole day. This morning I only struggled on some laps, but overall the behavior was the way I wanted and when it’s like that it’s a lot easier to put the lap together. The Mercedes have been very quick today and yesterday, in the lap times they are a bit faster than us, but the race is tomorrow, so let’s see. I did my maximum today. Tomorrow is another day, we can only do our best and see where we’ll end up. We’ll try to make a good start and then see how it pans out, going from there and making the right decisions.”

Sebastian Vettel, 16th

“Nothing wrong with the car, we thought that the lap I had on the Soft (harder) tyres was quick enough, but in the end it was not. There was also a car in front which shouldn’t have been there. So we misjudged the situation, a small mistake with big consequence, but the race is tomorrow and lots can happen. It is good that Kimi is in the front, we have a quick car and it is possible to overtake here, even if only tomorrow we’ll be able to tell how much it is. You can spend a lot of time speaking about what we did wrong, but in the end we know, so now we need to move forward.”

Maurizio Arrivabene, Team Principal

“A huge mistake on our side made it impossible for Seb to progress beyond Q1. Kimi did an outstanding job, ending the session with third best time. Tomorrow in the race we must simply give our best, in order to finish this season in style.”


Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director

“Once more, Abu Dhabi delivered a spectacular qualifying session under the lights. We saw some different strategies at work during qualifying, with Kimi Raikkonen being the only driver to use just the soft in Q1, before completing just one run on the supersoft in Q2. Wear and degradation levels are exactly where we would expect them to be at this point in time, thanks to the track evolution that we anticipated over the weekend. This means that a wide variety of strategies are possible, but we’d expect most drivers to stop twice. With track temperatures falling throughout the race, the pit wall is going to have to monitor the situation and perhaps adapt the strategy to conditions as they fluctuate.”


Marcus Ericsson, 18th

“It’s been a difficult weekend for me. We have been struggling to find a balance for the car that I feel comfortable with. For qualifying I felt we were going in the right direction. With the first set of supersoft tyres in Q1 I made a mistake on my second lap. After that, on the next run I was not able to improve, as we seemed to have issues, so I had to abort the run at the end when the track was in its best condition. Overall, the result is for sure disappointing, but I think we made a step forward in terms of the car’s performance. This is positive for the race, and I will do my best to fight back.”

Felipe Nasr, 14th

“I think we made a good improvement compared to the practice sessions. Of course, this starting position is not ideal, but I am still satisfied with the changes we made to the car between yesterday and today. I was able to put a good lap together in Q1. In Q2 I then made a small mistake on my second lap into Turn 1, which cost me some time. Overall, I felt a difference between the tyres in Q1 and Q2, so I want to understand why we lost a bit of performance in Q2. For tomorrow, the objective is to keep the eighth position in the constructors’ championship as well as holding onto 13th in the drivers’ championship for me. I will do everything I can to achieve that.”


Nico Rosberg, 1st

“Normally I’m not too over-excited when I’m on pole, as you don’t get any points on a Saturday. But this time was a pretty cool feeling. My last lap felt absolutely fantastic and it’s great to be starting P1 again. I'm also quite happy that I've been quicker than Lewis for the last couple of race weekends. At the beginning of the season he was always this tiny little bit ahead, so it’s good to turn that around. This is the best position to start the race tomorrow. I want to win this one to finish the year on a high and give the boys in the garage a really good reason to have a great season-ending party tomorrow night.”

Lewis Hamilton, 2nd

“I've generally been struggling with the car all weekend. I’ve changed a lot to try and get around the issues – but I’m still not really feeling comfortable with it. I did what I could out there tonight – but Nico was just really quick and did a great job in Q3, so I wasn’t really surprised he did a better lap in the end. It hasn’t been the best run of qualifying sessions for me lately – but I’ve still managed to turn three of those into wins. So, there is still an opportunity – even it is particularly hard to follow through the first sector. I will work as hard as I can to have a great start tomorrow and improve from there. I’ve got a lot of support here this weekend and that 44th win is still out there to grab, so I will be working hard for it tomorrow.”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“That was a great qualifying session to end the season. Nico did a phenomenal lap at the end of Q3 with a really amazing final sector to take the pole position – his sixth in a row. Lewis had a solid session but things didn’t come together for him in Q3. Nevertheless, P2 is not a bad grid position at this circuit – as last year showed. Everything is set up for a great battle tomorrow. Both boys will want to take the momentum of a win into the winter – and we’re looking forward to the battle.”

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

“It was a fantastic, tense final qualifying session of the season under the lights here in Abu Dhabi. As in Brazil two weeks ago, we saw no need to save option tyres for the race, so it was quite a straightforward programme for both drivers with a single run in Q1 and Q2. That set up the Q3 showdown, with both Nico and Lewis running two new sets of option tyres. Lewis clearly underperformed on his first run in Q3 relative to Q2, then put a strong final effort together. But this was beaten by Nico’s tremendous lap. Congratulations to Nico for his pole and to both drivers for fantastic qualifying performances throughout the season, which is not something that should ever be underestimated. To take 15 all-Mercedes front rows is a very proud benchmark. Now we look forward to the final instalment of their battle tomorrow.”

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz, 10th

“I’m very pleased and happy with today, especially after such a difficult day yesterday! I definitely needed a clean Saturday. I managed to build up my confidence and set-up my car as I wanted during what was a very smooth FP3. Today’s qualifying was tough, as I had to get used to the twilight conditions and get the braking references right – something I wasn’t able to do yesterday in FP2 because of the lack of running. It was important for me to have a good qualifying here and I have to say I’m very satisfied with P10. I was able to stay calm and did a very good lap when it mattered. It wasn’t an easy day to get into Q3 but we managed it and it feels good!”

Max Verstappen, 11th

“It wasn’t the easiest of days, but we tried to make the most out of it and we can be happy with our result. In today’s qualifying session I think we maximised the potential of the car. I think all the runs were very good, except for the last one in Q2 – we have a certain way to prepare for a lap and I got caught in traffic so I had to back off, losing tyre temperature, and then you don’t have the confidence to brake hard into the first corner and lose one and a half tenths… But at the end of the day a P11 is a good position to fight from in tomorrow’s race – I’m the first one with new tyres so it looks promising, as this track is quite hard on the tyres. I think we have good race pace, so it will be interesting tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to it!”

James Key, Technical Director

“We made some improvements to the car from yesterday, but the trend this weekend for us has been struggling to keep the Option tyre to work over a single flying lap. Therefore we knew that qualifying was always going to be a bit tricky unless we solved that problem. We definitely made some steps forward and we are very happy with our Prime performance today, but we didn’t completely rectify the issue regarding the Option tyres. As a result, we were expecting a little bit more from qualifying today but did not make the most of it. However, I have to congratulate Carlos for getting into the top ten, because he hasn’t had an opportunity for a while with recent problems. Unfortunately, Max missed out. He lost a bit of time in the first sector at the start of his last run in Q2 – literally only a few hundredths of a second – but that was just enough to knock him out of the top ten. We will have to use the fact that he starts on new tyres in the race to overtake and move forward as best possible, we know he can do this! To sum up the day, we can’t be totally satisfied with starting from P10 and P11 but the positive part is that on both tyre compounds our long-run pace from Friday running on high fuel was relatively better than our short runs. We’ve got one opportunity left to try and score some good points and we will do the best job we can – we have nothing to lose.”