• Chinese Grand Prix - Qualifying

Who said what after qualifying in Shanghai

ESPNF1 Staff
April 16, 2011

A round-up of comment after Saturday's qualifying session at Shanghai

Sebastian Vettel maintained his dominance of qualifying this season in Shanghai © Getty Images
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Ferrari

Fernando Alonso - 5th "I had not expected much more than this from qualifying. Fifth and sixth places represent the maximum we can aspire to in our current situation. We already knew all about Red Bull and McLaren, but here we saw an improvement from Mercedes, so the situation is now even more difficult. We are trying to improve our performance: we are a great team and we know how to react. Yesterday, we tried some new components, but it is still too early to use them in a race: we hope to make a significant step forward in Turkey.

I would give the team 10 out of 10 for how they managed qualifying over these first three races: it is always very difficult to find the compromise between the need to take risks and being prudent and we have already seen mistakes costing some drivers dear in these three sessions. At the moment we should not be trying anything clever, instead keeping things simple. I think the podium is still within our reach. This year there are more variables, like the tyre degradation and the use of the moveable rear wing, which come into play during the race, as we have seen in the first two Grands Prix. It could be a bit warmer tomorrow than today, so we will see if that changes anything, although I don't expect it to. Strategy will be very important in determining the final result."

Felipe Massa - 6th "It went a little bit better than in Malaysia, but we are still behind. Vettel's performance is not surprising, whereas Webber's definitely is. The McLarens are also quicker than us and Mercedes has improved and will be a very tough competitor tomorrow in the race. In Q2 after the red flag, I went out immediately to try and be first out and get a clear track. Perez was ahead of me but I passed him on the out lap and it was a good thing, because that meant I got a clean lap and improved my time.

I really hope we will see a repeat of the Malaysian situation with a performance jump from qualifying to the race: if that was the case, then a podium might not be out of reach. The track has improved a lot compared to yesterday: there is more grip and the cars slide less, thus using the tyres less and that will be a factor to take into consideration when working out the ideal strategy."

Stefano Domenicali, team principal "First of all on behalf of the whole team, I want to express our delight at the positive progress in the condition of Paolo Santarsiero, one of our mechanics who fell ill on Thursday with an aneurism in his head and was subsequently operated on at the Rui Jin hospital in Shanghai: I wish to thank the entire medical team who acted so promptly and efficiently in carrying out the procedure. Incidents like this make one realise what the priorities really are in life and puts everything else into perspective.

Having said that, we are here to race and to try and be the best in our sport but, at the moment, we are not there. Here we saw gaps similar to the first two qualifying sessions of the year and we could not have expected anything different, given that our car is practically unchanged. We definitely can't be happy about it, but we must try to close the gap and do our utmost in this very difficult period. In Australia and Malaysia we saw that our race pace is not bad compared to the others, apart from that of the championship leader, so we will see what happens here."

Pat Fry, assistant technical director "Going into qualifying I would have said that the third row was the best we could aspire to because there are at least two cars that so far have proved to be quicker than ours. Today we saw that the Mercedes has also made a step forward and, honestly, we did not have sufficient pace to get ahead of it and we made the most of the opportunity that presented itself with Webber being eliminated in Q1. With both Felipe and Fernando we used the same programme in terms of tyre management and the series of runs: with our current level of performance we have to maintain a realistic and modest approach because we have seen that taking risks does not pay off. Tomorrow's race will be very long and difficult and we will try to make the most of every opportunity."

Force India

Adrian Sutil -11th "It was a good qualifying and I am looking forward to the race tomorrow. This weekend has so far been much better than the last ones, with no real problems so it looks good for us. It was a little bit difficult at the end of the session when the red flag came out and I missed out on a final flying lap, but overall I am very happy and our car performance is improving well."

Paul Di Resta - 8th "I could not have wished for more today and it's nice to get into Q3. After missing the whole of FP2 yesterday we knew that it was going to be difficult this morning, but we've got a small upgrade here and it certainly improved the performance today. Luckily I did my quickest lap in the second running in Q1, as I just struggled a little bit with balance in the others. Our race pace seems to be not too bad, so fingers crossed we can pick up some points again tomorrow as we have in the previous two grands prix."

Dominic Harlow, circuit engineering director "A cooler day today and different atmospheric conditions have had a significant effect on the lap times compared to Friday. Our FP3 programme was normal and without issues and we completed a few additional laps for Paul to check the balance of his car. We achieved our first Q3 position of the year in P8, and so congratulations to Paul who also celebrates his Birthday today. I think that we were there on merit and the car's improving pace is showing. Adrian also demonstrated this with his P11, just missing out on the third period of Qualifying. With the red flag, and having been weighed earlier in the session, he wasn't able to complete a full second outing. Nevertheless, we are looking forward to the race tomorrow and, of course, aiming to secure further points."

HRT

Narain Karthikeyan - 24th "The day started off well with the third practice session where the car went really well. I think that I could have gone quicker and done a better time. We have a better package and qualifying shouldn't be an issue anymore, our target is now to get closer to Virgin. I definitely need to get some laps under my belt, my aim is to finish the race".

Vitantonio Liuzzi - 23rd "Today was alright, we could've achieved more from the second set of tyres but we got a strange reaction from them with a bit of understeer. We closed the gap with Virgin which is the aim, considering that we didn't use all the new development it was a positive qualifying session. Now we have to push hard for Turkey. I'm sure we can give Virgin a better race than in Malaysia. We have shown that in both soft tyre and hard tyre conditions we are competitive so the 107% rule should no longer be an issue. We have to now focus on developing the car and try to finish ahead of our main rivals".

Colin Kolles, team principal "All in all today was a positive day. We did a lot of miles in the morning and in qualifying we could have done better but we weren't able to put our fastest sectors together which would have meant that Tonio would have been three tenths quicker putting him in the 39's, closer to the likes of Virgin and Lotus. We had no technical issues, so today we have taken another step forward. Tomorrow we will follow the normal plan, the updates will be ready for Turkey where we hope to be ahead of our closest rivals".

Lotus

Heikki Kovalainen - 19th "From my perspective I'm very happy with that. I left it all until the last minute and swapped to a one lap run, putting myself under a bit of pressure, but I put in a good final lap and got under 1.38. After FP3 we already knew we'd have a bit of a tricky qualifying session as the track temperatures were a lot lower than yesterday and that definitely affects our car. We're quite easy on the tyres and when the temperatures drop we need to work harder to get them up to the optimum heat, which means we don't get everything out of them, but in the race conditions we're definitely stronger and you can see that we're steadily doing what we want which is to keep pushing towards the midfield."

Jarno Trulli - 20th: "I am really happy from the driving point of view because I pushed hard out there today and said over the radio that I think I got as much as I possibly could out of the car today. I'm still working on finding the right balance but little by little we're progressing so I think we keep on doing a good job across the whole team and after a good weekend from the reliability point of view we should have a good race tomorrow."

Mike Gascoyne, chief technical officer "A trouble free day but disappointing in terms of performance. In the cooler conditions we clearly struggled more with the tyres than last week and yesterday and we were some way off the level of performance we expected. However, we have seen that even in these conditions our race pace is much better and we are considerably more competitive so I think we can take the race to the midfield group in front and do ourselves justice."

Riad Asmat, chief executive officer "We are realistic and we all knew when we woke up that the considerably lower temperature would mean we would struggle to replicate what we did in the yesterday's practice. Despite that we have had a good weekend so far, pretty much trouble free, and I know from talking to a few of the teams just ahead of us that we are starting to play a part in their strategies as they know we are very close to being able to take the fight to them in real pace. So, even though the gap is a bit bigger today than we would have liked, it is still clear that our steady progress will pay dividends over the long term."

McLaren

Jenson Button - 2nd "After Q2, I thought we'd have a shot at pole today, but, looking at Sebastian's final laptime, second place was realistically all we could do. Still, it's great that we got two cars into the top three - we really extracted the maximum from the package today. Overnight, we made some improvements to the car; I think there are still areas where we need to improve to challenge Red Bull, but I want to say a big thank-you to the guys in the garage and back at the factory, they've been working really hard and have given us a car that we can really build on over the next couple of races. This is my best grid position of the season; the car felt really consistent all afternoon and I got pretty much everything out of it. For tomorrow, I think our race pace will be a little bit closer to Red Bull than our quali pace. We can have a good race from this grid position."

Lewis Hamilton - 3rd "We made some really positive set-up changes on Friday evening and I was much happier with our car today. In qualifying, Jenson and I were very close and we're both up there. Jenson did a fantastic job to put his car ahead of me, but I sacrificed a bit of my own pace to enable me to have a fresh set of Options for the race. We took the decision to complete just a single run in Q3. Of course, that was a compromise, but it means I'll have a fresh set of tyres for one of the stints tomorrow. And last week's race in Malaysia showed us how important it is to have fresh tyres for the race. Today's strategy should increase my chances in the race. It's always good to have a fresh set of tyres in the bag, and I wanted to make sure I had options to cover everything. To be able to put on a new tyre at the end of tomorrow's race will be a great positive and will help the longevity of the tyres."

Martin Whitmarsh, team principal "We ran an extremely well-disciplined set of sessions today. After failing to extract the maximum from the cars on Friday, we made a significant number of improvements to the cars on Friday evening and quickly established a satisfactory pace in this morning's practice session. We were then able to carry that performance over into qualifying - and second and third positions on the grid are a great reward for the effort we invested in getting our cars optimised for this circuit. Jenson's lap at the beginning of Q3 was a fantastic effort and he therefore fully deserves his second place on the grid. Lewis drove a considered and intelligent final session, preserving tyres for tomorrow, and he is extremely well prepared for tomorrow's race."

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg - 4th "I'm happy with our performance and it was a good day for us. It's clear that we have improved the car this weekend and I'm really pleased for everybody back at the factory who will have enjoyed watching that today. We're still not where we want to be but we have made progress and are closer to some of the guys in front of us, today at least. We have also worked hard on the race pace so there is every chance of a good race tomorrow."

Michael Schumacher - 14th "What a shame for me today as we have clearly demonstrated this weekend that as a team we have improved a lot. Nico proved that strongly with his fourth place which was our realistic target. I didn't quite get my lap together in Q2 and since then we have found out that my rear wing was not functioning correctly as I was braking into turn 14. I am obviously hoping to have a strong start and that we have good race pace tomorrow so I can hopefully make up some positions."

Ross Brawn, team principal "The car has been much better this weekend and both drivers were in a good position going into qualifying today. It's a shame for Michael this afternoon as it didn't quite work out with the red flag and then his rear wing malfunctioned at the end of his crucial lap costing valuable time. Nico did a fantastic job this afternoon, firstly to get into Q3 in tricky circumstances, and then putting in a great lap on tyres which had already seen some usage just before the red flag. I'm pleased that we have stabilised the situation and made some encouraging progress this weekend. There is still a long way to go but it's a start."

Norbert Haug "A very good lap from Nico and a thorough job from all our guys during the weekend so far. The gap to pole position is still big but at least Nico's time is closer to the McLaren Mercedes cars at two and a half tenths behind P2. To start on the second row is a good reward for the team who have worked so hard and had a difficult start to the season. Michael had good speed in Q1 and posted a time that would have been good enough in Q2 to make it to Q3. Unfortunately in the second to last corner, Michael had a problem with his rear wing which we have to investigate. His long run pace yesterday did not look bad so there is a chance for him to finish in the points tomorrow. For Nico, we hope for a good start and of course it would be great to finish the race where Nico finished last year in China."

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel - 1st "We have done it again, but every single time is tough. I think today wasn't as straightforward as we planned - especially in Q2; I made a bit of a mistake in the run I did then. In Q3 I was confident that we were able to improve quite a lot. Obviously today we did a good job, but it's just eight metres on the track tomorrow. It will be a long race, but I think we can be happy with the car. We did some good long runs on Friday and so we have a reason to feel good, but it's also a threat to feel too good - so I pay attention that doesn't happen."

Mark Webber - 18th "It's a very frustrating day. We didn't have a smooth P3 or Q1 and we paid the ultimate price at end of the day. We thought we had enough to get through on the prime tyres - we have the pace, but I couldn't get the tyre working on my second run. We'll see what we can do tonight, but I can only go forwards. I can't remember the last time I was out in Q1; it was a long, long time ago, so it was a bad day for us."

Christian Horner, team principal "A third consecutive pole for Sebastian and, as he wasn't required to complete his second run in Q3, he was able to conserve his tyres for tomorrow. After a Herculean effort from all the team to get Mark's car repaired and out for Q1, it was disappointing for both Mark and the team that he missed the cut. We elected to run the hard tyre for his second run thinking it would be enough, but unfortunately they weren't up to the temperature to do it. Obviously with 20 / 20 hindsight, you would run the option tyre, but we felt it would be enough at that time. It's one of those things, and it's the first time we haven't had both cars in Q3 for over a year."

Renault

Vitaly Petrov - 10th "I am very disappointed with what happened after having just completed a very fast lap which put me in fourth position at the end of Q2. The car lost power so I stopped on the side of the track. The track was getting quicker and my times were up from this morning, things were going very well. Because of the power failure, I couldn't move off the track and so that was the end of my qualifying. The positive thing is the car was looking fast and I hope I can make up some ground tomorrow from P10 on the grid."

Nick Heidfeld - 16th "It's quite frustrating to be starting from P16 because I don't think it's a fair reflection of our pace. We were always going to do one run on the soft tyres in Q2, but the red flag made the last few minutes on Q2 very busy. You really needed to be first in the queue at the end of the pit lane because there was not much time to get around and cross the line before the end of the session. I managed to do one final lap, but I was stuck in traffic and I couldn't get a clean lap. As I said, our race pace is definitely better than our grid position, but starting from P16 is not going to be easy. I think it's a track where you can overtake so hopefully I can make a good start, like in the previous two races, and fight for points."

Alan Permane, chief engineer "We are still investigating exactly what happened. It's clear that he lost power and the engine died. We believe the air supply to the engine was cut off. It couldn't be restarted and the car got stuck in gear, which is why he stopped on the track. Nick's time from Q1 suggested that it might be difficult for him to make it through to Q3. That's why we wanted to run right at the end of Q2 to take advantage of the maximum track evolution. As it happened, Vitaly's car brought out the red flags at exactly the wrong moment, and Nick then got caught up in the traffic in the busy rush at the end of Q2.

I think we can expect to see our pace being relatively better in the race, even compared to Vitaly's good qualifying pace. We know our car is fast off the line; we've got very good straight-line speed and the R31 looks after its tyres well. There's no reason why we can't bring two cars home in the points. Our poor qualifying performance leaves us with more tyre options than we would normally have. We've effectively saved an extra set of soft tyres on each car, which are available for the race."

Sauber

Sergio Perez - 12th "Generally we made some changes to the car and I feel much more comfortable with the handling now. This explains the improvements here in Shanghai from Friday to today, but also the comparison to Malaysia. Q1 was fine for me and then in Q2 the team did a good job getting me out at the front of the queue after the red flag, but then we had to wait a while and the tyre temperatures cooled down. It is a shame because I think the changes we did for the final run would have paid off."

Kamui Kobayashi - 13th "It is a shame not to be in Q3 for the first time this year. In Q1 it was really tight for me after I was stuck in traffic, and then was the last car to slip through into Q2. Then in Q2 I had a problem with the first set of soft tyres. I just didn't have enough grip, and we have to find out why this was. On the second run I couldn't make the best use of the other set because, after the red flag, we had to queue at the pit lane exit and the temperatures dropped. Also with all the traffic obviously I didn't have the best chance to set a quick lap time. However, I believe points are still within reach as our overall performance is good."

James Key, technical director "In general the third free practice went fine. The set up changes made over night improved the car and both drivers were much happier. However, qualifying was pretty eventful. Q1 was okay, but incredibly tight. Sergio's laps were okay with him doing two runs, one on hard and one on soft tyres, while Kamui just did a single run. There was something like two tenths from eighth to 17th and, while Kamui's lap was absolutely fine, it turned out to be a little bit too tight for the border to Q2. We felt we had the pace and the car to get to Q3, but Q2 was a bit of a drama with Vitaly Petrov stopping. The first laps didn't come in particularly well, so we had to go again after the red flag. This was very tight because of the traffic and it was a bit tricky trying to get the tyres to warm up in those conditions. From where we are I still think we can score points, and it is a little bit of a topsy turvy grid so it will be an interesting race."

Toro Rosso

Jaime Alguersuari - 7th "I need to congratulate the team for doing a good job and choosing the right strategy to tackle this session. Getting Sebastien and myself into Q3 is definitely a success for the whole team as it was no easy task. We did not really expect to be there to be honest, looking at the speed of some of our rivals and the red flag in Q2 definitely helped us. Tomorrow I think there is a possibility to pick up a good amount of points and I am optimistic because today, we chose a car set-up better suited to the race than to do a quick lap in qualifying. It's true we are not used to starting from this position and I might have to run a defensive race and see how our tyres perform, as this will again be a key factor."

Sebastien Buemi - 9th "I am very happy for the team result, with two cars in the top ten. As for myself, I am a bit disappointed that, for the sake of half a tenth I have dropped from seventh to ninth. The team can be very pleased with this performance and with the result we have not seen for a while. Whatever the circumstances today, I know the team has worked very hard at the track and back at the factory to do the very best it can and in general we look much more competitive than we were last year. I hope it will be good enough to get us in the points tomorrow. It will be an important race for us, given we have these good grid positions. The first thing will be to make sure we get all the way to the end and if we do that, then I think it could be a good grand prix for us."

Giorgio Ascanelli, techinical director "Racing is a funny sport, given that on a weekend when our performance in free practice had not matched that in the first two races, we have ended up with both cars in Q3 in seventh and ninth places. The gaps in the midfield are very small and in general, we have not been that competitive, with Force India being on a par with us or even faster and Williams also closing in. In Q1 I think there were eleven cars within the same two tenths, which tells you how close it is.

"Our cars have run reliably and although what happened to Vitaly (Petrov) was unfortunate, I can't say I feel sorry for him because it has given us a chance to be ahead. Can we stay ahead in tomorrow's race? That's another story. The weather forecast is currently stable, but if there was to be any rain or anything else unpredictable happening, then starting ahead can be an advantage. Yes, I would like to score points and starting seventh and ninth is better than seventeenth and nineteenth but, as I said, the midfield is so competitive that anything can happen over the arc of the 56 laps tomorrow."

Virgin

Timo Glock - 22nd "Overall a better day than yesterday because we were at least able to complete our programme, but we were not able to get the best result in Qualifying which is disappointing. I had some warm-up issues on the first run and the tyres were not working really at all on the second, so I have to think the changes we made between Free Practice 3 and Qualifying were not for the better. I think overall we went a little too conservative, but who knows? That might help us in the race. We'll have a good look at the data now and see what that tells us, then look to a good strategy for tomorrow and aim for the chequered flag."

Jérôme D'Ambrosio - 21st "I'm very happy. What I take away from today is that I continue to improve, and although I still have a lot to learn, I'm going in the right direction. That's the most important thing for me. It's still the beginning and I have a lot to do, but the way I'm working - and how everyone in the team is working - is good and the results are showing that the direction we are following is the right one. It was a good Saturday."

John Booth, team principal "We have recovered well from a difficult start to the weekend and are a lot closer to where we expected as a result. Timo struggled with the tyres and had a lot more to come. We're hoping the setup will translate better to the race conditions tomorrow. Jerome did an exceptional job and everything went right for him. After a more difficult Free Practice 3 he brought it all back when it counted and he is really stepping up to the plate with each race. So generally a good few positives to give us some momentum for the race tomorrow when we'll be looking to make the most of our encouraging reliability by bringing both cars home."

Williams

Rubens Barrichello - 15th "I've been having a weekend of experiments. We tried a new version of the exhaust in practice; we do not fully understand it yet, so we went into qualifying with our original set-up. I was happy with Q1 but then we had the rush hour! On the restart, Sutil tried to overtake me going into the first corner which spoiled both of our laps. We've made progress since Malaysia so I'm looking for points."

Pastor Maldonado - 17th "I'm a bit disappointed by the red flag because the lap I was on at the time was looking good. We could have fought for a place in the top ten today so it looks like we've made some improvements with the car. We need to keep working and concentrate our minds for tomorrow. I'm looking for some points."

Sam Michael, technical director "Although not reflected in our result this afternoon, the qualifying pace of the FW33 has improved. After testing the new exhaust system throughout practice, we decided we needed more understanding of it before using it in the race. We therefore reverted back to the standard exhaust system on Rubens' car. Our target for tomorrow is reliability and to be in a position to fight for points."

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