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Qualifying - 2018 Azerbaijan GP team quotes

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By Olivier Ferret

28 April 2018 - 17:05
Qualifying - 2018 Azerbaijan GP (...)

Williams

 Lance Stroll qualified 11th and Sergey Sirotkin 12th for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix
 Both Sergey and Lance qualified on the ultrasoft Pirelli tyre
 Sergey and Lance went P2 and P4 on their initial runs in Q1, and despite moving down the order to P14 and P15 as others improved, both progressed into Q2
 Lance abandoned his first run in Q2 after a mistake, returning to the track in the final moments of Q2 to improve lap on lap to set a 1:43.585, placing him 11th and just a tenth shy of Q3
 Sergey made further improvements in Q2 until a mistake in sector three hindered his best effort
 He had time for one more lap, crossing the line with a 1:43.886 to secure him 12th, just behind his teammate

Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer

We’re happy today with that result – 11th and 12th in qualifying which will see us 10th and 11th on the grid, given Hulkenberg’s penalty. Most of all, I’d like to say well done to the drivers. It’s a very tricky track and difficult to manage traffic, and they kept it together to get the laps in when they needed to, to get their times on the board. Also, well done to the mechanics for getting Sergey’s car out on time for qualifying and in good shape. The race tomorrow will be difficult. It has been extremely eventful in the past and we’ll have to fight hard, but there is a prospect of getting points tomorrow, so let’s see what we can do.

Lance Stroll

I am really happy with that. We have obviously made a step forward this weekend compared to the last couple of events, but on the other hand it’s a little disappointing not to get into Q3 by such a small margin. However, I am still very happy with the job we have done and a big thank you to the team. It might have been possible, but tough to throw a Red Bull out of there. It was such a difficult qualifying with the yellow flags in Q1 and I never did a lap until the last second on old tyres, so I was lucky to scrape through, and then happy with my lap in Q2. This track has a bit of everything - high speed, low speed, walls, drama - so it is a good one. It would be nice to see more tracks like this, as it really tightens things up a little bit and we see other cars that normally don’t have any problems getting out of Q2, starting to struggle. It is very different to anywhere else we go to and is a lot of fun.

Sergey Sirotkin

It’s a good recovery. We knew there was potential from the session earlier today. I need to thank the team a lot as they were really flat out, doing a perfect job to make sure we got out on track. I’m very happy that I can thank them with a result like this. I still feel like there’s a bit more laptime. I’m not sure if it would be enough for Q3, but it would be much closer than where we are. We’re moving forwards, we’re making progress and doing a great job. Now we see that in the results. Thanks to everyone for this and we’ll keep improving.

McLaren

Fernando Alonso will start tomorrow’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix from 12th position, four places ahead of team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne, who lines up 16th.

The Spaniard set the 13th-fastest time of the afternoon, but jumps a position due to Nico Hulkenberg’s five-place gearbox grid penalty. He feels he is well placed to make progress in tomorrow’s race.

Stoffel only set his first complete flying lap of the weekend during Q1, after failing to earn a representative time in practice due to traffic or yellow-flag incidents. He too feels he has a car with which he can attack tomorrow.

Fernando Alonso

“Qualifying still isn’t the strongest part of our weekend, but a lot usually happens during a street race, and at this track in particular.

“There’s no room for mistakes around this circuit: it’s very windy, dusty, the walls are very close, and you cannot push or over-drive the car. It’s also a mentally tough race, so I think tomorrow is going to be both crazy and fun at the same time.

“This weekend, we seem to have improved our top-speed compared to previous races, but we’ve also compromised some grip in the corners. Still, during Q2, the wind picked up a little, and we were losing speed along the straights due to the headwind. Tomorrow, that wind should be even stronger, so it’s going to be important to race among a group of cars to stay in the fight.

“This is the third time in a row where I’ve qualified 13th, and we normally seem to score good points from that position. Hopefully tomorrow will be another one of those good days.”

Stoffel Vandoorne

“It’s been a bit of a tough weekend for me.

“During practice, it seemed like, whenever I was on-track, I was in the wrong place, or encountered a yellow-flag at the wrong time. In fact, Q1 was probably the first session this weekend where I finally managed to complete a quick-lap.

“In the end, I was much happier with the car; we still lack a bit of top speed, so we really need to follow another car to benefit from their speed, and I missed out on that on my final lap.

“Still, our race performance looks better than qualifying. We’ve seen so many incidents under braking this weekend; and that’s a real strength of our car, it feels very good under braking, and that’s a key requirement for the race.

“I think we can pull together a good race performance tomorrow.”

Eric Boullier

“Qualifying 13th and 16th is a solid effort ahead of what’s almost certain to be a tough and relentless Azerbaijan Grand Prix tomorrow.

“Given this circuit’s long straight, outright pace over a single lap was always going to be a challenge for us, but – happily – neither driver has put a foot wrong all weekend, and we head into the race feeling positive that we can move forwards.

“This is such an unpredictable place, so we’ve been working hard during practice to ensure our car feels solid and dependable, particularly under braking. That should help to provide both drivers with the confidence they need to drive attacking races tomorrow.

“Fernando and Stoffel know how to manage their pace, pushing hard when necessary, but also keeping something in reserve to stay out of the wall. We’re looking forward to the race tomorrow – there’s definitely opportunities out there for us.”

Haas F1

Haas F1 Team drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean qualified 15th and 20th, respectively, for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix Sunday at Baku City Circuit. Magnussen advanced to the second round of knockout qualifying while Grosjean was unable to post a time.

A gearbox issue thwarted Grosjean’s effort in Q1. After running wide into the escape area in turn three of the 6.003-kilometer (3.730-mile), 20-turn track during his first and, subsequently, only qualifying run, Grosjean reported a problem with his gearbox. “The gearbox is locked. Something is broken,” said Grosjean over the team radio, prompting the team to have him switch off his racecar.

Magnussen set about carrying the flag for Haas F1 Team by securing the ninth-fastest time in Q1 with a lap of 1:43.674, easily making the top-15 cutoff to move on to Q2. However, at the end of Magnussen’s flying lap, he lost a piece of bodywork, specifically, the left-side bargeboard. With time running out before Q2 began, the team opted not to make repairs, taking the loss of aero balance with the opportunity to make a top-10 qualifying drive.

With only a right-side bargeboard to start Q2, Magnussen left the Haas F1 Team garage intent on making the best of the situation. Alas, the aero imbalance was pronounced, and Magnussen earned the 15th-fastest time with a lap of 1:44.759.

Both Magnussen and Grosjean ran exclusively on the Pirelli P Zero Purple ultrasoft tire throughout qualifying.

Taking the pole for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel. His fast lap of 1:41.498 was .179 of a second better than runner-up Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes. Hamilton, however, still holds the track qualifying record at Baku, with his pole-winning lap of 1:40.593 set in last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix .905 of a second clear of Vettel’s quick time. This was Vettel’s 53rd career Formula One pole and his third straight, but his first at Baku City Circuit.

Before Magnussen, Grosjean and the rest of their Formula One counterparts participated in knockout qualifying, they had one final practice (FP3) to dial in their racecars for a quick lap around the track. To emulate qualifying, both drivers ran exclusively on the Purple ultrasofts.

The Haas F1 Team duo employed the same program in FP3, each beginning with an installation lap before making two timed stints. Magnussen set the seventh-fastest time with a 1:43.958 on his 11th lap. Grosjean earned his best time on his ninth lap – a 1:45.261 that put him 15th overall.

FP3 was a prelude to qualifying. Vettel was quickest with a fast lap of 1:43.091, which was .361 of a second better than Hamilton, who finished second in FP3.

Romain Grosjean

“I went straight after a big lockup into the escape road. I reversed – everything was working – and then I suddenly lost the hydraulics. I couldn’t do anything else – upshift, downshift, whatever – I was stuck in neutral. It’s a bit of a shame as, unfortunately, that was it. Going into qualifying, I was hoping we’d found the right tools. There are overtaking opportunities tomorrow, so we’ll try to do our best. It’s definitely a track where a lot can happen, and I’ve got plenty of tires for the race.”

Kevin Magnussen

“It could’ve been better, but we didn’t have much luck today. I think P15 is still a position we can fight back from – it’s not too far from the points. I’m still positive for tomorrow. There are opportunities. It doesn’t take a big mistake for you to go straight on here at the corners. You can gain a position, for sure, if someone ahead does that. We shouldn’t write off the race. We’ll keep focused and, hopefully, have a good race for tomorrow. I think it’s a really cool circuit and it’s good fun to drive. It has a good layout for racing and for slipstreaming down that long straight. It offers opportunities for a good race.”

Gunther Steiner

“A very disappointing qualifying session for us. We should be better than this, but when it rains, it pours. We start 15th and 20th for tomorrow, which isn’t where we want to be or where we should be. We’ll do our best to still get at least one car in the points. A lot is possible here.”

Sauber

The Qualifying session ahead of the 2018 FIA Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix represents an important step forward for the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team who finished with the rookie Charles Leclerc in Q2 for the first time in the season. 14th in the FP3, the Monegasque driver continued improving as the track conditions were evolving during the afternoon session and he was able to finish in P14 with a lap time of 1’43.752. Marcus Ericsson faced the Qualifying with a different strategy but was not able to maximise the fast lap window he had at disposal due to several factors. His P18 doesn’t reflect his real potential and tomorrow the Swedish driver takes the start confident that he has the pace to do a good race. Baku track layout,t that features long straights and slow corners, suits the C37 quite well and both drivers look forward to the race. Following Nico Hulkenberg’s penalty that costed him 5 positions on the grid, tomorrow Charles Leclerc will take the start from P13.

Marcus Ericsson

“It was an unlucky qualifying for me, with many factors that influenced the outcome. There was also quite a bit of traffic for me. Then, I missed a good lap in Q1 after locking up. At the end of Q1, I tried my best to put together a good lap but I was not able to finish it, by a couple of seconds. Quite a disappointing session for me. On the bright side, we can see that we have good potential on the track. We have been quite competitive all weekend, so we are optimistic for tomorrow and will give everything to come back strong.”

Charles Leclerc

“I am very happy with my qualifying today. I had a great lap in Q1, which enabled me to advance into Q2. It is the first time that I achieved this since the beginning of the season, which is a great step for me to make as a rookie. The whole team has done a great job to make this possible. I have learned a lot over the past three race weekends, and am feeling more comfortable with all of the procedures and the car with each session. We have made some positive steps in terms of tyre management, and the balance of the car feels good. I look forward to the race tomorrow – on this circuit, there are many factors that will influence the outcome. With the expected change in the weather conditions, it will certainly be an interesting one.”

Toro Rosso

Pierre Gasly

“It was probably the scariest moment of my career! I was sure I was going to crash into Brendon because it’s the part of the track where we’re going at 320kph. Brendon had slowed down massively and I had to change direction when I saw he was slow, but I didn’t know if he was going left or right but I managed to avoid him. I’m really disappointed that I couldn’t make it to Q2. I was improving by sixth/seven tenths which means Q2 was on the cards, this would have been a good result after the tough weekend in China. It’s a big shame for the team but it’s good that in the end we avoided a crash. It’s clear that no one wanted anything like this to happen, but it’s the second time we’ve had a coming together so we need to make sure that we avoid situations like these.”

Brendon Hartley

“It was a disaster of a day. I hadn’t done a lap until the point of the incident because the previous ones were interrupted by yellow flags. This lap was coming along really well and I was happy with the car, but I clipped the inside of the wall very lightly. At the beginning I didn’t think there was any damage so I was still pushing, then I realised going through the fast left-hander that there was a puncture. I had to slow down immediately trying to avoid hitting the wall, but Pierre was coming very quickly behind and I completely misjudged it. When I looked in the mirrors I moved to the left and that’s the same way he wanted to go. I made a complete mess of it. I’m really disappointed and I owe him a big apology because that was really average.”

James Key (Technical Director)

“It was an eventful qualifying session for us, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. Brendon didn’t get a clean lap together during the first outing due to the yellow flags, so he had to abort his opening run. Pierre on the other hand did and his lap was reasonable at the time, but there was clearly quite a significant track improvement as Q1 progressed, something we’ve seen throughout the weekend’s sessions. For the second runs – Pierre was improving and he was well up on his initial lap time, so if he had finished the lap he would have been safely through to Q2. Unfortunately, Brendon had a puncture just ahead of Pierre and they came across each other with a high speed differential, leading to a near miss – this situation was very well managed by Pierre to avoid a collision. Sadly, that meant that his tyres, battery, time available and so on were not set for another lap, so he effectively had to abandon his qualifying after the incident. It’s a great shame because I think his pace was looking quite reasonable. Maybe Q3 wasn’t on the cards today but close to it was possible, which would have been a good place to be given the uncertainty of how the tyres will perform tomorrow. Now we’ll never know and we are not going to be starting the race where we want to be, but equally as we’ve seen in the past here, it can often be a very busy and eventful Sunday afternoon where anything can happen. We’ll make our plans this evening and hope to recover tomorrow.”

Toyoharu Tanabe (Honda F1 Technical Director)

“We had some bad luck in qualifying, without which I think Pierre could have got to Q2. On the PU side, figuring out the best way to run the energy management at this track is a complex question, looking for the right compromise between the tight right angle corners and the very long straight. This also has an effect on the whole package. However, we have worked hard with the engineers and drivers to try and find the right balance. We will now focus on race preparation to be ready to make the most of any opportunity.”

Renault F1

Renault Sport Formula One Team drivers Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz finished in the top ten in qualifying for tomorrow’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Nico put his Renault R.S.18 into ninth with a lap of 1:43.066 round the streets of Baku, just two tenths of a second ahead of Carlos.

Nico will start fourteenth after a penalty is applied for changing his gearbox following the earlier morning practice session.

Nico Hülkenberg

“We lost some time this morning so we can be pleased to get both cars into Q3. The balance in the car doesn’t sit quite where I would like it to, but some race weekends are like that and we can be happy that we gave it everything and tomorrow we will do the same to make up positions. The gearbox penalty is pretty bitter in this way, but we need to come back with the best strategy and fight hard. The good news is that you can overtake here and know there will be safety cars, so let’s see what we can do.”

Carlos Sainz

“It was a decent qualifying for us. I missed the perfect first sector but getting both cars into Q3 again shows good consistency and effort from the team. Tomorrow we need to have a clean start and target to stay in the points again. It could be another chaotic race so we need to be ready to maximize our chances.”

Alan Permane, Sporting Director:

Is that a satisfying result today for the team?

“We can be pretty satisfied with that qualifying result. We didn’t have a good FP3 this morning due to various issues, so we were happy to get both cars into Q3. Our competitors for fourth in the championship are behind us, which puts us in a stronger position, but we need to concentrate on our own race and the midfield, which is again extremely tight. Nico will have a five-place grid penalty after a gearbox change, but as we’ve seen in the past here it’s a tough race. We’d hope and expect him to recover and we’re targeting points for both cars tomorrow.”

We are expecting quite unusual weather conditions tomorrow, will that have an impact on the race?

“The high wind is a consideration for everyone, there’s not really a great deal we can do. We’ve experienced cars running in high wind before and know it’s difficult to manage, but most of the track is sheltered with the buildings so I don’t think it will have too much effect.”

Force India

ESTEBAN OCON

“It has been a very strong day for us. The car is working well and it’s been very enjoyable to drive. We’ve made good progress improving the car and we have been quick in every session. Today we were the fourth fastest team and we really deserved this result. Tomorrow is a big opportunity and we need to make the most of it. We saw last year what can happen here with safety cars and incidents so we need to be patient and stay out of trouble.”

SERGIO PEREZ

“I am pretty happy with our performance today. It’s been a good day for the team even though we probably had the pace to be further up the grid. I don’t think we fully maximised our performance and it was a very complicated qualifying session. There were so many yellow flags and the wind made things very complicated, which is why there were so many errors. I couldn’t get a proper clean run until Q3. The race tomorrow will be all about being in the right place at the right time and making the most of the opportunities as they arise. The track suits us and I believe there is plenty of potential to make up a few more places. Days like these are a great motivation for everyone in the team and show we are making progress. We were the top team in the midfield today but it’s tomorrow that really counts.”

OTMAR SZAFNAUER

“Seventh and eighth on the grid is a well-deserved result and confirms that all our hard work is paying off. We’ve been competitive since first practice yesterday and improved the car with each session in the lead up to qualifying. It’s a track that has always suited us and both drivers love driving here. Qualifying is only part of the job and there’s a big task ahead of us tomorrow. It’s never an easy race here so converting today’s performance into solid points won’t be easy, but we will do our best to bring home the result of which we are capable.”

Red Bull

DANIEL RICCIARDO

“I’m happy with the second row on the grid but it wasn’t a totally smooth day. This morning we didn’t get a go on our second set of ultrasoft tyres because of the red and yellow flags. In Qualifying, Q2 was very close on the supersofts, we had a couple of yellow flags and it was looking a bit hairy but we just made it through. In Q3 on the first run I kissed the wall and then on the last lap I had to make it clean and fortunately clean was fast enough for the second row. It’s always tough on street circuits like this, you have to be on the limit to be fast but point five of a percent inside of the limit. Just finding that balance isn’t easy but I’ve felt good all weekend and obviously have good momentum from here last year and China, so we will race hard and hopefully get back on the podium. I’m looking forward to a good street fight tomorrow (laughs). I believe the top five start on supersofts and we’re all trying to avoid the ultrasoft on high fuel due to the graining in colder conditions, so that strategy makes sense for us. I’m also going to eat lots tonight to make sure I don’t blow away in the wind tomorrow as it looks like it’s going to be pretty crazy out there!”

MAX VERSTAPPEN

“Qualifying today was ok; nothing special but we are also not too far away. We were in reach but of course we know that in Qualifying they turn up their engines, but in general not bad and I think we have a good chance to fight tomorrow. On the last run we were waiting to try and get a tow. I think that cost us a bit because I was waiting in the garage with the heaters already off and couldn’t get heat in the tyres like I wanted to. With the tyres the ultrasoft is not that easy but we qualified on the supersoft so hopefully that will give us a longer first stint. The top five cars are on the supersofts so I don’t think it will offer much except we can extend the stint for longer compared to Kimi who is on the ultra, but we’ll find out. The wind was very tricky today and is forecast to be even stronger tomorrow for the race, so we’ll have to see what that does. Aerodynamics are very sensitive to wind, it’s the same as in a plane, you can fly fast in one direction and can go faster in the other direction. The cars are very sensitive to that, we had some struggles in the corners, and the more downforce you have the more tricky the wind can be. We are still in a good position to fight from and many things are possible on this track.”

CHRISTIAN HORNER, Team Principal

“A reasonably straightforward Qualifying. The pressure points for us came in making a tight call to abandon a lap with Daniel in Q2 feeling that he was safe, which was a last minute judgement. Then in Q3 both drivers obviously did their best but unfortunately we didn’t quite have enough pace to get further up the grid. However fourth and fifth are still very respectable grid positions at a track you can certainly overtake at.”

Mercedes

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport to start Azerbaijan Grand Prix from P2 and P3 on the grid

 Lewis will start tomorrow’s race at the Baku City Circuit from P2
 Valtteri will start the Azerbaijan Grand Prix from P3 on the grid
 Both drivers completed one run on the UltraSoft compound tyres in Q1
 In Q2, both Lewis and Valtteri set their fastest time on the SuperSoft and will start the race on this tyre
 Both drivers completed two UltraSoft runs in Q3

Lewis Hamilton

We weren’t quite quick enough today to beat Ferrari today, but it was super close. No athlete can be satisfied with second, but it’ s nice to be back up on the front row after an exciting session. The team did a great job overnight to make a step forward after what was a tricky Friday. On our long runs we’ve been down, losing out in the middle sector, and the Ferraris have been quite a bit quicker than us, so we’ve still got a bit more ground to make up yet, but it’s great to be there in the fight. We worked hard to get the car in a better place, so we need to maximise the result now tomorrow. Let’s try and make some trouble for Ferrari. It’s definitely going to be another interesting race.

Valtteri Bottas

It’s never positive to be third, but after yesterday this is a good result. The team did a great job with the set-up of the car. It felt completely different compared to yesterday; we could really trust it which allowed us to fight for the first and second row. It felt like I never did a perfect lap today and I doubt that anyone else did; it’s just extremely difficult around the track. For the race, we’re in a good position as a team. Having both cars next to each other for the race start gives us a few opportunities and we can play with tactics. It’s difficult to say how the wind tomorrow is going to affect the race, especially with all the buildings around. It should be an interesting race. We expect it to be very close tomorrow between three teams, so everything is possible.

Toto Wolff

Looking at today’s results in the contexts of the struggles we experienced yesterday during practice, I have to say I’m pretty pleased to be second and third on the grid. The guys worked very hard late into the night in order to find the right path forward, we made a step in the right direction this morning, then another for qualifying. So it was a good recovery from that perspective. Going into qualifying, we expected a very close fight between three teams and this is exactly what we got; I think this will turn out to be the story of this 2018 season. I expect to see all of the top six fighting for the win tomorrow and we will be working hard to make we come out of that battle on top.

James Allison

While I am disappointed that our cars were not quick enough to challenge for pole today, we can take a certain satisfaction from a solid P2 and P3, which give us strong starting positions for tomorrow. We can also be satisfied that we managed to improve the car’s handling overnight and that this put us in position to enjoy a good race with both cars starting on the super soft compound tyre. This is a track that brings both incident and opportunity for those who are nimble enough to exploit it in the race. We fully intend to do so tomorrow.

Ferrari

His first run in Q3 was good enough for Seb Vettel to take pole position for tomorrow’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Kimi Raikkonen was on his way to what looked like being a sensational lap, but an off-line just before the long straight meant he had to settle for sixth. For Scuderia Ferrari this was its third consecutive pole of the season and the SF71H proved to be the car to beat on the six kilometre track and its combination of tight corners and flat-out sections.

And yet, Seb feels that he could have improved still further: “I am very happy for this result, but I am a little bit upset with my final lap because I locked up in turn 3. I knew the car was good and in the first two corners I was already one and a half tenth faster than the lap before. Then, maybe, I hit the bump the wrong way a little under braking and I locked up. In the end I made the corner, so I wasn’t that late, but obviously after that, the grip wasn’t the same. It’s a shame because I think I could have been faster, but I am happy anyway. I am sorry for Kimi because we could have both been on the front row. However, we’ll see tomorrow, It’s going to be a long race. I think it is very important to be able to fight for the pole in order to have a good chance during the race. Even if the result has been good these last few Saturdays, there’s still a lot of work for us. We know that the car can be faster. Obviously we have worked hard to get to where we are now, but everybody in the team knows there’s more to do. We have to stay focused and keep pushing. However, I am not afraid for tomorrow and I believe we have good chances”.

A disappointed Kimi summed up his afternoon: “In Q3, on my last run I had a lot of speed and the feeling with the car was really good; I knew I had a very good lap going. Entering the last corner I took it very easily because over the weekend the wind has been quite tricky there. But for whatever reason I got a massive snap exiting the corner and went sideways. I was able to get the car back but the lap was gone. I’m pretty sure that without that mistake I would have been in a much better position. It’s very painful and frustrating to mess it up in the last corner like that, I’m very disappointed. Unfortunately with the mistake we are not in a very good position for the race. Today it did not pay off, but tomorrow is another day and we’ll do our best”.

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