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F1 - Qualifying - Selected Team/Driver Quotes - Australian GP

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Months of waiting - and conjecture - came to end on Saturday afternoon, as the grid’s 24 runners finally pitted themselves against each other in anger during qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix. Neither HRT driver managed to set a time within the new 107 percent rule, Renault’s Nick Heidfeld was a surprise faller in Q1 and the McLarens looked in unexpectedly good form with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button finishing in second and fourth. The day, however, belonged to reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel who set a scintillating time to take a dominant pole position for Red Bull...

Red Bull Sebastian Vettel (1st, Q3 - 1m 23.529s) “It was a funny winter; the cars changed a lot and testing was really busy. We all tried to work our way around the Pirelli tyres and coming here we’re all impressed by how they’re working on one lap and also when there’s more fuel in the car. It’s promising for Sunday, so we’ll see how we get on. We have made the first step and starting the season this way with a pole position is a good sign for the team. We’ve been working very hard to get the RB7 to where it is now - it’s thanks to all those in the factory and those here, down under, for preparing the car. If you look at the points we still have zero like everyone else, so we need to see what happens tomorrow.”

Mark Webber (3rd, Q3 - 1m 24.395s) “I was disappointed with my performance today. Sebastian put in a very good lap. I’m a little bit mystified by the gap to be honest, I tried my best. I’ll have to go through it and have a look at where I can improve and go from there. It’s frustrating, but credit to the team; the guys have done an incredible job. Obviously it wasn’t the best day for me, but the bar is high. I would like to have done better, but reflecting on the performance of the team and what they’ve done over the winter - it’s incredible.”

Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal “A great team performance. First and third for the first grand prix of 2011 is a very good start. Sebastian produced two stunning laps. Mark just lost out on the last run by less than a tenth to Lewis, but first and third on the clean side of the grid is a good place to be starting tomorrow’s Grand Prix. It should be a fascinating race tomorrow, especially with the new regulations. We’re delighted to achieve Pirelli’s first pole position on their return to Formula One.”

McLaren Lewis Hamilton (2nd, Q3 - 1m 24.307s) “I was really happy with my lap today. The car felt fantastic, and I owe it all to the guys back at the factory, in the design office and those building components. They need to give themselves a huge pat on the back. It was a brave decision to make such a dramatic change to the car, and a superb effort to deliver that change. An amazing turnaround! However, although I was pleased with my performance today, my KERS Hybrid stopped working halfway round my final lap - I had 40 percent left that I couldn’t deploy - but that would have been worth only an extra couple of tenths. Still, it’s good to know, because this car platform is now definitely something we can build upon. Tomorrow is a long race and it won’t be won at the first corner. We need to take home some good points from this weekend because we know our car will only get better. We still have some work to do, but I think the race is winnable from here - and I’ll be giving Sebastian the race of his life tomorrow!”

Jenson Button (4th, Q3 - 1m 24.779s) “I think we should be happy with this result. Q3 was a bit disappointing, however: I got stuck behind Nico (Rosberg), and Felipe (Massa) had a spin in front of me. It was all quite messy - the lap that I didn’t complete in Q2 would have been quicker! So we didn’t get the most out of our package in Q3, but it’s nonetheless a massive step forward from what we had in testing, so we should all be very happy with what we’ve done so far. And there’s still a lot we can build on: the car is still in its early stages because we haven’t done much testing. To be reliable and reasonably quick gives us huge motivation: everyone back at the factory should be really proud - they put in an awful lot of hard work to get us here today. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow: I had a good race from fourth last year, and I think I can have a good race from fourth this year, too. We ought to be positive and think we can challenge for the win tomorrow.”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal “Yesterday indicated that the car improvements we’d made in the past few weeks were significant, and today proved it. I therefore want to say a big thank you to all the guys here in Melbourne, and back in Woking, who have worked so hard to make those improvements possible. Lewis and Jenson, too, have done a great job this weekend - and the result, second and fourth places on the starting grid for tomorrow’s race, is very encouraging. Actually, Lewis could have gone a bit quicker still, had he not suffered a KERS Hybrid failure. As a result of that failure, he lost not only the performance dividend that KERS Hybrid provides, but also had to cope with compromised brake balance resulting from the absence of KERS Hybrid. A double whammy, if you like. But the parc ferme regulations allow us to make the necessary repairs, and both he and Jenson will therefore be looking forward to taking the fight to Red Bull on the streets of Albert Park tomorrow afternoon.”

Ferrari Fernando Alonso (5th, Q3 - 1m 24.974s) “Clearly, we cannot be happy with this result, but we must not immediately make a drama out of it. We definitely did not get the most out of the car and we have to understand the reasons for that. Compared to what we saw at the tests, here we ended up much closer to cars that had been a long way off in Spain. We went well yesterday and we had a good feeling for the car, while right from this morning the situation changed, obviously for the worse. Now let’s see how the race turns out. In testing and in yesterday’s free practice, our performance over a long run was good and we were definitely closer to those who today seem to be a long way off. Fifth place on the grid is not too bad and it means I am in a position to fight for a podium finish in a race which is still wide open, if you only think what happened last year, with Kubica starting from sixth or seventh and finishing second. McLaren seems to have made a good step forward, but you should not dismiss Mercedes either, who were impressive at the last Barcelona test.”

Felipe Massa (8th, Q3 - 1m 25.599s) “We were less competitive than we could rightly have expected and there’s no doubt about that. Sure, I did not think I would be fighting for pole, especially when you look at the very quick time that Vettel did, but I had hoped to be higher up the order. We had problems with grip on both the hard and the soft tyres on a surface where the tyres wear a lot less than we have seen in winter testing and they provide less grip on the first lap, or at least they do with our car. Now we have to prepare as well as possible for tomorrow’s race, when pure speed will not be the only thing that counts, with reliability and team work being especially important. My spin in Q3? When I came out of pit lane, I accelerated and the tyres were evidently still too cold: the set was not damaged for the race, but it was definitely not a help on my only flying lap.”

Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal “We definitely cannot be happy with the way things went in this first qualifying session of the season and there is no denying it. However, there is no point in immediately getting into a state about it. We have to work out why we were unable to get all the potential out of our car at the track, at least in terms of pure performance. From what we saw in winter testing and in yesterday’s free practice, our race pace is not bad and we will try and make the most of that in tomorrow’s race. This year, more than at any time in the recent past, strategy will hold the key, while reliability, as ever, remains the number one priority.”

Pat Fry, Ferrari head of race track engineering “We were not on the pace at the end of the first qualifying of the season and we have to take that on board. We knew Red Bull was very quick, but they were even faster than expected and also McLaren were better than us. We had to already use the first set of soft tyres in Q1 in order to ensure we got through to the next stage and we paid the price for that a bit in Q3, when we only one had one new set of Options. We have to study the data very carefully to understand what led to this situation. Having said that, we still have the race ahead of us and that’s where the points are given out. Reliability remains the key factor: we have worked a lot on this front over the winter and we hope to reap the rewards of that now. Compared to last year, we will tackle the race with a different strategic approach and there could be some surprises.”

Renault Vitaly Petrov (6th, Q3 - 1m 25.247s) “After all the hard work during a very tough winter for the whole team, it feels great to come here and qualify on the third row. There was a lot of pressure in Q3 because I only had one run, right at the end of the session. So there were no second chances and I’m glad I was able to deliver the lap. The car has felt good right from the start of practice and we’ve improved it constantly during each session. I think we are in a great position for the race and that we can fight for some points tomorrow. I’m not too worried about the tyres because they have been working well for us so far and we have not seen the drop off that we saw during winter testing.”

Nick Heidfeld (18th, Q1 - 1m 27.239s) “I’m disappointed to be starting the season from so far back. It wasn’t an easy session and I had a problem with the KERS, which meant I had to change some settings, and that cost me one of my timed laps. Then, there was so much traffic and I tried to find some free space, but it didn’t work out for me. It’s bad luck, but I must try and put that behind me now. As we have seen with Vitaly, the car seems to have good pace and the race is wide open, so hopefully I can move forward and fight for points.”

James Allison, Renault technical director “We’re all very pleased with sixth on the grid for Vitaly, but sad for Nick that a troubled session in Q1 saw him eliminated early on. P18 is certainly not a reflection of the pace he has shown throughout the weekend. It was very hard to judge from winter testing exactly where we stood in the pecking order. However I was really pleased with the way Vitaly improved the car steadily through the weekend and produced really consistent results in each part of qualifying. Still, there is a big gap to pole position and we need to work on reducing that. From what we could tell during the pre-season, our car seemed to run pretty well on its tyres, so hopefully we can make good starts with both cars and move forward during the race. It’s too early to have a feeling on race pace, but I think we will be able to maintain and improve on our qualifying competitiveness. So far this weekend the tyres have proved durable and consistent – much more so than we saw during testing – and that’s the case for both the hard and the soft compounds. So perhaps the race might not be quite as frantic as we expected before we arrived here.”

Mercedes GP Nico Rosberg (7th, Q3 - 1m 25.421s) “I’m disappointed as when I went to bed last night, I was hopeful of a good qualifying performance. In the morning, a few things didn’t work on my car, but the team did a good job and almost all of the systems were working for Qualifying, so we need to find out what happened. I did make a small mistake in Q3 which possibly cost me a place but it hasn’t quite come together for us this weekend. One good thing is that I will start on the clean side of the grid, and we will do our best to score some good points tomorrow.”

Michael Schumacher (11th, Q2 - 1m 25.971s) “Clearly that was not an ideal start to the season, and I cannot deny that I am disappointed. It’s not about that KERS only worked intermittently or that I could probably have made it to Q3, but it is because our performance did not turn out as we expected. From our testing experience, we were around the pace of Ferrari, however this did not translate today. We faced more problems here than at the test with several issues throughout the whole weekend. We now have to look deeply into it to understand why it turned out to be like this, because for the moment we are not where we wanted to be.”

Ross Brawn, Mercedes GP team principal “Without doubt, today was quite a disappointing qualifying session for the team. We expected to be more competitive however we haven’t got the car working as well as we had hoped today. The fundamentals are good but we’ve had rather too many challenges this weekend to be able to get the most out of it. We are in good shape for the race tomorrow in terms of tyre availability and the car looked pretty reasonable on the longer runs so let’s wait and see what happens.”

Norbert Haug, vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport “From the first practice session onwards yesterday, we had some technical issues on both cars which handicapped Nico and Michael in setting up their cars properly. Michael had a KERS issue during Q2 which probably prevented him from progressing to Q3. Nico made a good step from the final practice session to Q3 but unfortunately locked the front wheel braking into the first corner going into his quickest lap. He pushed to the limit and I certainly will not criticise. Our performance in Melbourne so far has not been where we expected it to be after the last test in Barcelona. However everybody in our team will try to get a better result tomorrow.”

Sauber Kamui Kobayashi (9th, Q3 - 1m 25.626s) “Overall performance wise we are not too bad and now we see what we have done in the winter was okay. Of course there are still things to improve, but this is only the first Grand Prix and making it into Q3 is good. I want to thank the team. I only wish I had a set of new tyres left for Q3, instead of the used set of soft tyres, as then I think P6 would have been possible. However, I believe today is positive news and I’m very happy to give that to Japan.”

Sergio Perez (13th, Q2 - 1m 26.108s) “My first qualifying started quite well with P6 in Q1, and this was mainly because in the third free practice I couldn’t run on soft tyres and low fuel as we lost a lot of time due to a hydraulic problem. In Q2 we were a bit tight on time after the yellow flag, and then on my last flying lap I had traffic in the final sector and could not get the most out of the tyres. Today a better result was possible, and this is a shame. But generally I feel very comfortable and hope for a good race tomorrow with some points at the end.”

Peter Sauber, Sauber team principal “Finally everybody knows where he stands and I must say I’m satisfied with where we are at the moment. No less important is the positive experience with both our drivers today. From Kamui we knew what he could do, but Sergio, our rookie, was a nice surprise.”

James Key, Sauber technical director “We are obviously pleased that the progress we thought we made over the winter has been realised today in qualifying. But this is just the start of a long season. Kamui did a great job to get us safely through to Q3 when, unfortunately, we had to run used tyres. So in the end he did not find the ultimate performance. Sergio was excellent, considering this was his first F1 qualifying and he had missed a lot of time with a hydraulic problem in free practice three. On his fastest lap in Q2 he had traffic, but nonetheless we are very happy with the job both drivers did. What really counts is the race tomorrow and it will be very interesting to see the unknown tyre strategies that could be employed.”

Toro Rosso Sebastien Buemi (10th, Q2 - 1m 27.066s) "I am very happy to be back in Q3, as we had not been there since 2009. In the end, I had no more new tyres, but all the same, I have to say thanks to the team for doing such a good job and it shows we are on the right road. Let's hope we can continue to do well in the race tomorrow and from what we have seen of our pace in free practice, I think that should be possible. I couldn’t have hoped for a better start to the season, being among the ten fastest cars on the grid. My quick lap was good and I don't think I could have done any better."

Jaime Alguersuari (12th, Q2 - 1m 26.103s) "I am quite happy, although I have to congratulate my team-mate on doing a better job than me. This is a good result for the team and promising for tomorrow, when my main target will be to score points. The team did a great job during the winter to produce a fast car and this is the first result of that, which I hope we can continue to improve on in the next few races."

Giorgio Ascanelli, Toro Rosso technical director "Before the session, I expected to get this result. We are just a sniff ahead of Force India, with whom I expect we will be fighting all year. However, I am not going to cry about Adrian Sutil's misfortunes. When analysing the result, we have to consider that Williams had a difficult session, while Sauber is solidly ahead of us. Seb and the team did a very good job, managing the tyres, going out at the right time and generally running the session very well. People have been singing the praises of our car and this is a result of some bold choices we made on the design front. However, we are currently the eighth team and we will have to continue to work hard to try and stay ahead of the others. Jaime did a reasonable job and he has complained of understeer all day, which was not the case yesterday. Twelfth and so close to his team mate is not a disappointment and we simply did not get the best out of his car today."

Force India Paul di Resta (14th, Q2 - 1m 26.739s) “I think if you'd have said that we would be starting the race from P14 going in to qualifying, we'd have been pretty happy. So for my first qualifying session I think we have to be happy with our result today and it gives me a place to build on for the future. I'd like to thank everyone in the team for their efforts and I'm really looking forward to the race tomorrow.”

Adrian Sutil (16th, Q2 - 1m 31.407s) “During qualifying itself our speed was ok and better than expected. On my flying lap in Q2 I was only a few hundred metres from the finish line when I ran wide on the kerb, lost the rear and had a spin. It is a shame because I was on for a 1:26.1 so I could have been in the region of P12. It's looking quite good for the race tomorrow; for sure we have opportunities to pass people with the rear wing and KERS, so let’s see how it goes.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Force India chief operating officer “Today's standings built on our free practice results and gave us some additional information on the Pirelli tyres. Australia is a race renowned for its high rate of attrition and we feel confident that our tried and tested KERS hybrid system and overall reliability will hold us in good stead. We have paid close attention to our tyre strategy today as we believe that tyre choice and management will impact significantly on performance throughout the grid tomorrow. Whilst it would have been preferable to qualify higher up the grid, we are targeting race points and look forward to getting the season underway.”

Williams Pastor Maldonado (15th, Q2 - 1m 26.768s) “I made it through Q1 fine and everything was going well. On the first set of tyres in Q2, I had two yellow flags; with the second set, I had a big flat spot and had to abort the run. The session was exciting though! We need to improve a bit, but overall the car is good and I feel optimistic. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and I really think points are possible.”

Rubens Barrichello (17th, Q2 - 1m 26.270s) “Today was unfortunate. I made a mistake, went wide and spun. We have to wait and see what our pace is, but it was quicker than we thought it would be. On another positive note, we've saved our tyres for tomorrow which could be important.”

Sam Michael, Williams technical director “We've had a troublesome day and although we have to improve the end result does not reflect our true pace. With Pastor's spin and the oil leak on Rubens' gearbox, the mileage we were able to cover in practice was considerably restricted and caused us to be conservative with some of our set-up choices for the race. We had another off in qualifying, this time with Rubens, but Pastor kept his head down and is now looking ahead to a solid race. Tomorrow's focus is firmly on scoring points with both cars. It will also be interesting to see the moveable rear wing working as intended and delivering some exciting overtaking!”

Lotus Heikki Kovalainen (19th, Q1 - 1m 29.254s) "Unfortunately the rear wing was stuck in the high downforce configuration for the second run which definitely masked the real pace there is in the car. We've also struggled with getting the most out of the tyres all weekend but I think the increased temperatures tomorrow will suit the car much more and we'll be in good shape to show what we can really do in the race."

Jarno Trulli (20th, Q1 - 1m 29.342s) "I've had a few issues with the power steering in practice but the team worked well to resolve that for qualifying and the car definitely felt better than it had this morning and yesterday. We'll clearly be much quicker when we can get the tyres up to full temperature so it'll be an exciting race for us tomorrow and I think we'll be in good shape to push the guys ahead who we were much closer to in the warmer conditions in pre-season testing."

Thierry Salvi, Renault Sport F1 support leader "Firstly I want to say that the atmosphere in this team is very good. This means we are all able to work together very well and it's important that we can do that to get the best out of the car this year. From the engine perspective I think we are ok on usage and the drivers' feedback has been very good. Obviously to maximise the performance of the car the whole package can work better and I'm sure we can unlock the true potential of the car when we have worked through areas like the tyre usage."

Tony Fernandes, Lotus team principal "I am happy with qualifying. Obviously we are paying the price of the limited running we had in testing, but I have to admit I was a bit nervous before the session and having seen where we ended up I am pleased with what both drivers produced today. We continue to learn all the time and as this is essentially a completely new car we have to work hard on a number of areas to help us achieve our full potential, particularly on tyre management - the car looks like it has Malaysian blood as it clearly prefers hotter conditions! Despite that we are all looking forward to the race tomorrow, and with much more development to come here, in Malaysia and China, before we head back to Europe, I am happy with where we are today."

Mike Gascoyne, Lotus chief technical officer "Both drivers did a very good job in qualifying today, despite both of them being hampered by issues - Heikki had a rear wing problem which meant he couldn't improve on his second set of tyres, and Jarno reported loss of grip on his second set so we clearly were not able to maximise the car's real performance today. However, I think that we have definitely taken a step forward in qualifying. We have been struggling to get temperature into the tyres all weekend, and have had some issues with the power steering, but we made significant progress in qualifying. On the positive side the tyre warm-up issues will be much better in the race and looking ahead I am very confident that we can get back to the level of performance we showed in winter testing as we continue through the early part of the season."

Virgin Timo Glock (21st, Q1 - 1m 29.858s) “The first weekend of the new season has been a tough test for us and today we got the chance to see where we stand and how we need to move forward. I had a new engineer and a new performance engineer over the winter and together with my car crew they have done a fantastic job in testing and this weekend. At the end of the day though, fighting for a time within 107% of the leaders is not what we’re here for and we can see now where we are and what we need to do to progress. We are a really strong team and now we have to bring the car up to where we need it to be. As for tomorrow, the opening race of the season, we will be focusing on staying reliable and bringing both cars to the finish as the reward for everyone’s hard work.”

Jerome D’Ambrosio (22nd, Q1 - 1m 30.822s) “I'm very happy with the progress made this weekend and this has ensured we can look forward to the race tomorrow. On a personal level this was my first qualifying session and I was able to see exactly what was required and where I have to improve. I will use all the information – good and bad - to see what I need to work on so I can keep improving. But for now I am happy that things went our way today and I hope I can have a positive experience in my first Formula One race tomorrow.”

John Booth, Virgin team principal "It’s fair to say that there was some degree of nail biting within the team ahead of this afternoon’s qualifying session. That’s not the position we want to be in and fighting to stay within the 107% time is not our target - it should be a given. Just like last year we expected the first race to be a tough challenge, coming off the back of a winter of regulation changes. Qualifying was an affirmation of what we already know - that we have a lot of hard work ahead to bring the car up to where it needs to be. Having said that, Timo drove the wheels off the car to get the best possible result today and Jerome is doing an admirable job in his debut weekend, so all credit to the drivers and the team for a very respectable opening weekend operationally as it’s a huge step forward from where we were 12 months ago.”

HRT Vitantonio Liuzzi (DNQ, Q1 - 1m 32.978s) “Everybody did an amazing job. We have to be proud because everyone worked well and I think we have to be positive for the future. We are upset because we are not in the 107 percent but we are looking forward to Malaysia where we will be up to speed. We have to be happy with what we´ve done, the lap time was more than what we expected and we believe that our car will be much better in the future. It is true that everything was a little bit critical because we ended up not qualifying, but we just have to be proud of the job done by the team. We faced a lot of difficulties getting here and the effort put in by the whole team this week has been huge, but the rules are the rules. Now we’re focused on the next race. I am positive and am sure that everything will go well in Malaysia.”

Narain Karthikeyan (DNQ, Q1 - 1m 34.293s) “I’ve only done two timed laps with the new car before qualifying so, given the circumstances, it was quite an achievement. Everyone has done a great job and put in a lot of hard work, it’s a shame not to have had one more day. With an extra 24 hours we would have been in a better position. We just need to do some more running, so I think that come Malaysia we will be better prepared. Right now we need to stay positive.”

Colin Kolles, HRT team principal “In the end it just couldn’t be, still I’m incredibly proud of my whole team. Our drivers produced the maximum in the least amount of time possible. We managed to get both cars ready in time for qualifying and proved that the car is capable of running a lot quicker than today. The circumstances in which we arrived were not as desired. We created a miracle again, but it wasn’t enough. We’ll be back stronger than ever in Malaysia. There we will have more time to test the car and show where the F111 really belongs.”

Pirelli Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director “We’ve had a thrilling qualifying session and set the quickest lap ever seen here, which has demonstrated the speed and reliability of our PZero tyres on a wide variety of front-running cars. Albert Park is well-known as a tricky circuit that does not retain a lot of rubber, but despite the comparatively cool conditions this afternoon all the drivers demonstrated that they were able to make the most of the unique characteristics and excellent performance of our tyres. Now we can look forward to an exciting race tomorrow, in which the weather is bound to play a vital role.”