Qualifying Malaysian GP report: Ferrari
Second qualifying session of 2014, second wet one. This being Malaysia, today’s downpour was torrentially tropical and began a full hour before the 4 o’clock start, which was then delayed by 50 minutes. In Melbourne, Fernando and Kimi qualified fifth and eleventh while here, the Spaniard improved by one, to fourth on Row 2 and the Finn went up five places to sixth on Row 3.
It’s too early to talk of a monopoly, but Mercedes man Lewis Hamilton followed up his Albert Park pole with another one here in Sepang. Sebastian Vettel secured a front row start in second place for Red Bull and Fernando has Melbourne winner Nico Rosberg alongside him, while Kimi will have Daniel Ricciardo for company at the start.
Having got through Q1, Fernando had a worrying start to Q2, when Daniil Kvyat dived inside him in the Toro Rosso. The inevitable collision left the Spaniard’s F14 T with broken steering on the left corner. Very often, that type of damage can be fatal, but the Scuderia mechanics did a brilliant job of changing the components and getting him out again to fight back into Q3, even if there had been no time to readjust the alignment of the front wheels, which makes the double world champion’s Q3 lap all the more remarkable. As we knew, Kimi wasn’t so happy with the feeling from his car especially in the wet, but if you could see his ‘on-board’ footage, you would understand the meaning of the word ‘commitment!
Tomorrow’s race? Rain is an ever-present threat so predictions are impossible, but the podium has to be the Prancing Horse target.
“I am really pleased with this fourth place, because to get into Q3 with the problem I had with the steering is really a good result. In a season when it takes a lot of time to make any sort of change to the cars, the guys managed to change the suspension in just a few minutes, which is a real record. They also got me back out on track at the right moment, which meant I could get into Q3. The incident with Kvyat was unfortunate for both of us and was inevitable, because by the time I saw the Toro Rosso it was too late. As usual in the rain, visibility is significantly reduced and it becomes a lottery. The team was super again in Q3 when it was a case of working out when to fit the set of new Extreme Wets we had: we did it at the start when the track conditions were better and so we were immediately able to do a quick lap. Starting from fourth and sixth places, I think the podium is possible and, apart from the form shown by Mercedes, the performance among those chasing them is reasonably close. This weekend, we opted to work more on race pace than on our single lap performance and the feeling is positive. But we know it will be tough and the uncertainty over the weather means it’s hard to know what sort of race to expect.”
“The rain made this qualifying very difficult. I knew that in the wet it would not be easy, but I didn’t expect to have so many problems. I had poor traction and on top of that, with the Extreme Wet, for some reason I was losing grip after the first lap. Now we have to find out why, as it will be useful for the coming races. Cleary, I’m not happy with sixth place, but given the circumstances, I cannot say I’m surprised and now I only want to think about doing well tomorrow. It will be a tough race with particularly high temperatures, but I am reasonably confident, because we have gone better here than in Melbourne and if we don’t have any problems, we can think in terms of getting a better result. Overall, my feel for the car is improving and even if there is still a way to go, we are working in the right direction.”
“We can regard this as a positive result. Qualifying was extremely close because of the weather and also because of the condition of our cars. The start positions are not really those we were aiming for, but all the same, they show the team is working in the right direction to close the gap to Mercedes. Q1 was relatively straightforward to read and then the mechanics did an amazing job on Fernando’s car, changing the steering arm in just a few minutes, after the collision with Kvyat’s Toro Rosso. He was back on track in record time and from then on, Fernando still had to fight to control the car and I think, in that situation, not many drivers could have done the lap he did in Q3. He really deserves our congratulations. Kimi’s performance was no less impressive: we know he’s not yet completely happy with the feeling of his F14 T and in the wet, he had some car balance problems, but I think he can have an attacking race from where he is on the grid. Once again here, Mercedes is setting the pace, but we will try and make the most of any opportunity, although the priority is to finish the race, because more than ever this year, you can’t take reliability for granted.”