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Team reaction after qualifying in Spa (part 1)

Red Bull, McLaren, Renault, Ferrari, Williams & Force India

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By Franck Drui

28 August 2010 - 16:30
Team reaction after qualifying in (...)

Red Bull Renault

Mark Webber: “Spa is certainly a great venue to get pole – it’s a very special track. I was very happy with my first lap in Q3, but you never know in the current company if it’s enough. You get to the finish and wait for Ciaron (Mark’s engineer) to come on the radio and say ‘P...?’ and you’re thinking ‘what is it?’. At that point the lap was enough, but then you have to do it again. You get another set of tyres and see how you go. We had a rain shower, which spiced things up and made it hard for people to improve. Lewis did a pretty good job to improve to P2 at the end when La Source was a bit greasy. I’m pleased to be on pole and tomorrow’s race is going to be interesting, I don’t think the race will be won on the first lap. I’m looking forward to it.”

Sebastian Vettel: “We had a bad start with Q1 being last out of the box. It gave us the advantage of not suffering any traffic, but then you’re the one who has to face the most water on the track with dry tyres – it was tricky. Fortunately we could get a lap in on the intermediate tyres and we were safe, but you never know in these conditions. Q2 was comfortable and in Q3 it turned out that the first run was most important. There was a bit of rain in the first corner and my first try in Q3 wasn’t good enough, simple as that. I made a couple of mistakes at the beginning of the first sector and lost momentum. On the last lap I made a good recovery and it was quicker than my first try, but then I went a bit sideways in Turn 14 and that was it. The most important thing today was that the car was very good, good enough to be ahead of everyone else. It didn’t happen for me today, so we need to do it tomorrow.”

Christian Horner: “Our 12th pole of the year in such difficult conditions demonstrates what a great job the team and Mark did today. Fourth place for Sebastian backs up an excellent team performance. Mark made the best of the circuit when it was at it’s fastest at the beginning of Q3. Sebastian dropped some time at Turns 13 and 14, otherwise I think we would have had another Red Bull front row lock-out, but it’s great to see both cars right up there.”

Fabrice Lom (Renault): ”A very difficult session with all the mixed conditions, but I think we managed very well. The team did a great job at being on the track at the right time. It was a difficult Q1, but we made it and our performance increased session after session. It’s a good result – we got pole position with Mark, he did a great lap at the start of Q3 and Seb is fourth. We were close to a 1-2-3 for Renault, but Lewis did a great lap. I think we are in a good position for a great race tomorrow, but you never know what the conditions will be and it will be tough. The engines may suffer also on this hard track, but we will do our best.”

McLaren Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton: “We’ve looked very fast all weekend, and the car’s felt great. Obviously, the Mercedes-Benz engine is the best suited to this circuit, and our car’s aerodynamic package also works well here.

“On my first run in Q3, I was the first driver into Turn 14, and the track was drying but still a bit wet, so I didn’t push hard enough and lost ground – maybe half a second.

“I thought we could have got pole, but I went a bit wide at La Source on my final run. There was one little patch of rain over Turn One, so it was a bit slippery, and I lost about three and a half tenths there. But I was able to extract some good time from the tyres in the second and third sectors – and that’s where I made up the time I lost in sector one.

“Still, it’s not essential to have pole here – I still feel like I’m in a good position. There’s a very long straight from Eau Rouge to the top of the hill, and it’s quite tricky to stay ahead of a chasing car, even if you’re on pole. I’m hopeful of getting a good start tomorrow, and we’ll take it from there.

“For tomorrow’s race, and in Monza, we need to capitalise on the fact that our package appears to be very competitive. Tomorrow will be a tough race, but we’ll keep pushing.”

Jenson Button: “Our car feels good, and I think our pace has been good all weekend. I just wish I could be a bit further up. We ran used tyres at the start of Q3 and used tyres at the end, and two of the cars ahead of me put their best times in at the start of the session when it was dry.

“For my final run, there’d been a bit of rain in sector one, so I lost about three and a half tenths to my previous best Q3 lap in the first sector. I was down quite a bit but was able to pull it back in the middle and last sectors, which were quite competitive. I’m reasonably happy, but would have liked to have been a bit higher up.

“In qualifying, you obviously want to push the car to the limit, but it’s very tricky with this asphalt to see which parts of the surface are wet or dry. And, when you’re pushing as hard as you can, it’s very difficult to find the limit of the tyre in the wet. If you hit a wet patch, you’re off.

“Still, I’m fifth – on the good side of the grid – and in this sort of weather, anything can happen, so it’s pretty exciting. That’s the way it is, but I still think we can have a very good race with our car tomorrow.”

Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal: “For all the teams, the key to today’s qualifying session was managing things so that one’s drivers were on track at the right time on the right tyres – and, to the extent that Lewis and Jenson qualified second and fifth, I suppose we can be reasonably satisfied that we did a decent job.

“Having said that, with hindsight, if we’d started Q3 with new Option tyres rather than used Option tyres, we may well have been celebrating McLaren’s 147th Formula 1 pole position this afternoon.

“Equally, a small spot of rain came at just the wrong time for us. Without that, again, pole may well have been within our grasp.

“But I don’t want to sound churlish, because the team did a very good job and both drivers did an extremely good job.

“As for tomorrow’s race, well, the Spa-Francorchamps track is a glorious venue for grand prix racing, and you can be well sure that both Lewis and Jenson will be looking to attack from the start. The run down to Turn One is a relatively short one – but the long haul up to Eau Rouge may well offer overtaking opportunities on lap one and you can be well sure that both Lewis and Jenson will be looking for them.”

Renault

Robert Kubica: We have been in the top five in every session, in all conditions, this weekend, and going into qualifying we were hoping that it might be possible to get third place. This is the first race at which we have used our f-duct and I must say congratulations to everybody at the factory
because it has worked perfectly from the first lap in practice. In fact, I was in second position at the end of my first run in Q3 but I wasn’t able to use my second set of option tyres. The car cut out just before the pit lane on my in-lap, and after the mechanics had pushed me back to the garage, we didn’t have time to do another run. At the end of the session, I was standing in the pits, watching the other cars and praying for rain when a few drops started to fall - and only Lewis was able to improve his time. It meant I lost a place on the front row, but I am still in a strong position for tomorrow, and now we need to wait and see what happens - with the race
and with the weather.

Vitaly Petrov: It was a very disappointing session for me today. On my out-lap on slick tyres, I went on the kerb at the exit of turn nine and lost control of the car because of the standing water. I wasn’t able to get started again, so that was the end of my session. It was a big shame because the car has been very good this weekend, and I was aiming for a place in the top ten. But now this has happened, all I can do is focus on tomorrow and stay positive. The f-duct is working very well, so we are quick on the straights and will be able to overtake. Plus the weather forecast is uncertain, and we know that when it is wet, everything is possible.

Eric Boullier, Team Principal: Qualifying third with Robert is a great result, especially at a track like Spa. The race team did a really good job, although we had a fuel pick-up problem, which cost Robert the chance to do a second run in Q3. Unfortunately it was a dramatic start to the session for us with Vitaly making a mistake on the kerb out of turn nine, which is really a shame. Hopefully he can come through the field in the race tomorrow. We’ve been running the f-duct this weekend and overall we are happy with how it is working, which is thanks to the great job done by the team at Enstone and here at the track. This development has drastically improved our performance, which looks promising for the end of the season.

Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: Third is a fantastic result for Robert and just goes to show the performance we have put on the
car, not only since the last race, but all season, is really paying off. It obviously wasn’t a greatsession for Vitaly, spinning off on his out-lap, but with the pace of the car we have this weekend, I’m sure he can still have a good race from the back of the grid. With Robert we are where we
are on merit, and we will be racing to finish on the podium. The weather has been changeable all weekend and I expect more of the same tomorrow. I’d prefer a dry race, but we’ve been quick in the wet and the dry so either way won’t worry us too much.

Ferrari

Qualifying did not live up to expectations for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro nor did it reflect the potential of the F10. The starting grid for the Belgian Grand Prix will see the two Maranello cars line up in sixth and tenth places with Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso respectively.

Stefano Domenicali: “We definitely cannot be happy with this result. Qualifying was complicated by the changing weather conditions which might have been easy to predict from yesterday but, having said that, clearly we failed to extract all the potential at our disposal and now we have to understand why. We are expecting a difficult race tomorrow, when it will be important to try and make the most of every opportunity, especially as our main rivals will be starting ahead of us.”

Felipe Massa: “Definitely a difficult qualifying. Already this morning, we had seen that the McLarens and Red Bulls were quicker than us and they confirmed that this afternoon, when we had a few difficulties, failing to get the result we were expecting: which means we will be trying to improve our positions tomorrow in the race. As usually happens here in Belgium, you can predict that the changeable weather might play a crucial role: it will be vital to manage the situation as well as possible. On my first run in Q3 I got a good lap, but maybe it could have been a couple of tenths quicker, while on the second one, I immediately had rain at Turn 1 and I locked the wheels and I decided to pit without completing the lap, because I would not have been able to improve my lap time. If we have a track that is only slightly damp but not too wet, it could be a problem because the rain tyres get destroyed very quickly and it will be necessary to manage them very carefully.”

Fernando Alonso: “Obviously, I can’t be pleased with this result, but it has to be said that if there is one track where grid position is less critical than others, then it is this one, both because of the track characteristics and because the weather can be very changeable: in some cases the right decision at the right time can see you make up an advantage of a minute, therefore we will have to be clever and make the most of every opportunity. In Q3, I only had one set of new soft tyres left and I used it on my second run when, unfortunately, there was a bit of rain. There’s no point in making a drama over this tenth place: we must stay calm and concentrated, because qualifying is one thing and the race is quite another when the points are given out, not today.”

Chris Dyer: “We cannot be pleased with the outcome of this qualifying session. Of course, the fact the weather was so changeable made running the session more tricky, especially for Fernando, who found himself with just one set of new soft tyres left in Q3: when he used them there was just a short shower which prevented him from setting the time he was capable of doing and which would have seen him starting a bit higher up the grid. Spa is famous for being unpredictable in terms of the weather: and once again this was confirmed today, with the possibility that tomorrow’s race will also be similarly affected, therefore we will have to do a good job in managing the possible variables.”

Williams Cosworth

Spa delivered its usual mixed bag of weather to keep today’s qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix a lively challenge for drivers and engineers alike, but the AT&T Williams team performed well to place both cars in the top ten. A different tyre selection in Q3 with Nico Hulkenberg running on the option tyre and Rubens Barrichello on the prime, will dictate a split strategy for the cars in tomorrow’s race, with both drivers highly capable in the wet should conditions alter.

Rubens Barrichello: Today was a good effort by everyone in the team. We were struggling a bit with set-up this morning, but the team came up with some great ideas after practice to get the car into better shape for qualifying and they paid off. I’m delighted to be up in seventh place. I’m having a great weekend celebrating my 300th race with my family and the team and I will be pushing hard tomorrow to get a good result.

Nico Hulkenberg: It was not a bad outcome today for the team with two cars in the top ten. I am happy enough with my position, especially considering that my last run in Q3 to claim my grid slot was on a used set of options that clearly were past their best. Just like the session today, I expect the weather to be pretty mixed tomorrow and to be honest, I am relaxed about that – with the variability in conditions, it is important to take it as it comes, the only sure thing is to aim for a good points finish tomorrow.

Sam Michael, Technical Director: To get both cars in the top ten today was a good effort by the team. The rain could have proved troublesome, but the drivers and engineers managed the weather well throughout the entire session. We’ll now move our focus onto strategy for the race tomorrow. It looks like conditions could be changeable yet again, which will certainly make it an interesting afternoon!

Force India Mercedes

The Force India F1 Team will start tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix from eighth position with Adrian Sutil - his sixth Q3 entrance this year. Adrian negotiated the thrilling rain-punctuated qualifying session to secure his first top ten start since the Canadian Grand Prix. Tonio Liuzzi will start from P12.

The pitlane bristled nervously as all 24 cars took to the track early in Q1 to make the most of the conditions before a predicted rain shower. When it materialised half way through the session it lasted just a few minutes, giving a couple of minutes of drier running at the end. After a nail-biting lap both Adrian and Tonio passed into Q2 with the 12th and 15th quickest times.

Q2 remained dry and both drivers opted for the soft tyres for both runs. Adrian crossed the line with the fifth quickest time and Tonio the 14th, however he will start from 12th following penalties handed to both Mercedes drivers.

Having used two sets of option tyres in Q2, Adrian could only make one run in Q3 and timed his lap to coincide with the very last seconds of dry running before another rain shower arrived. He got in one lap, the eighth quickest of the session, and will line up alongside the Williams of Barrichello for tomorrow’s 44 lap Belgian Grand Prix.

Adrian Sutil: Getting into the top ten was my aim today so I’m really happy. It was a tough qualifying of course with the showers and we had to be quick in taking decisions on the pitwall and on the circuit we had to react quite quickly as you never knew what was going to happen. I was lucky to go through in Q1 as I did my quickest lap on the intermediate tyres and the track was drying. Then second qualifying went well and in Q3 I was quite happy with the one lap I did. We only had one set of option tyres left for Q3 and I just missed out on a second lap as at the end of the first lap it had started to rain. I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow, I think there will be a lot of overtaking maneouvres, particularly up the hill and into Eau Rouge after the start, and you can really attack throughout the race.

Tonio Liuzzi: It wasn’t such an enjoyable qualifying as everything was very confusing and stressful with the rain in Q1. But overall we made an improvement to our car as we have had some problems with top speed from Friday practice until Q1. The car has a good balance into the corners and the blown diffuser is working well but although we improved in qualifying, it didn’t feel 100%. In FP3 this morning we also ran just four laps, also with a different wing setting, so we went into qualifying a bit blind. But we can be pretty happy, the forecast is changing every 10 minutes for the race tomorrow so we’ll keep on top of it and from P12 on the grid we’ve still got a good chance of scoring some points.

Otmar Szafnauer, chief operating officer: We’re obviously very pleased to be back in the top ten again after a couple of difficult races, and to get two cars starting in the top 12 is our best qualifying session since Canada. It wasn’t an easy session to call with the rain coming and going but we made the most of the conditions to give ourselves a good shot of a points finish, which is of course the ultimate aim. We know our race pace is strong, but as usual here in Spa you also have to be spot-on with the tyre calls if the weather is changeable. We look forward to a competitive race tomorrow.

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