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In quotes - Saturday in Melbourne

14 Mar 2015

Qualifying in Albert Park threw up plenty of surprises - even if the front row wasn't one of them. Here's what the teams and drivers had to say on their Saturday form...

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg - 14th

“We always want to be further up the grid, but being realistic I don’t think we had the performance today to challenge for Q3. However, it’s only the first qualifying session of the season, so it’s still very early days and we have a lot of development work ahead of us. I enjoyed the qualifying session today: it was good fun out there and I felt comfortable in the car, and as a team we squeezed everything we could from the session. For tomorrow, I’m optimistic that our race pace will be stronger than our qualifying pace, as was often the case last year, so I’m looking forward to the race.”

Sergio Perez - 15th

“It was quite a difficult qualifying session and the windy conditions seemed to have a big impact on our car. In terms of performance, I think we are where we predicted because we knew Q2 was achievable and we managed to get the maximum from the car. For tomorrow, we know this is a race where anything can happen: it’s unpredictable and sometimes you have to be patient. We need to see what the weather is like because the wind and track temperature will play a big part. Whatever happens, I will work hard to have a competitive race and target some points.”

Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director

“Having two cars in Q2 is an encouraging sign after a challenging pre-season and it is testament to the hard work everyone in the team has put in during the winter months. To have Nico and Checo within a thousandth of a second of each other shows that they really pushed the car to its limit. The midfield appears to be very close, with a very small margin between six or seven cars so I expect a very interesting race tomorrow. Traditionally our race pace has been a strength so hopefully we can take the fight to the cars ahead of us.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean - 9th

“I’m really happy to be back in Q3, and especially happy for our guys who have been working so hard over the last twelve months. We knew we had a good car from winter testing and today we are more or less where we thought we could be. It’s a tight field and if I had sneaked another two tenths from my lap, I would have been seventh on the grid. I think we can generally be very happy with what we’ve been doing. Our long runs have looked good so far so let’s see what we can do during the race tomorrow.”

Pastor Maldonado - 10th

“Getting into the top ten is a pretty good result for us and it’s positive to think that it could have been better as we did lose a little pace in the final qualifying session. Looking to the race it’s quite encouraging as we’re starting the season in a much better place than we were last year so it’s all looking very promising. Fingers crossed, we’re looking to have a good race tomorrow.” 

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director

"Our plan was to get both of our cars into Q3 and we achieved it, although our expectations had shifted somewhat as a little bit higher up the order was possible. But we’re by no means unhappy with where we are. 

"There was a reasonably significant temperature variation during the course of qualifying and we did seem to suffer from this slightly more relative to our opposition as the track and air temperature cooled. 

"Our race looks to be against the Toro Rossos and the Red Bulls and the race pace simulations we ran on Friday seem to suggest we could be in for a good fight with them tomorrow. It could well be an interesting race."

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo - 7th

“We made progress through the session which is promising, it was so good to feel the car for once and push it properly. I think seventh is where we are now and I’m happy we achieved that as the weekend hasn’t gone well until now and qualifying was the first time I used the soft tyre. The drivability has been tricky; we suffered a bit this time last year, but there are a few more issues this year which weren’t expected, but it’s how it is and we need to try and sort it out. I’m really happy with seventh as realistically that’s the best we could have done today. The progress we made through qualifying is real and hopefully we can carry that on for the race.”

Daniil Kvyat - 13th

“We are trying our best. It was hard with the few laps that we had and I was just trying to get up to speed; I didn’t have enough confidence to make a good lap. It’s not easy at the moment because we are trying to solve some problems, but we are making progress."

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“After a difficult build up to qualifying, Daniel did a great job to make it through to Q3 and qualify seventh, which was the optimum today considering the issues we face this weekend. Unfortunately Daniil’s qualifying was compromised by a gearbox issue which limited his mileage, but he acquitted himself well, although he lost two tenths at Turn 15, which could have got him through to Q3. Hopefully from rows four and seven on the grid, we will be looking to make progress in tomorrow’s race.”

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson - 16th

“It was a disappointing session for me being P16, and we cannot be satisfied with this result. I had quite a good feeling in the car yesterday, but today I have been struggling to feel confident, especially in the braking zones. We need to analyse the data tonight to see what we have changed from yesterday, so that we can learn from that and fight back during the race. Tomorrow is a new day.”

Felipe Nasr - 11th

“As a team we can be happy that we nearly made it into Q3. Missing FP1 on Friday affected the performance of the car to a certain extent, and I also had less time getting to know the new track in Melbourne. All in all I am satisfied with the result and I am looking forward to the race. Tomorrow is an important day with it being my first ever Formula One race, and we are going to push for points.”

Monisha Kaltenborn, Team Principal

“It was a strong first qualifying for the team. We are pleased to confirm the positive impression from the winter tests. It is also nice to see the car further in front, which gives the team additional motivation. We are going into the race with good prospects for a positive result."

Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Head of Track Engineering

“The early afternoon session allowed us to recover some of the mileage we lost yesterday. So we were able to sort out the balance of the car. However, both drivers were caught out by the change in the weather conditions in Q1, so the session was not as good as we wanted it to be. It took a while to get the car back on pace. Unfortunately Marcus got stuck in Q1. We just made it with Felipe. Then in the next session, by building more confidence in the car, he did a good job and was able to clinch 11th position, which we can be pleased with as a starting point. We had a bit of an issue with the braking performance, which particularly affected Marcus in the third free practice session and cost him some confidence. However, overall it was a good day, and we are approaching the race with confidence."

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton - 1st

"It's been a great start to the weekend and, honestly, it doesn't feel like such a long time since the last race! It's been a huge effort from all the guys and girls at the factories to have this kind of performance from our car and I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to drive it. I've worked hard with the engineers yesterday and today to find a good balance. Then, in the session, I just tried to push hard and put the pieces together. It's so much fun when it works right, because this is the competition that I live for. And I'm immensely grateful to everybody at Mercedes for the hard work that has gone into it so far. But there is still a lot to do tonight to study for the race tomorrow because it will be a huge challenge to try and fight for the win. We will be working as hard as we can to make sure we have a good race."

Nico Rosberg - 2nd

"Lewis did a good job today, he drove like a champ. I also felt that I had the speed in the car but I didn't get together the perfect lap. In general I'm happy that the team again gave us a great car. It's fastest out there this year, too, so many thanks to the factories back home. But tomorrow I still can make it happen because it will be a long race. A lot can still happen and I will put on a great show. My long run pace on Friday was better than Lewis but he did quite a few set-up changes on his car, so there may be more to come from him."

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"It was a great day for the team and it's clear now that we have a very quick car. But you always have to stay careful - there are no points awarded on Saturday so we need to keep our feet on the ground and do our job properly tonight. It was a mega Lewis day out there on track. Both laps in Q3 would have been enough for pole position and he totally deserved it. For Nico, it was a bit messy today in Q3. He lost the car on his first run and had to pit, then decided to do his second run earlier so he could have some safety margin. He had a slow first sector - but the final sector was the quickest of anybody. He just didn't put the pieces together today but P2 is still a strong result. Looking to tomorrow, we will not be getting carried away. Sebastian looks strong and the Williams are very competitive, on the straights particularly. We have the pace in the car - but any mistakes from our side will cost us dearly. We will keep our heads down, prepare the best we can and see what Sunday brings."

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

"It's a great result for the team. The two laps from Lewis that were, in all honesty, much quicker than we had expected. And while it was a tricky session for Nico after the problem on his first run, he made a good recovery to lock out the front row. Overall, it hasn't been an easy day running the cars. P3 proved much hotter than any other session of the weekend, with high track temperatures and the challenge of adapting to them. Then, in qualifying, we saw temperatures falling rapidly and a gusting breeze that was also frequently changing direction. That made it a real challenge for the drivers to put in clean laps, so credit to them both for a superb first qualifying result of the season and credit to the teams at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart for what appears to be a great car."

Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen - 5th

“On my quick lap, I lost around three tenths at turn 3 and then I made a couple of mistakes in the next two corners. We knew we couldn’t fight the Mercedes, at least not in today’s qualifying, but third place on the grid was possible. In any case, during free practice, we saw that our long runs are pretty good, so we can be confident of having a good race. All we need to do is get a good start and then give it our best, but I think we can fight for a good position. As a team, we are working well together and we have a pretty clear picture of the situation. We know we are quick, but we need to improve in all sectors and, as for myself, I have to drive better.”

Sebastian Vettel - 4th

“Let’s keep our feet on the ground. So far this weekend, it’s gone well and we’ve had no problems with the car. It’s a shame that third place escaped us, as that would have made us the first team behind Mercedes, but it wasn’t by much and, after all the race is tomorrow. We lost third place because my first run wasn’t quick enough: I’m not very pleased with myself, because there was still some performance to be found, which would have meant I’d have qualified one place higher. In terms of strategy, maybe we could have done something different, but basically the result is down to me. First and second are a long way in front, but the race is tomorrow and anything can happen during the Grand Prix. A podium? There’s not much of a gap between third and fourth on the grid, so I think the podium is a realistic goal and that’s what we have to aim for.”

Williams

Felipe Massa - 3rd

"Mercedes have been ahead all weekend so we knew that on pure pace we were fighting for the best of the rest. Qualifying P3 means that we have done a very good job in getting the most out of the car; especially as the Ferrari’s looked strong and were pushing us hard. It will be a tough battle tomorrow so we need to get the start right and have a good strategy to secure a podium and really start the season on a high note."

Valtteri Bottas - 6th

"It was great to finally start the season and to have a very tight qualifying session. The car performed well and we were fighting with Ferrari throughout. Unfortunately towards the end of Q2 I started to feel a pain in my back. Under the circumstances I’m happy with sixth place, but as Felipe proved, this is not a true indication of our pace. Given the back complaint I had during the session, the team and I felt it sensible to get me checked out at the local hospital and we await their diagnosis."

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering

"It was a bit of a mixed qualifying for us today. On the one side Felipe was able to show the speed of the car and there was still margin left in his lap which puts us in a good position for tomorrow. Valtteri had a back complaint develop during qualifying which hindered his ability to set the sort of time he was capable of and had to settle for the third row. The race will be challenging strategically, but the car has shown very good long run pace which will stand us in good stead tomorrow."

Marussia

Will Stevens - DNS

“It goes without saying that I’m disappointed that we ran out of time for qualifying. Disappointed not just for me, but for the whole team, because the effort this week has been tremendous. What matters most is that we’re here, so we have to focus on that fact and look to the future. We knew it would be difficult, that we would experience some challenges and that is what happened, but we are better placed for the next few races and that in itself justifies the hard work over the past few days.”

Roberto Merhi - DNS

“A tough way to start the season but we have worked together to try to overcome our problems and already I feel a big part of the team. They are like a family and it is nice to see the true spirit, even if we had hoped for more this weekend. Certainly we came here to go racing and it is difficult that we haven’t been able to get the cars out but that leaves me feeling all the more determined to work hard with everybody to push for more in the coming races.” 

John Booth, Team Principal

“We have come such a long way in an incredibly short space of time, so to miss out on qualifying is of course very disappointing. One always has to look at the silver lining in these situations and ours is that we have identified, worked through and ironed out a number of very challenging issues in the field and that experience will stand us in good stead as we move forward from here. This is a team that has met and overcome many difficulties, both in the past few months and at other stages of our racing history. There are very good things ahead for us and that is where our focus lies. For now, well done to everyone in our team. We can all feel justifiably proud of our achievements so far.”

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz - 8th

“I’m very happy, it feels great to be starting my first ever Formula 1 race from P8 on the grid tomorrow! It was quite a smooth qualifying session apart from Q1, where I made a small mistake, but I didn’t let that affect me and from then onwards everything went really well. I just kept focused and tuned the car to my liking to extract its full potential. I feel very comfortable in the car, I’m really enjoying myself a lot. It’s difficult to know what to expect tomorrow, as it will be my first race, but I’m looking forward to it.  It will surely be a bit of an adventure but this is what I’ve been preparing myself for the whole winter and I feel ready.”

Max Verstappen - 12th

“Today’s final practice was good for me to get back running again and try some different set-ups, so it was very useful before going into qualifying. I felt good in the car from the start and did a good Q1. The first run in Q2 was reasonable, even though I had something stuck in my back so my shoulder hurt a bit. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good lap because the tyres were not ready. During the second push-lap, I made a mistake out of Turn 4, where I went a bit too wide and lost the rear, losing quite a lot of time. It’s a shame but I can’t change any of this now. I look forward to tomorrow, my first ever Formula 1 race. The car is working well and hopefully we will be able to score some points as we have a good race pace.”

James Key, Technical Director

“What’s important to highlight from today is the fact that it was both Max and Carlos’ first ever Formula One qualifying session. It was a new experience for them in a very tightly-packed environment here and slightly trickier conditions out on track than what we’ve had all weekend. So it was a challenge for them but they managed to keep it together, they built-up extremely well with each new set of tyres and they adapted to the programme extremely well. Most of our work leading up to today has been on long-runs, tyre management and race performance, so to go into qualifying and do as well as they did I think is excellent. It was tough for Max not to get into Q3, he had a little bit of a mistake in his Q2 run which cost him a couple of tenths which would’ve been enough to make the cut, but I’m sure he will be more than okay tomorrow. Carlos did an outstanding job to get into Q3 in his first ever qualifying session. To be P8 is good, this is a strong start for tomorrow.”

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

“This was one of the most eagerly-anticipated qualifying sessions of the year, which confirmed many of the trends that we have seen up to now. The tyres performed exactly as we expected them to with no trace of graining or blistering, despite changeable track conditions due to the wind and falling temperatures. The nomination we have made means that different strategies are possible, although a two-stopper will theoretically be fastest. Having seen the true qualifying pace of the 2015 cars, we now look forward to seeing their race pace when the lights go green tomorrow: there is still scope for some interesting surprises.”

McLaren

Jenson Button - 17th

This level of performance wasn't a surprise for us: we knew from winter testing that the pace wasn't there, so we knew we weren't going to be competitive here. However, there's a good feeling about the car – I know we're so far off, but the basic car is there beneath me, and we're adding to our experience and learning with every lap we do. 

"And that's really impressed me – we've gone through our first race weekend together, and we've managed to solve each issue that's confronted us. There's just a lot of work needed to add power and downforce – but this is an important car for the future of McLaren-Honda. 

"It's going to be a really difficult race for us – we haven't done a race distance yet, and my longest run is 12 laps – but we want to do the best we can because there's so much learning to be had. It'll be a tough day, but we'll be doing our absolute best."

Kevin Magnussen - 18th

"Things were going well on my first run in Q1. Then, on my second run, I had a slight problem with the engine – it didn't really matter, as we'd have needed a bit of luck to get into Q2.

"For tomorrow's race, we're not really focused on getting points – they're not really on the cards for us – but we'll go racing tomorrow to try and learn. We haven't done a full race distance yet, so progress tomorrow will be important. If we can finish, we'll learn a lot; and, even if we don't, there'll still be something useful to take home.

"This isn't where we want to be, but we're not ready to win races yet. We'll put our heads down and keep learning, and we'll try and take as much experience and knowledge from the race tomorrow as we can."

Eric Boullier, Racing director

"I need hardly say that everyone at McLaren-Honda is enormously dissatisfied with today's qualifying result. We've got a mountain to climb, but all I can say is: climb that mountain we certainly will.

"McLaren exists to win. That ambition burns as brightly now as ever it has. Equally, racing is ingrained in Honda's corporate culture. Throughout its history, on two wheels and four, Honda has raced and won at the very highest levels. And the bespoke new racing R&D facility at Sakura is state-of-the-art.

"So Honda will do whatever is required to win, and so will McLaren. And win, eventually, we definitely will."

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

"First of all, I must thank both drivers for maintaining their faith and determination – we're not where we want to be, but their input and positivity are really helping the whole team push forward. 

"Unfortunately, today's higher temperatures didn't help the conservative data mapping settings that we chose to run this weekend. From the outset, we took the decision not to gamble any engines away in the opening race, so there'll be more to come from us.

"McLaren and Honda have come a long way together since the beginning of this project, but we still have a long way to go. However, I'm sure that we'll continue to make progress – and that first step starts in the race tomorrow."