FIA F1 - Post-Qualifying Driver Comments
Bahrain, Apr. 21, 2012: Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher on his shock exit from Q1 after a problem with his rear wing; Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen on missing out on the top-ten shootout after opting to save a set of tyres; Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo on his excellent sixth-place grid slot; and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel on taking his first pole of the season. All 24 drivers and senior team personnel report back on Saturday...
Red Bull Sebastian Vettel (1st, Q3 - 1m 32.422s) “It feels great and I completely owe this one to the team. It wasn’t an easy start to the season for us and there was a lot of expectation, but I think more than anything it was about what we expected from ourselves and we didn’t match it. We’ve been working extremely hard on the car, trimming here and there and finding the right way to go forward. The boys haven’t had much sleep the last few races - it was a tough race last weekend in China and now here, so it’s good to put the car on pole for them. The car felt better all weekend, it wasn’t the smoothest qualifying session, I nearly went out in Q1, but it’s good to get the pole.”Mark Webber (3rd, Q3 - 1m 32.637s) “The car has been working better here. The first part of qualifying wasn’t easy and we both had to go again in Q1. It was a pretty decent session for me and my best qualifying performance at this circuit. Seb did a good lap for pole and we’re satisfied to both be at the front. The team has worked very hard and been very focused. We haven’t been too strong on Saturdays until now, but we have on Sunday. We can have a good race from there tomorrow; tyre strategy will be very, very important - a lot of drivers, including us, have used a lot of tyres already in qualifying.”
Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal “A great team performance today and pretty unexpected to get pole and third on the grid here. It’s testimony to all the hard work that’s going on here trackside and back in the factory to deliver that kind of performance during what was a really exciting and tight qualifying session. Sebastian was nearly knocked out in Q1 and Q2 and then put it on pole in Q3, which shows how tight it was and Mark was there all the way through. Hopefully we can have a strong race tomorrow.”
McLaren Lewis Hamilton (2nd, Q3 - 1m 32.520s) “I’m very happy with how qualifying went and the job the team has done so far this weekend. I’ve put the car on the front row at every race this year, and I feel this was one of my best qualifying performances so far. Both my laps in Q3 were very good and I feel I got everything out of the car. Fingers crossed for tomorrow: both Red Bull drivers will be very hard to beat in the race, but we’re less than a tenth behind on race pace. The start could be key - we’ve had good launches all season so I expect us to be able to challenge Seb down to Turn One. This season is shaping up to be very interesting: it’s anyone’s for the taking, at the moment”
Jenson Button (4th, Q3 - 1m 32.711s) “Fourth position wasn’t quite what I’d been hoping for, but it’s not too bad. It’s always a horrible feeling on your final Q3 lap when the balance isn’t quite where you want it. I couldn’t get the best from the car so I pitted early to save the tyres. Besides, fourth isn’t too bad anyway. The car is definitely a lot better than it was yesterday - we made some improvements overnight. We’d expected the Red Bulls to be very quick in qualifying, so to be close to them is a positive. A nice surprise is that we’re ahead of Nico [Rosberg] who was on pole just a week ago. A good launch tomorrow will be very important - both Lewis and I will be starting on the dirty side of the grid, which makes things more difficult, so we’ll need to get it right. Tyre management will be crucial too. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal “As we’ve already got used to seeing this season, it was very tight at the top today.Even the early stages of qualifying - Q1 and Q2 - are nowadays extremely hard to get through. Michael (Schumacher) and Kimi (Raikkonen) can confirm that. As for our boys, well, Lewis drove an excellent lap, and missed out on pole position by just a tenth of a second. Jenson, too, was his usual rapid and reliable self, ending up in fourth place, directly behind Lewis on tomorrow’s grid. The race will inevitably be a physically challenging one for all the drivers, as is always the case in hot climates such as Bahrain’s, but we’ve got two tough racers in Lewis and Jenson and our intention is to go for the win.”
Mercedes Nico Rosberg (5th, Q3 - 1m 32.821s) "In general, I felt very comfortable during qualifying today. However, as we have been focusing on our race pace, there is always a compromise in the qualifying set-up. I think that I'm in a good position for the race for tomorrow. I am the only driver in the top five who has a set of new option tyres which can be very useful at this circuit. It will be very important to drive carefully, and find the right tyre management in the race, as the conditions are very tough out there."
Michael Schumacher (18th, Q1 - 1m 34.865s) "I am obviously very disappointed to have qualified in 18th position on the grid for a race which looks to be quite competitive for us. Unfortunately on my fast lap, which was looking quite good, my DRS broke in the last sector. We tried to fix it in the garage but were not able to go out again. Trying for a lap without DRS on different tyres would not have made sense. We now have to try to see what we can do from here and push as much as possible."
Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal "A session of mixed fortunes for the team this afternoon. In Q3, we made the strategic decision for Nico to do just one lap and, although his starting position is not optimum, he is the only driver in the top five to have a new set of option tyres available. This could prove valuable in the race, and we will learn tomorrow if our strategic decision pays off. Looking to Michael, he experienced a failure of the DRS rear wing flap, just before he entered the back straight on what would have been his quickest lap. This cost him around half a second, and with little more than a second separating the top 17 cars in Q1, that proved decisive. Unfortunately, we were unable to repair the system in time for him to run again, and he was bumped down to P18 at the very last moment. It will be a long and interesting race tomorrow, in demanding conditions, and we will look to make the most of our opportunities to achieve the strongest possible team result."
Norbert Haug, vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport "From the outset, our focus at this circuit, where tyre usage and availability of new tyres are crucial, was to be in a good position in that respect during the race on Sunday. We think this is even more important here than on the three circuits that we have already raced at this year. As a consequence, Nico completed just one run in Q3 in order to save a set of fresh options for tomorrow. We knew that this strategy would likely compromise his position on the grid. However, knowing that we will be well-placed tomorrow on the tyre front, I am convinced that this was the right thing to do. Last year, there were occasions when we were more than one and a half seconds behind pole position. Today, with one attempt compared to the two made by the teams ahead of us, we are behind pole by not quite four tenths. We are heading in the right direction, and our team is working in a focused and systematic way in order to achieve our targets. I feel sorry for Michael who had the pace for a good starting position, as he has proven with a fourth place and two third places in Q3 at the previous races. A problem with the rear wing mechanism prevented him from getting a good result - but he can achieve this tomorrow. Michael showed good pace during our long runs and he will be well equipped with fresh tyres. After our great result last weekend with Nico securing pole on Saturday and victory on Sunday, I am quite happy with our performance this weekend so far. Our team has demonstrated that we can be competitive in quite different circumstances. Well done Sebastian on your pole today."
Toro Rosso Daniel Ricciardo (6th, Q3 - 1m 32.912s) “It feels very good and I am very happy with that result. We had a below average week in China with some updates we brought. We persisted with them and we made them work significantly better here, which is down to the hard work of the whole team. My communication with the team was also very good and it has helped us get into Q3. I was happy with my driving and I got better and better in each of the sessions. It’s not always you have a day like this, so I can enjoy the moment, bearing in mind that it’s tomorrow that counts. Now we have to put it all together for the race and tonight we will be looking at all our strategy options regarding tyres. It helps to go into a race feeling confidence and starting from sixth, I have to focus on scoring as many points as possible, as this is the best chance we have had so far. I hope I am still smiling tomorrow evening.”
Jean-Eric Vergne (19th, Q1 - 1m 35.014s) “I do not understand why I was so slow this afternoon, especially as the car was going well this morning and as can be seen from Daniel’s impressive performance. Well done to him. I am keen to get back to the engineers to look at the data and find out why I could not deliver the performance I was hoping for. The track was three degrees warmer this afternoon than in the morning, but I don’t think it was down to that. I’ve started from the lower half of the grid before and then managed to have a good race, so given that I think the car has the potential, that is what I plan to do tomorrow.”
Laurent Mekies, Toro Rosso chief engineer “The most positive aspect of today is that we seem to have understood the reasons why we were quite slow last week in China. We came here with a few possible solutions and it seems to have delivered reasonable results. Today, if you look at the qualifying times, we have mixed feelings: Daniel has secured a fantastic result after driving very well all weekend, making no mistakes. However, it did not go our way with Jean-Eric, but hopefully we can work together to deliver something better tomorrow, as he has already produced some good races from low down the grid. Daniel will have a very tough fight up there, but whatever happens, it was important to put last weekend behind us. Finally, a big thank you to everyone, here at the track, at the factory in Faenza and the wind tunnel in Bicester: we are coming to the end of a long and intense four race stint and it is good to see that all the hard work from everyone has delivered such a positive result today.”
Lotus Romain Grosjean, (7th, Q3 - 1m 33.008s) “It was a good result for the team. We’ve now got through to Q3 at every race weekend this season and that’s always satisfying. I think we can be pleased with how the car is working. If I hadn’t made a small mistake on my flying lap we could maybe be even further up the order. It’s a big contrast here to the conditions we saw in China, and I think we can be proud of how well we’ve adapted to that change as it makes finding the right setup a big challenge. Today we were maybe a bit further behind the leaders than we’d like, but our race pace looks good and it’s another close grid so tomorrow should be very interesting.”
Kimi Raikkonen, (11th, Q2 - 1m 33.789s) “We had the speed today and we could easily have gone through to the final session with another run, but we thought it was worth taking the risk to only do one lap in Q2 and save fresh sets of tyres for the race. Managing the tyres will be a priority tomorrow, so while it was a gamble that didn’t get us through to the final session it will hopefully be a strategy which pays off in the race. We knew it was going to be close and of course we always want to be as high up the grid as possible, but there were two options and we went for the one which we believe will deliver the best result on Sunday. There are no points given out on Saturday, so let’s see what happens tomorrow.”
Alan Permane, Lotus trackside operations director “We’re a little bit disappointed with our pace on the soft tyre and we need to assess where we lost out on speed as we didn’t achieve what we thought would be possible with Romain in Q3. Kimi’s pace was comparable to Romain’s and with another set of tyres he could have gone through to Q3.Tomorrow will be all about tyre degradation, so we took the risk not to run Kimi a second time in the Q2 session in order to save tyres. Unfortunately, he was pipped out of the top ten at the last moment. We knew it was a risk not running him again, but the performance penalty of not making Q3 was is not as great as it could have been due to the benefits of the fresh tyres saved for the race. It’s better to be starting in P11 with four new sets of tyres available for the race than further up the grid with fewer new sets. Kimi’s in a strong position and there is the potential for a good result. We are capable of running for the entire race with only new tyres and the performance benefits that brings. Romain did a great job in Q1 on the prime tyre, but his pace wasn’t quite there with his initial run in Q2 on the soft tyre so we ran him again. In Q3 he made a slight mistake which probably cost around two tenths, and the grid is very close out there.”
Sauber Sergio Perez (8th, Q3 - 1m 33.394s) “Today was a very good qualifying and another great effort by the team. The result is a lot better than we expected after free practice. We really managed to maximise the car’s potential today. The target now is to gain some positions at the start and then we will see how the race develops. It will be pretty tricky for everybody tomorrow in terms of tyre degradation. Another podium doesn’t look realistic at all; this track isn’t an easy one for us anyway. But we will go for points.”
Kamui Kobayashi (12th, Q2 - 1m 33.806s) “With my last set of fresh tyres it went quite well and I could improve at the beginning of my final lap but then I made a mistake at turn eleven. I lost a couple of tenths there. Overall the car was much better in qualifying than it had been in free practice this morning. Basically we have gone back to yesterday’s set-up and that was the right decision. This circuit here should be fairly good for overtaking. Of course straight line speed is essential for that and I hope we can do well tomorrow.”
Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Sauber head of track engineering “The result is in the region we expected it to be before we came here. We were aware that it would be difficult to be as good as in China, but everything went okay today. We struggled a bit with the balance in the morning. This track is definitely not easy for us but then qualifying was fine and both drivers did a good job. Technically there were no problems. For the race the trick will be good tyre management without sacrificing too much pace. We are definitely in a position to fight for points.”
Force India Paul di Resta (10th, Q3 - no time) “I’m very happy with our qualifying performance today. With our reduced programme yesterday it wasn’t easy getting all the work done, but the team did a good job to get the car dialled into the track before qualifying. I had a great lap in Q2, just three tenths away from the quickest time, but in Q3 we all took the decision from a strategic point of view to save tyres. I think this will put us in the best shape for tomorrow and I hope we can deliver a strong race.”
Nico Hulkenberg (13th, Q2 - 1m 33.807s) “It has been a very busy day for us, but we learned a lot this morning and improved the car all the way through to qualifying where we showed some good speed. My Q2 lap was looking very strong until the final sector where I got some oversteer and ran wide, which cost me a few tenths. Otherwise I think we could have had both cars in the top ten. But I’m still pretty pleased and I feel that we can fight for points tomorrow.”
Robert Fernley, Force India deputy team principal “I think the whole team has delivered an impressive performance today, which leaves us in a competitive position heading into the race. We worked hard at improving the car between final practice and qualifying, and I think the track conditions came to us as well. Paul’s pace in Q2 shows the potential we have in the car and allowed him to reach Q3 for the first time this year, which was a tremendous effort. Nico was close to joining him too, but a small mistake cost him some time in the final part of the lap. We are now looking forward to the race and building on today’s showing to help put on a great spectacle for Bahrain.”
Caterham Heikki Kovalainen (16th, Q2 - 1m 36.132s) “That was an excellent qualifying session for our team. It's a real bonus for us getting into Q2 but we'd already seen this morning that we were close to a few cars and we thought that with the conditions today, being hot and pretty windy, we might be able to use the option tyres to get us into Q2, and it worked out. We've also saved a set of tyres for tomorrow as we were pretty sure we wouldn't be able to get too much higher, and with the degradation rates we've seen yesterday and today it's clear tyre management is going to play a big role tomorrow. Overall, I'm delighted for the team. We've worked really hard to put ourselves in a position where we can fight and today we showed that we are close enough to record results like we did today. We made progress over the winter, and even though we haven't really shown it yet this season, today's the sort of result we knew we could put in, so it's a great day, for everyone in Caterham F1 Team back at the factory and here on track.”
Vitaly Petrov (20th, Q1 - 1m 35.823s) “I'm reasonably pleased with how today went, bearing in mind the problem we had with the floor in FP3 which cost us a bit of time and meant we weren't really able to find a balance on the soft tyres that I could really exploit in qualifying. My run on the prime tyres was good - I was very close to my team mate and the car felt good, but when we switched to the options the car just didn't feel right. It wasn't so much a balance issue, it was more about how the car felt under braking and I think that's what cost me the time on the soft tyres. Despite that I think we look like we're getting towards where we should be. We're much closer to the cars ahead than we were in China and having already seen how we can fight with some of the midfield cars in the races I think tomorrow could be a good day for us. It's definitely going to be interesting. There will be a lot of stops and it'll come down to who uses their tyres best.”
Thierry Salvi, Renault Sport F1 Support Leader for Caterham "Seeing Heikki in Q2 is a very good result for us and the whole team. We have been working on giving the drivers the right balance between top speed and traction out of the slower corners and today's result shows we have found the right setup for this track. The wind today, particularly on the main straight where there was a stronger head wind than yesterday, meant we had to fine tune the engine maps and our final positions in today's qualifying session is the reward for the work the whole team has done."
Mark Smith, Caterham technical director “We are all delighted with today's result. This morning we had a very good FP3 and the work we have done overnight has paid off with Heikki's result today. Everything on his car worked as we had planned and this is a clear sign that the whole team is making progress. Vitaly had a strong run on the first set of medium tyres but he just was not able to get the most out of the soft tyres on his second run, but he has already shown how strong he is on Sundays so we have good reason to be positive about his prospects here as well. We know we have a good package for the race tomorrow, so we'll look forward to what will definitely be an exciting Grand Prix and aim to maintain the sort of pace we have already shown in the first three races this season.”
HRT Pedro de la Rosa (22nd, Q1 - 1m 37.883s) "I’m very happy to be honest. We come from not qualifying in Australia not long ago, so when I saw the times we posted I was glad. For us it’s an important jump and, sincerely, at such a complicated track for us as this one, we didn’t expect to finish ahead of one Marussia, so that’s satisfying. Tyre degradation is high and tomorrow I will have to find the compromise in the first part of the sector in order to have enough rubber for the last one to maintain some grip. We know that the race will be a three-stop or four-stop one and that we’re going to struggle, but so will everyone else so we have to go for it and do the best we can.”
Narain Karthikeyan (24th, Q1 - 1m 38.314s) "Yesterday was a big struggle for me. We had a tough morning but later improved. Today we made some good progress and in qualifying the car was quite good. In sector 2 I had a misfire on my fastest lap, on turn 12, which cost me a bit of time. The amazing thing is that we haven’t done much to the car but we’re quite close to the group ahead of us and that’s very positive. We found a lot of time from yesterday to today, so we can safely say we’ve shown real progress. Tomorrow is another day and the race will be quite difficult because of the massive tyre degradation but what’s certain is that we’re heading into it fully confident that we can do it.”
Toni Cuquerella, HRT technical director "We’ve continued to progress adequately and, once again, surpassed the cut without any problems. To be more precise, this time we were in the 104.3% and much closer to our rivals. In the practice session we tried out different set-ups and the changes made worked well in qualifying so we can say we’re satisfied. Tomorrow an exciting race awaits us because we expect to see between three and four stops per car since the degradation of the tyres is high. It will also be a challenge for the brakes and the cooling in long distance as conditions will be tough. Management of all these elements will be key.”
Pirelli Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director “We’ve seen a great job from Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, who demonstrated their ability to get the most out of the tyres by extracting every last bit of performance from the softer compound. With the whole field having closed up considerably in terms of pure pace this year, every single advantage that any driver finds is magnified - which means that tyre strategy becomes all the more important. That strategy also influences qualifying, with about 18-20 laps expected for the soft tyres in race conditions and 23-25 laps for the medium tyres. We can expect three stops for most of the leading runners, although some may try two depending on which compound they favour. Degradation is more or less where we expect it to be, given track temperatures in excess of 45 degrees centigrade. In terms of the speed differential between the tyres, we’re still expecting 0.6-0.8 seconds between the two compounds or maybe a bit less. Tyre degradation is certainly going to be an important factor in the race tomorrow, but managing the tyres correctly presents another important opportunity for this extremely talented grid of drivers to demonstrate their skills.”