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In quotes - Saturday in Japan

26 Sep 2015

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

Force India

Sergio Perez, 9th

“Starting from ninth place is not too bad all things considered and we can race well from there. It’s a shame I couldn’t complete my lap in Q3, but the main thing is that Daniil [Kvyat] is okay. Perhaps if I had the opportunity to set a time I could have been ahead of Romain [Grosjean], but hopefully I can get ahead of him at the start tomorrow because I think Lotus will be our main competition. It’s going to be a tough race because there are some quick cars ahead of us, but you never know what can happen here and we still need to see what happens with the weather. Tyre management is always important in this race and with the wet Friday there are still some question marks.”

Nico Hülkenberg, 11th

“Of course it’s disappointing to miss out on Q3 by such a small margin, but I can't complain too much about our performance today. I think my qualifying lap was pretty good and I felt I was pushing the car to its limit: unfortunately that wasn't enough, but I know it was our best effort. It's difficult to know what we can expect in tomorrow's race: the midfield battle is very tight and everyone around me will make it really hard for me to get back into the points. I had hoped to qualify a bit higher to offset my penalty, especially as this is not the easiest place to overtake. It will be interesting to see how the lack of running from yesterday will affect others: we managed to do a good job with our set-up this morning, but there are plenty of unknowns about the long run pace.”

Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal

“Having lost the whole day to the rain yesterday, this morning didn't look too promising, but we worked hard leading up to qualifying and found a good direction with both cars. Checo continued his brilliant form to qualify in the top ten and starting from ninth gives him a good chance to have a strong race. Sadly, the red flag at the end of the session meant he wasn't able to put in a lap and be further up the order. Nico made a good step forward as well, but unfortunately he missed out on a place in the top ten by the smallest of margins. Of course, he'll have a bit of an uphill battle with his three-place grid penalty, but even starting from P14 he should be able to fight for points. Racing in Suzuka is never predictable, even when the weather remains dry: it's a track that punishes mistakes, so we will need to be ready to take any opportunity tomorrow.”


Marcus Ericsson,17th 

“That was a messy session. I was compromised a bit by the mistake I made on the first run. I pushed the rear tyre a fraction too much to the edge of the track and then I lost the car in the entry to turn 13. I had no reference lap time for the second run. I was then on a good lap at my second try, and I think I would have made it into Q2 without the yellow flags. It is a shame, as there was more possible today. Tomorrow we need to fight back.”

Felipe Nasr, 18th

“We had bad luck today. Q2 was possible from my point of view. I was on my best lap when I came across yellow flags. Tomorrow we have to give our best. It is not an easy track to overtake on, so we need to benefit from any opportunities that might come up.”


Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director

“The drivers were able to get the maximum performance out of both compounds at Suzuka, exploiting the performance advantage of the medium tyre around this fantastic circuit. Tomorrow we’re expecting a two-stop strategy from most competitors provided it stays dry – which is a long way from absolutely guaranteed. With the rain that fell yesterday, the drivers had a lot of work to do during the final free practice session this morning. Suzuka always provides several opportunities for strategy, so the teams will be carefully analysing their data this evening to see how they can use their tyres and pit stops to gain a competitive advantage.”


Romain Grosjean, 8th

“I didn’t expect to go into Q3, we thought we were half a second off so this was a great job from everyone! I had a really good lap for Q3. I didn’t get to do my second run, but the main thing is that Daniil is okay and out of the car. For the race, we’ll certainly aim to keep the starting position and score some points.”

Pastor Maldonado, 13th

“I was hoping to get into Q3 and although things were quite close, we didn’t make it. We were still working on getting the best out of the medium compound tyres from this morning and we improved a little bit this afternoon, but not enough. Hopefully the strategy, combined with saving new tyres for tomorrow, should work and we can recover a few places in the race.”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director

“It was a decent qualifying session for us today. Romain made it through into the top ten and went eighth fastest. We thought we could get both cars into Q3 but Pastor missed out; however he will gain a place on the grid. From eighth and twelfth there’s solid potential for points. It looks like there could be some rain overnight but not for the race so it means pretty normal strategy considerations. That said, we had limited running on Friday so all teams are quite restricted in their long-run data which gives us more to think about. The hard and medium Pirelli tyres are quite comparable on performance so we could see a variety of strategies through the field.” 


Fernando Alonso, 14th 

“That was probably the best lap of my career around Suzuka. I could have fitted 100 more sets of tyres to the car, and I probably still wouldn’t have bettered that Q2 lap-time.

“It’s frustrating to end up 14th, but that’s the situation at the moment. And it’s not as though anyone in the team is relaxing. No, we’re pushing hard, but there are no magic solutions.

“Tomorrow’s race will be tough – there are faster cars behind, such as Max’s [Verstappen], but we’ll do our best to try to get some points.

“For all the fans who are supporting us, it would be nice to get both cars to the chequered flag tomorrow.”

Jenson Button, 16th

“The Q1 yellow flag in the middle sector meant I had to lift. Without that, I probably would have got through to Q2. However, I wasn’t told in which engine mode to put the car. Every time before we start a timed lap, we’re instructed over the radio to adopt a particular setting, but I didn’t get told, and I went to the wrong setting.

“The car didn’t feel too bad to drive – but we needed to get everything out of it today, and we didn’t. You can’t make a single mistake here – even going half-a-turn out on the front wing makes a big difference.

“The race will be tough for everyone tomorrow. But as usual we’ll try our best.”

Eric Boullier, Racing Director

“Fernando drove a mighty lap in Q2, but was unable to better 14th position. That’s frustrating, but it shows the extent of his commitment, which is admirable.

“I must apologise to Jenson on behalf of the team. We have a set of procedures ahead of a qualifying lap, and we didn’t follow all of those today. He must feel frustrated to have lost out on his first run, and then not to have got a decent shot at it on his second. The yellow flags are a factor in motor racing, but we should have been a bit tighter with our procedures.

“Nonetheless, the team have worked very strongly together all weekend to refine our cars’ set-up after a difficult first day’s running yesterday. Neither driver was particularly contented with his car’s balance this morning, but we turned things around for qualifying this afternoon – that was a great team effort. We’re only 2.1s from the fastest car – that’s our best relative performance so far.

“Tomorrow will be demanding for everyone. It’s going to be a really challenging race to manage, but, rest assured, we’re determined to keep pushing, and we’d love to be able to reward the loyal and passionate McLaren-Honda fans with a positive result tomorrow.”

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

“We, our two drivers and the team, did the best we could do today at our home grand prix.

“It was a wonderful feeling to have the warm support of all the Japanese fans pushing us all the way. In the short time of FP3, both power unit and chassis data setting has improved much since yesterday. However, we know that we still have the gap to the frontrunners, so we must keep increasing our development speeds.

“In qualifying, it was disappointing that Jenson's second flying lap was hampered by a yellow flag at the end of Q1. He was on course to set his quickest time of the session, but unfortunately it meant he was unable to set a time. Fernando improved his lap time in Q2 as expected, but it wasn't enough to reach Q3.

“Tomorrow, we will challenge further in the race with the huge support of our home fans.”


Valtteri Bottas, 3rd

“I’m really happy to be third again in Suzuka. It has been a good day. We made some changes after FP3 and those changes were exactly what we needed, so as a team we have really performed well. I feel comfortable with the car and around here that is very important. I enjoyed the session a lot. We have limited data on tyre wear due to the conditions yesterday, but starting third we need to target the podium tomorrow.”

Felipe Massa, 5th

“It was a good qualifying where we managed to save a set of tyres for tomorrow. The car was competitive even if I didn’t get to show its full pace due to the red flag in Q3. After such a big accident it’s good to see Daniil jump out of the car. We have a long race tomorrow which we are looking forward to and I believe we can deliver a strong performance.”

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering

“The important point to make first is that Kvyat is ok, after what was a big accident. Without the red flag we could have taken third and fourth, and that was our target coming into the session. It was a great team effort throughout the whole day and we have a competitive car. The longer runs look good and we have to convert qualifying into a strong points score over our competitors tomorrow.”


Kimi Raikkonen, 6th

“The result of this qualifying is a bit disappointing, as we had a good speed all the way through and the behavior of the car was pretty good. The first two qualifying laps went well, bu my first run in Q3 was average, my tires did not have the right grip. It’s a bit disappointing not having been able to run my second lap: I’m sure we could have improved, but the red flag stopped the session. For the race tomorrow it’s a bit unknown, because nobody had the time to run in dry conditions and do long runs, but I think we should be fine. Hopefully we have done all things correctly so that we can gain some positions. It’s going to be a long race, starting behind other cars, but we’ll try to make a good start and then go from there.”

Sebastian Vettel, 4th

“It was a tricky session for myself. I didn’t really get going at the beginning, I couldn’t feel the car so I struggled a bit to find the right balance. On my second run on the medium tyres in Q3, there was a big improvement as compared to the lap I had done in Q2, as if the car had “become alive”. In the end we can be reasonably happy, I had a decent lap and I was a lot happier than previously; having scored a lap time which is competitive. Third place on the grid would have been the maximum today, but I missed this by one position. Mercedes are back to their usual level of competitiveness, as we have seen - unfortunately - all year. They will be the ones to beat tomorrow, but for sure we will try everything we can, even if we may expect stronger competition from Red Bull Racing and Williams.”

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 7th

“Firstly, the most important thing is that Dany is okay. I haven’t seen a replay; I only saw the car when I passed it but the team was on the radio to let me know he was fine. As for today’s session, in general it went reasonably well. I don’t think seventh shows how happy I was with the car, because I thought we were on for a top five, but we’re still in a good place for tomorrow. We’re also in a good place for tyre wear, so we’ll see what happens. Strategy is open for the race, it’s possible to do one stop but two stops will probably be the trend.”

Daniil Kvyat, 10th

“I’ve never rolled a racing car before and they say there’s a first time for everything. I’m feeling more disappointment than pain. I put two wheels on the grass and there was not much run off area at that point so it put me straight into the wall. I was pushing hard after a messy FP3 and this is the consequence of going over the limit. The car looks really bad and I’m sorry for the guys who have already had a tough couple of weeks and now they have even more work to do. Where would I have finished? I don’t know, but it should have been looking better than P10, because the car felt good in the fast sections, even though we lack the speed in a straight line. Tomorrow, we will try our best as usual.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“The most important thing today is that Dany is alright after what was a very big accident in Q3. It’s a testament to the strength of these cars and shows why safety is always our priority in this sport. Clearly, we will have a very long night producing a car for him to race tomorrow. He will have to start from pit lane and has nothing to lose so he will be running an aggressive race. As for Daniel, he was looking strong, but his final quick lap was affected by the red flag. He starts from the clean side of the track tomorrow, which is important at this circuit and there’s no reason why he can’t aim for a good points finish from the fourth row of the grid. In common with all the teams, we had a busy morning session, trying to cram in all the dry weather work into a single hour after yesterday’s rain.”


Will Stevens, 19th

“Overall I’m pretty happy with qualifying today, as I’ve had limited running here. It was important to get a lap in early, so I was unaffected by the first yellow flag for Ericsson. I was improving on my second lap, but then the yellow flags came out in sector 2 and I had to slow. Our long runs looked good this morning, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Alexander Rossi, 20th

“To have a yellow flag on both my push laps is just the worst luck. I’ve never had a situation like that, so I was pretty shocked and disappointed by what happened today. Obviously I’ve been well within 107% during the weekend and I know the procedures, but even so, it’s not a great feeling. There hasn’t been much dry running so far, so we haven’t had the best preparation for a dry race, but I’m enjoying the track and I know there’s a lot more to come.”

John Booth, Team Principal

“This morning, we had a very positive FP3 session, in which we managed to collect all the information we needed and couldn’t obtain yesterday because of the rain. Both cars completed long runs with both specifications of tyre, and we also did a performance run in preparation for qualifying. This afternoon, things didn’t go at all the way we expected, for reasons beyond our control. Both cars were affected by the yellow flag during their timed laps, and Alexander was particularly unlucky as both of his timed laps were compromised. Will was in front of the first yellow, so he at least managed to complete one lap, but he could certainly have improved on his second. Looking ahead to the race we’re confident that the progress we made this morning will help us to have a good race tomorrow.”

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz, 12th

“It’s disappointing to be out in Q2, it was definitely a day to get into the top ten easily. Unfortunately, during my second Q2 run, we picked-up some vibrations on the front tyres, which meant that I couldn’t improve my time and missed out in getting into Q3. It’s been difficult to adapt to this track in the dry. I had just 20 laps to learn the circuit and today it’s all been a build-up until Q2, when I finally felt totally comfortable and knew exactly what lines to take. I was ready to get into Q3 and it was a big shame not to make it in the end. I was starting to have great fun! For tomorrow our objective is to finish in the points again. I have a set of new Option tyres available, so that should help a bit, and I also have a good car so I’m convinced we can have a great race.”

Max Verstappen, 15th

“Certainly not the best of days! I had a sudden loss of power, all the electricity shut-down in the hairpin and from there on I couldn’t do anything. It’s very frustrating, because the car was going very well, but in the end it is what it is… We might be on the back foot again before the race, but we never give up. Hopefully tomorrow we have a bit more luck and can enjoy a good race – it would be good if some rain spices it all up! Our objective will be to finish within the top ten… We have to do some overtaking again, but I’m ready for it!”

Phil Charles, Chief Race Engineer

“It obviously hasn’t been the qualifying session we were hoping for: Max started his session pretty well and was very happy in Q1. Unfortunately, he had a systems black-out at the end of Q1 which we are still investigating in order to understand what happened. I think he would have had a decent qualifying session without this issue, as he was getting better and better and the car was performing well. Carlos had not run here in the dry before today (Max ran here last year in P1) and was steadying himself in nicely through P3 and into Qualifying. He was improving lap after lap but unfortunately on his last tyre set in Q2 we found a small issue on the car, which meant he wasn’t able to better his first run in that session. This is a shame, because he was doing a good job and I think he could have been a bit higher than P12. So we have got a bit of work to do with both cars tomorrow: There is some wet weather forecast in the morning which would definitely be welcome and Hulkenberg has a penalty from last race which promotes Carlos one place.”


Nico Rosberg, 1st

“It was difficult to set up the car here for the dry conditions, because we had the two wet sessions yesterday. But when we were able to practise some high fuel and qualifying runs, today I got a really good feeling. I nailed my laps and I was already on another good quick lap when Dani hit the wall. Then the team informed me that he is fine so we were all very happy to hear that. I'm confident for tomorrow. Thanks to the team for this car, It seems that we are coming back stronger here than in Singapore.”

Lewis Hamilton, 2nd

“The car feels perfect this weekend. My engineers did a fantastic job and I enjoyed the battle with Nico. He did a great job and it was exciting today. This is a track where you're constantly fighting to gain more and more; the last lap started so well and I was up by turn seven but the red flag came out in the end. It was a big crash but fortunately Daniil walked away. Tomorrow is going to be hard; it depends on the conditions. The start will be crucial as you can't follow closely here and it will be hard to pass but I will give it my best shot.”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport 

“First of all, the most important thing is that Kvyat is okay after a big shunt at the end of qualifying. But then, of course, we're pleased to see that we are back on form at this circuit. I don't want to say that the status quo is resumed, because that would mean it is somehow automatic for us to be at the front each weekend; it's not, and the team and drivers have done a fantastic job to deliver this afternoon. We know we didn't get everything right in Singapore, today we managed to do that and qualified on the front row with a good margin. At the end, we'll never know what was still to come on the final run of Q3 - both drivers still had time to come, so it would have been an intriguing battle. But today, it was Nico who emerged on top and well done to him; the battle between him and Lewis has stayed close all year, with just a tenth or two between them, and they are both still pushing very hard. Looking to tomorrow, there are some question marks about the weather and, of course, we're all heading into the unknown after we lost Friday's running to the rain. So I'm expecting a big battle between our boys - and some surprises in the race.”

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical) 

“It's good to hear that Daniil is okay after his big accident brought qualifying to an early end and curtailed the final runs for all the players. Congratulations to Nico on his pole, both he and Lewis did a great job. It was a difficult situation today as we tried to compress all of our practice running for race and qualifying preparation into a single one-hour session this morning after we couldn't run in the dry yesterday. The team did a great job to react and mastered a busy session and lunchtime very well indeed, making the right changes and extracting good pace from our car to secure the front row. We're hoping for a dry race tomorrow - without necessarily assuming this will be the case - and have put a lot of work into our start preparation. It will be a big priority to maintain position into Turn One, and then run a good race to bring two cars home to the finish - something we haven't managed to do since Spa.”