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In quotes - Saturday in Belgium

22 Aug 2015

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

Marussia

Will Stevens, 19th

“I’m really happy with how things have gone today. The car feels really good and I’m enjoying a good battle with my teammate. It’s nice to end qualifying ahead, but I think we can expect a good fight between us tomorrow. It could be a very mixed race tomorrow, weather-wise. Potentially a bit like Silverstone where it was dry for the most part and then the rain came along and changed the landscape. Because of the nature of this track, we’ll need to keep our wits about us, but at the same time it could throw up a few opportunities for us.”

Roberto Merhi, 20th

“I’m pretty pleased with my qualifying lap today. I lost quite a bit of time this morning in FP3 due to a small hydraulics problem, so I was not quite so prepared for qualifying. Will and I were trading time through the lap, me losing out in the first and last sector, but gaining on him in the second. So I’m looking forward to the race and to seeing how we can continue that fight between us. It is usually a race where anything can happen, so I think it will be close between us.”

John Booth, Team Principal

“We had a few little niggling problems this morning, and Roberto in particular lost quite a bit of time, but we’ve had a very solid qualifying and in actual fact can be very pleased with our relative performance today. Will and Roberto are quite close again, so this should be exciting in tomorrow’s race, especially as there is a good chance that the weather could be quite mixed.”

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 6th

“It’s pretty cool that everyone is so close and I am pretty happy with the lap. I don’t think I left anything on the table and it’s good to be in the mix. Grosjean has got a penalty so that will push me up to fifth and that’s where I started from last year - not that I’m superstitious or anything, but you can always hope! Sector two is fun for us and we can push really hard there. We bleed some time in sectors one and three but the chassis feels good which is really positive for the team. Fingers crossed we have some good battles on our hands for the race tomorrow, the honey badger will try and find some honey in the forest here and go after it!”

Daniil Kvyat, 12th

“I did my best but I missed out on Q3 by one tenth and a half which is disappointing. We will make the most of our strategy, and the tyres we have available, for the race tomorrow. This track allows for overtaking and we will try to make up some places during the race. We’ll do our best to make it work.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“Daniel will start from P5 for the race because of Grosjean’s penalty and his P6 qualifying is the best we could have hoped for. Dany was unlucky to miss the cut off for Q3 by just over one and a half tenths. The chassis is competitive, particularly in sector two, which is good. This is a track on which the drivers can certainly overtake and hopefully with some unpredictable weather, we can move forward from those grid positions tomorrow.”

McLaren

Fernando Alonso, 18th

“We knew this would be a difficult weekend. Spa is the longest circuit on the calendar, with very long straights, and we know we have a lack of straight-line speed, so we strategically decided to take some penalties this weekend.

“We missed the long run in yesterday’s practice due to the red flags and some telemetry issues, and we sat out FP3 this morning because of an exhaust issue, so we’re short on laps this weekend. So hopefully we can finish the race tomorrow and learn a little bit more about the car.

“In order to really enjoy the race, we’ll need something exciting to happen – like some rain. A dry race will make life difficult for us.”

Jenson Button, 17th

“I felt my lap today was equal to the pole position lap I did here three years ago – I really enjoyed driving the car this afternoon.

“This morning I’d been struggling with the rear end at the corner entries, but we transformed the car for qualifying. Nevertheless, when you cross the line at the end of the lap and think you’ve done enough to be a bit higher up, it’s difficult to hear that you’re still a second off the guy ahead. There’s a lot of work needed to close that gap.

“We always knew this circuit was going to be a tough one for us. It won’t be easy to make up any ground in the race tomorrow, and we’ve got a long way to go before we’re competitive, but at least the feeling in the car is good.”

Eric Boullier, Racing director, McLaren-Honda

“Jenson and Fernando, world champions both, carved millimetre-perfect qualifying laps here at Spa-Francorchamps today.

“Even so, despite that, so skeletal were their chances of recording good lap-times on a circuit so ill-suited to our car’s characteristics, that they could bag only 17th and 18th grid positions respectively.

“McLaren has won the Belgian Grand Prix 14 times in its illustrious history, most recently three years ago, courtesy of Jenson, who triumphed imperiously from pole position on that balmy September day. So, okay, I grant you, it’s hard for us to have to compare our performance here today with our rather more glorious past achievements, but our attitude is always to try to turn negatives into positives. So the historical contrast merely drives us on to work ever harder, with Honda, to bridge the performance gap between us and our competitors.

“Nonetheless, despite the fact that starting from the back of the grid can sometimes trigger hairy entanglements with neighbouring backmarkers, both Jenson and Fernando will be doing their utmost to make good progress through the field if at all possible.

“Having said that, that will be a tall order for them if the track remains dry. So, if it starts to rain at around lunchtime tomorrow, you won’t hear any complaints from us!”

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

“Another disappointing day, during which the updates have not been reflected in the results.

“In FP3, the team had planned to reduce the downforce of the car to resolve the issues of yesterday. Unfortunately, we encountered an exhaust issue on Fernando’s car, which consequently stalled the set-up changes to both cars. As usual, I’m thankful for the great teamwork in the garage to get Fernando’s car ready and back out on track for qualifying.

“We’ll start the race from the back of the grid, and we’ll hope to gain some positives by the end of the day.”

Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen, 14th

“I don’t know exactly what happened, I lost some drive and had to stop. It’s too early to say what the problem was, we have to wait to know more about the issue. Our car has been handling pretty nice all weekend, unfortunately the issue has come at the bad time, my position could have been a bit better. Yesterday we had been trying few different things and I think we had made the right choices for today. Obviously we know we have to improve in all areas. My starting position will make my race very tricky but I hope that the race condition will turn in our favour. It’s important to go through the first corner: even if it won’t be easy to get past Mercedes-engined cars, we’ll keep fighting and doing our best.”

Sebastian Vettel, 9th

“It’s very simple: in Q2 we were third and it was very tight if you look at the lap times. In Q3 I was having the same pace, unfortunately I was not able to improve like others, also lost some time at the last corner, and that’s why we’re not in front. But I don’t think there’s a reason to panic. For sure we’re not happy, I lost two or maybe three tenths, but tomorrow we should have a decent pace and pretty good straightline speed to turn things around. We have a good car and a strong package for the race. There’s a lot to be done tomorrow, it’s a long race, the starting and first turn will be interesting and there could be some rain at some point. There’s nothing wrong so we’re expecting a progress.”

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, 4th 

“Today’s result is more than we had expected! I gave everything that I had in the car for that last lap, I pushed hard from the beginning to the end. Being P4 is a really good effort. It is just so fast here. Going through Eau Rouge at 300kph, it feels like being a kid at Christmas. Every time you drive through it you have a smile on your face, it is so nice driving on this circuit. We will start from P9 tomorrow with the grid penalty and we will see what we can achieve from there. We have been better in race pace than qualifying pace so with a good set-up and hopefully some nice overtaking manoeuvres we can score some good points on Sunday. ”

Pastor Maldonado, 8th

“At the start of the weekend we didn’t have the best pace so the team has done a really fantastic job to get on top of the car and give me and Romain something really strong to use for qualifying, which is thanks to everyone’s hard work. I think we will be competitive tomorrow and with the right strategy we should be able to achieve something pretty good.”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director

“We’re very happy with today’s performance. It was a good performance and what we wanted. There is a downside with Romain’s gearbox penalty which means we won’t enjoy the full fruits of his fast lap, but we’re well-placed with both cars for tomorrow’s race.

The practice sessions we’ve had here have been somewhat interrupted so we don’t have as much long-run data as we would otherwise. We undertook some race work in FP3 this morning where we were pleased to see that the changes we’d made overnight had improved our rear stability and improved our degradation. Our expectation is for a strong race with both cars scoring well.”

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz, 10th

“I’m enjoying this track so much! I’ve been waiting all weekend for the qualifying session, because in free practice you always carry more fuel and the car doesn’t feel as fast… But I knew that once we got to qualifying I’d really feel the speed and that’s just what happened out there today. I’m really pleased with getting through to Q3. Even though my last run could have been a little bit better, it was a good result for us today. It was a surprise because on paper it looked something very difficult to achieve. It’s not the track that suits us the most so tomorrow’s race will be difficult, but we are going to push as hard as we can, make the most out of any mistakes the others do and hopefully finish within the top ten. I must say I think this is one of the best qualifying sessions I’ve had this year, even though now it’s time to forget this and look ahead to tomorrow’s race, as that’s when the points are given.”

Max Verstappen, 15th

“It wasn’t the best of starts to my qualifying session, as I had a power issue in Q1 which didn’t let me focus on my lap, even though I managed to get through to Q2. But, to say the truth, we planned a qualifying session like this, stopping in Q2, as there was no point in trying to fight for Q3 because of my 10-place grid penalty for tomorrow’s race. By doing this we’ve also saved some tyres and hopefully we can fight for points… I know it’s not going to be easy, but to be racing in front of my home crowd will surely give me that extra boost I need. I’m confident and looking forward to the race. In this morning’s final practice session I could see that our long-run pace was quite good, so I’m hoping tomorrow will be the same. It’s not being the easiest of race weekends, but the car feels good so I’m happy about that and at this track anything is possible. There will definitely be some hard fights, but we will aim to finish in the points, that would be a really good result for us here in Spa.”

Jody Egginton, Head of Vehicle Performance

“A good qualifying for Carlos today. He optimised his laps and performed tidy runs. In Q3 I’d say there was a bit more available and we felt that we could’ve gained a few more tenths… But to get into the Q3 here in Spa is a great achievement. Regarding Max, his qualifying strategy was based around optimising his race and maintaining tyre sets. We had a small electrical engine related issue in Q1 which we resolved during the session and we now look forward to the race tomorrow – it will be a challenge to finish in the points but we are ready for the fight.”

Force India

Sergio Perez, 5th

“It’s been a really good day and I am very satisfied with my lap in Q3. We were able to improve the car balance from yesterday and this gave me a whole lot of confidence - probably the most I have had this season. The car was much more predictable and this allowed me to push more in every corner. I showed very good pace in each of the three qualifying sessions and I am really looking forward to the race tomorrow. I see no reason why we cannot fight for the podium. The performance today also gives me a lot of optimism for the remainder of the season. The team is doing an amazing job and I am happy I was able to back it up with a good performance behind the wheel. I have been working hard with my engineers to get on top of the updated car and I expect to do this weekend after weekend.”

Nico Hülkenberg, 11th

“I’m not that happy today because we had the potential to be well inside the top ten. On my final lap in Q2 I made a small mistake going into turn one – I just locked the tyres and missed the apex. On top of that we had a small issue with the turbo, which cost us some speed and time down the straights. So I just missed out on making Q3. However, the weekend is not lost and I’m sure we can have a strong race from P11. The car has been performing very well this weekend; we’ve looked competitive and I will be attacking in the race to try and move forward.”

Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director

“It has been very satisfying to see the updated VJM08 looking so competitive here at Spa and Sergio delivered a fantastic performance today. Starting from the second row gives us every chance to score some good points tomorrow and even challenge for the podium. I’m sure Nico would have been up there too had he managed a clean lap, but I expect him to move up the order in the race. It’s important that we convert the performance today into a strong result tomorrow.”

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director

“The battle for pole between the two Mercedes drivers was stunning, with very little to choose between them right up to the end of qualifying on this amazing track. With a significant performance gap between the medium and soft compounds, and quite high degradation expected, there is plenty of scope for strategy here at Spa, with at least two pit stops anticipated for the majority of competitors. We’ve got a few drivers starting out of position due to penalties or other problems, so it’s going to be interesting to see how they tailor their strategies and use the tyres they have saved to move up through the field.”

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson, 13th 

“First of all I want to thank the team for its great effort in putting the car together over night. The result from qualifying is a bit disappointing. On the other hand, it is positive we made some progress this weekend in comparison to the last couple of rounds. FP3 was not as satisfying as we expected after the strong Friday. We made some changes for qualifying and went in the right direction, but in the end it was not enough to put us where we wanted to be. Starting from P13, we still have a good chance to score points.”

Felipe Nasr, 16th 

“A disappointing qualifying for me. I am surprised I was not able to make it into Q2, which was possible today. The first run in qualifying felt good, but then on the second I didn’t have enough grip. We need to analyse and understand what happened. We are in Spa so anything can happen tomorrow, as this track also offers good spots to overtake. I am confident I can move up some positions tomorrow.”

Monisha Kaltenborn, Team Principal

“We tried out different things on the car side during Q1 and Q2, and we went in the right direction. Unfortunately Felipe could not make it into Q2, whereas Marcus had a decent qualifying. Now we have to concentrate on the race, because the chances to score points are there.”

Williams

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering

“We chipped away at the session and came to the fore when it really mattered. It wasn’t the cleanest session for Felipe as we had to re-programme the car at the start of Q1 which delayed him getting on track, but he recovered well. Valtteri drove a very strong lap to get himself into third. Looking at our championship rivals we have had a great qualifying. Both drivers have done really well, we now need to convert this into some good points tomorrow.”

Valtteri Bottas, 3rd

“I am very pleased with the result and it’s good to be back in the top three. The team did everything right, it was up to me to put it all together. Behind me it was very tight so to be on top of that pack is great. P3 is a good place to start tomorrow, the race pace looks on par with quite a few of the teams around us, so it will be a fight, but one I am really looking forward to.”

Felipe Massa, 7th

“I lost a bit of time in the final sector and looking at the result it cost me a few positions, it was that close. It is frustrating but it is a long race and the circuit can hold so many surprises, one being the weather! We need to make sure we have a good start and gain as many positions as possible and then continue to build from there.”

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, 1st

“I'm really happy with the performance of the team and the car this weekend. It felt good right from the start and I'm so grateful for the big push the team has made in continuing to improve the car. It can be tough to find the ideal setup and then get a good rhythm at this track - but I've felt comfortable throughout. Saying that, Nico has been quick all the way through and it's generally been very close between us. Fortunately for me I pulled my two best laps out at the end. Of course, it's great to have pole, but I'm well aware that it's only one step. There's a long run down to turn five so anything can happen there and especially at the start. The team has done a lot of analysis on that front and we've been working on it in the simulator and here at the track. I feel we're as ready as we can be so we'll see how it goes. For now, though, I'm happy with today and looking forward to tomorrow's race.”

Nico Rosberg, 2nd

“Qualifying went well until the end. But in Q3, Lewis just found so much time which unfortunately I didn't manage to do. So, a disappointing day, but there is still so much to play for in the race. I need a good start and then after Eau Rouge there should be a good chance to overtake at the end of the long straight, so I will push hard to make it happen. We have a new starting procedure which we all need to get right and it will be interesting to see how that works tomorrow. But, overall, I'm still very positive that a win is possible here in Spa.”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“We're very pleased with today's result. After our race in Hungary, it was important to lay down a marker and we did that this afternoon. Lewis drove a fantastic lap - he had almost unbelievable pace in sector 2, and we had seen glimpses of that during practice this morning. But Nico has looked very competitive all weekend and will be strong tomorrow too, I am sure. Looking to Sunday, we are all stepping into new territory with the revised formation lap and start procedures. We have done a lot of practice this weekend, like everybody else, and now we need to wait and see how it turns out tomorrow afternoon.”

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

“A fantastic result to secure the front row in Spa – and in such unusually warm weather too, which I think we’re all struggling to get used to! Congratulations to Lewis on two quite incredible laps at the end – and on taking the 2015 pole position trophy for which he now cannot be surpassed. For Nico, he was right in the mix until Q3, so we’re confident he’ll be strong in the race also. Both cars ran flawlessly, so a great job from the team in what was a tense session, with the competition between our two drivers extremely close for the majority of running. In fact, analysing the results throughout the grid, it looks set to be a tightly contested race tomorrow, so we’re looking forward to an exciting start to the second half of the season.”