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Qualifying - Russian GP 2021 - Team quotes

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By Olivier Ferret

25 September 2021 - 16:23
Qualifying - Russian GP 2021 - Team (...)

Haas F1

Uralkali Haas F1 Team drivers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin qualified 17th and 19th, respectively, for Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix, Round 15 of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship at Sochi Autodrom – but the duo will start from 15th and 17th on the grid after Charles Leclerc (Scuderia Ferrari) and Nicholas Latifi (Williams), who qualified ahead, will take grid penalties and start from the rear along with Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) – who failed to set a time in Q1 as he too is exercising a grid penalty.

Torrential rain saw the cancellation of Saturday’s final practice session, but more favorable weather above meant qualifying started at the scheduled time of 15:00 local time. Mazepin and Schumacher opted for slightly different strategies around the damp but slowly drying track in Q1. Mazepin ran deeper on his first set of Pirelli Cinturato Green intermediate tires but was limited to two timed runs on his second set when conditions were improving. The Russian set a best lap of 1:53.764 for 19th overall. Schumacher had more time to bed in his second set of inters, the German subsequently posting a 1:49.830 lap to secure 17th on the timesheet.

Lando Norris recorded his first-ever career Formula 1 pole position at Sochi. The McLaren racer banked a fast lap of 1:41.993 on soft tires beating his former teammate Carlos Sainz of Scuderia Ferrari by .517 of a second.

Nikita Mazepin

“Overall, the session was going good. I wasn’t quite sure what we were going to do because I felt like the tires needed quite a lot of laps versus what I felt at Spa. I finally got the balance right, set the steering wheel settings right, got the temperatures in the window to get comfortable, did a decent lap and then we boxed. I was just really struggling out there. That one lap, I felt that the track wasn’t quite dry enough to get the tires going but nevertheless the position isn’t really that different to what it could have been, but it felt pretty tough to drive. We don’t know what the weather’s going to do but I think we’re ready for dry and wet conditions, so we’ll just have to see what’s going to happen.”

Mick Schumacher

“I was hoping for maybe a secret Q2 appearance, that would’ve been great. The lap felt ok - I think there were maybe a few mistakes – maybe two or three tenths in it, but that wouldn’t have been enough to go to Q2, but at least we’re close. A bit frustrated but very happy on the other side and I think we as a team did a great job. I love it, they’re the best conditions honestly. You get thrown into the cold water and essentially if you’re the fastest to find your way around the track, you will be the fastest on track. I’ve always enjoyed it, even in the past and hopefully we’ll have some rain tomorrow.”

Günther Steiner

“It’s actually good that in the end we got in qualifying today so we ran our program and tomorrow morning we can focus on the race. I think qualifying was quite – I wouldn’t say difficult – it was somehow straightforward. We went out on inters, we just tried to do the best we could and tried to get the best out of it.”

Red Bull

SERGIO PEREZ

“Things were looking really promising and we had a strong Q1 and Q2. But in the changing weather and track conditions, timing is important and in hindsight we probably could have tried slick tyres one lap earlier. As we know anything can happen in the race and a positive to take from today is that the car was performing very well in the wet. We are going to move positively into Sunday and the main target will be to get a strong start and then put together the best possible race.”

MAX VERSTAPPEN

“We decided not to do too many laps in qualifying as the risk of having a moment or an accident would not be worth it, especially as I’m starting from the back of the grid tomorrow. The track conditions were fine and there was good grip, I think it will be similar conditions during the race. The Team did a great job and I’m confident that we made a good decision about how we set up the car. Looking ahead to tomorrow, it’s always tricky as naturally the midfield will be a bit closer but it will be important to go out there and score as many points as possible, we’ll do our very best. Hopefully we can have a fun race!”

*Required to start tomorrow’s race from 20th following a power unit grid penalty

CHRISTIAN HORNER, Team Principal and CEO

“Obviously we knew Max was going to be starting from the back of the grid and with today’s tricky qualifying conditions, the reward wasn’t worth the risk. So it was just about making sure everything was ready for him tomorrow. Checo will be disappointed to be starting from 9th position, a small mistake on his warmup lap on the slicks in Q3 meant he struggled to generate heat in the tyres and unfortunately missed out on being further up the field. The grid isn’t one anyone would have predicted coming into this weekend, and with dry weather forecast for tomorrow on a track where you can overtake, we could see even more overtaking and a very interesting race.”

Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN endured a difficult afternoon in Sochi, with Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi qualifying in 16th and 18th respectively for tomorrow’s Grand Prix. On a wet circuit after heavy rain drenched the venue for the majority of the day – to the point that the final practice session had to be cancelled – the drivers tip-toed around on intermediate tyres, but couldn’t clear Q1.

Kimi and Antonio will gain places due to penalties to other drivers and will aim to make up places in the race.

Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal

“We were very close to a place in Q2 with Kimi but unfortunately, we missed out. The cancellation of FP3 meant we went straight into qualifying. We were on intermediate tyres, like all our rivals, but in the end we missed just that little bit more to make it past the first segment of qualifying. We’ll see what the weather looks like tomorrow: we have a long race ahead of us and hopefully we can make up some ground towards the top ten.”

Kimi Räikkönen

“The conditions weren’t too bad out there but we lacked a bit of grip. The balance of the car was ok, but we were just on the edge all the time – and when that goes over the limit, it goes quickly. The more lap we did the better it got, but in the end we just couldn’t get more out of it. We’ll try our best tomorrow and see where we can end up.”

Antonio Giovinazzi

“A disappointing day in which we couldn’t express all our potential. I had an issue with the brakes that made it difficult to drive, especially in the wet and not having run FP3. We need to understand what happened and fix it to have a better day tomorrow. We’ll need to see what weather we’re going to have and focus on our job. We will have faster cars around us, starting from the back, we will need to stay out of trouble and see how we can progress.”

AlphaTauri

Pierre Gasly

“I don’t have too much to say right now, I think we had the pace to easily make it through to Q3, so I’m obviously frustrated. In Q1 I was really fast in these conditions, I felt comfortable in the car and could push straight away. However, for Q2 I stayed out on just one set of tyres, that were completely used by the end of the session. I think this was a big mistake from our side, but I will have to speak to the team to understand more about what happened today. It’s a missed opportunity not making it through to Q3, but we now need to look forward to tomorrow and see what we can do to make up lost ground.”

Yuki Tsunoda

“I’m fairly pleased with today, I made it through to Q2 which is a step-up for me, particularly after yesterday. My mechanics worked hard last night to get the car in a better position coming into Qualifying today and I felt a bit more confident in the car. Obviously, the conditions were completely different to yesterday’s sessions, but we’ll hopefully see more improvements tomorrow, in dry conditions.”

Claudio Balestri (Chief Engineer - Vehicle Performance)

“We knew today was going to be rainy, so we tried to prepare in the best way possible. The morning session was cancelled, which was not ideal, so our first time out in wet conditions was Qualifying. In Q1 we decided to use the Inters and stay out for the whole session with just one set. It was the right strategy, used by most of the teams, and we made it through to Q2 with both cars. The track was drying quickly, and the tyres suffered a bit more than the first Quali session, so we decided to pit Yuki to fit a new set of Inters. With Pierre we decided to stay out, unfortunately it didn’t pay off, and he couldn’t make it to Q3. We cannot be satisfied, as there was a good opportunity today to start from a good grid position, especially with Pierre. We can’t change today’s result, so we need to simply focus our attention on the race and move forward as much as we can.”

Aston Martin F1

Lance Stroll

“I am happy that we made it into Q3 and P8 is a good starting position to fight for points tomorrow. We made a decent step forward compared to yesterday and the team did a good job in challenging conditions. I do think there was more on the table on the last lap, though. What affected the lap most was traffic in the last sector caused by Sergio and my lap time was hurt under braking into Turns 13, 14 and 15. I also had issues with Daniel getting in my way in Q1. It was a bit frustrating, but we will look ahead to tomorrow now. It is a long run to the first braking point here and there is a lot of slipstreaming, so let us see what happens on Sunday.”

Sebastian Vettel

“We definitely had the potential to have a much better result today. I think we had the pace to easily progress to Q3, but I had traffic on my final run [from Yuki Tsunoda] and I just missed out. I am annoyed with myself because I should have put in a better time the lap before as well. It means we are starting on the edge of the top 10 and unfortunately overtaking is not so easy here.”

Otmar Szafnauer, CEO & Team Principal

“Lance did a superb job to qualify eighth but, had he not lost a significant amount of time behind Checo [Perez] in sector three on his fastest Q3 lap, he would have qualified fourth. That is frustrating, but it shows the pace of our car and the brilliance of Lance in changeable weather conditions. He will be aiming to bag a lot of points tomorrow. In Q2, Sebastian, too, was hindered by traffic – [Yuki] Tsunoda this time – and the result was that he failed to get through to Q3 by the tiny margin of just 0.05sec. But he will start the race from the clean side of the track and, like Lance, he will be aiming to score points tomorrow.”

Williams

 George Russell qualified third and Nicholas Latifi 14th for the Russian Grand Prix.
 George continued to improve throughout Q3, setting his initial laps on intermediate tyres before boxing for the soft Pirelli compound to post a fastest time of 1:42.983.
 Nicholas set his fastest time on his final flying lap of Q1, setting a 1:48.252 on intermediate tyres to progress to Q2. However, the Canadian will start at the back of the grid due to a Power Unit change.

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

The weather dominated today as we had all expected. We were happy with what we had done yesterday so didn’t lose too much by FP3 being a washout.

With qualifying taking place in damp conditions we were in a similar position to Spa with little to lose and a lot to gain. Both drivers were outstanding throughout, with Nicholas in particular excelling in the difficult conditions of Q1. He was quick throughout and did a great job. Unfortunately, we had to replace his Power Unit overnight and so he will now start the race from the back of the grid. We therefore opted to let him run in Q1 as it gains him valuable experience in these conditions and increased the pressure on our rivals, but in Q2 we decided not to risk the car further. It is a massive shame for Nicholas and his car crew that he couldn’t get the most out of his excellent pace today, but he still starts the race tomorrow with a decent car and an opportunity to make good progress. His excellent pace was good reward for the huge effort that his mechanics put in to rebuild his car with the new PU last night. They didn’t get the grid slot that they deserved, but the pace was there, and they can take great pride from that.

George had a slightly more precarious transit to Q2, but once there he did an excellent job to make the most of the situation. The car was working well, and he bided his time and was cool throughout. Although we were confident that slicks were the right tyre for the closing stages of Q3, he was instrumental in supporting the decision and recognising that it was the last lap that would be the key lap. As in Spa, we were happy to put everything into one final lap in the best conditions and again it paid off. Tomorrow will be tough in the dry as we have many quicker cars starting behind. However, the car was working quite well at high fuel on Friday and we have a good opportunity to fight with the McLaren and Ferrari; holding on to a top three place will be very difficult, but we are going to give it a damn good go.

George Russell

P3 is an incredible result and the team did an amazing job once again. We’re riding a wave at the moment and it feels pretty great! It’s high risk and high reward in situations like these but I knew it would be slicks for the end of the session. I managed to get the tyres in a good window and was building up to the limit to give it everything I had on the last lap.

Many people have said in the past that third is the best place to start in Sochi. I won’t be doing anything crazy but if there’s an opportunity there tomorrow I’ll go for it. It’s going to be a very tricky race but I’ll be defending hard and picking my battles. We’ve got to look forward but also be realistic as we’ve got some very fast cars behind us. It’s not going to be easy but I will be doing my best.

Nicholas Latifi

The pace felt very strong today. You never know how well you’ll be able to switch on the tyres in the wet weather, but when I first hit the brakes I could tell the grip was there and it felt good, which clearly wasn’t the case for everyone. Even on a track that was constantly improving, the lap I set in the middle of Q1 was enough to get me through to Q2. Seeing what was possible in Q1 makes it more frustrating to be starting from the back of the grid due to the Power Unit change, but that’s racing sometimes. I’ll be pushing hard tomorrow to make up as many positions as I can in the race.

Alpine F1

Alpine F1 Team qualified for tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix with Fernando Alonso in sixth and Esteban Ocon tenth after a thrilling wet to dry Saturday Qualifying session at the Sochi Autodrom. The result is the team’s fifth Q3 appearance with both cars this season.

Overnight rainfall continued into the morning leading to the cancellation of Free Practice 3. The rain cleared just before Qualifying with the session starting to schedule at 15:00 local time.

For Q1, Esteban started on new Intermediates with Fernando the sole driver to sample the Extreme Wets. He soon joined the rest of the field on Intermediates after setting an initial lap-time. With conditions improving fast, both drivers were comfortably through to Q2 with Fernando seventh and Esteban ninth.

The pair then progressed into Q3 with Fernando in third and Esteban sixth after a strong final effort on Intermediates at the end of the session.

Conditions continued to improve enough for a switch to dry tyres towards the latter stages of the session. Fernando made the change to Softs midway through with his second effort, a 1min 44.204secs, good enough for sixth. Esteban was unable to improve on his lap-time, a 1min 45.865secs on Intermediates, on his only run on Softs and remained in tenth.

Esteban Ocon

“I’m a bit frustrated with today’s Qualifying as we weren’t able to optimise Q3 in the changing conditions. Ultimately, we didn’t put the right tyres on at the right time in Q3 and we missed out on two attempts on Softs at the end. There was definitely potential for more than tenth today as I like these sessions in challenging conditions. On a positive, we have both cars starting in the top ten and it’s not a bad starting position to be in. Tomorrow looks dry, but whatever the conditions, we will be ready.”

Fernando Alonso

“I’m happy with sixth position in qualifying as the conditions weren’t easy out there today. It was very stressful as we’ve never run in the wet in Sochi. There was no time to experiment and find where the grip was on the track. But, in the end, we were competitive in both wet and damp conditions. I also lost about five tenths of a second on my final lap in Q3, so I could have qualified even higher than sixth. Tomorrow will be difficult because we have several very fast cars starting behind us, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Davide Brivio, Racing Director

“At the end we have come out of a difficult Qualifying with both cars in Q3 inside the top ten, which is a positive. We had the potential to be a little bit higher up as Fernando made a small mistake on the last lap, which cost him some time, and Esteban needed one more lap on the dry tyres right at the end of the session. All the same we are in good shape for tomorrow, when the conditions will be very different, hopefully dry, so we can consolidate our points-scoring run of 13 races.”

Ferrari

Carlos Sainz and Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow put on a great performance in qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi. The Spaniard secured the best result of his Formula 1 career, qualifying on the front row for the very first time. Charles Leclerc only took part in Q1, even though he made it through to the next part, given that he starts from the back of the grid tomorrow because of taking on a new power unit. He just did a few laps to get a feel for the SF21 on a wet track.

Spot on strategy. In Q3, some parts of the track were still damp, but a dry line was emerging. Carlos put in a timed lap on intermediate tyres but then he and the team chose the almost perfect moment to switch to slicks. Carlos pitted to take on a set of new Softs, going back out knowing he had enough time to do two warm-up laps to get the tyres up to temperature. With just seconds remaining before the chequered flag, he started a flying lap right on the limit, setting an excellent time of 1’42”510, for which he was eventually rewarded with second place on the starting grid.

Poles apart. Scuderia Ferrari thus has its cars at opposite ends of the grid, with Carlos at the front and Charles at the back of the pack. They can both expect a tough Sunday, with Sainz trying to maintain position, while on the other hand, Charles will be attacking as much as possible, trying to work his way up into the points. The start is at 15.00 local (14.00 CET) and the forecast is for variable conditions, although the current prediction is that it should not rain.

Carlos Sainz

“It’s been a tough quali session but I’m proud how we managed the situation to end up putting a great lap together for P2. I like these tricky conditions and I really enjoyed that last attempt on the slicks. We were one of the first ones to cross the line and the wait until P2 was confirmed was tense, as the track was drying quickly! Front row for tomorrow is a good result, and I’m happy, but I would have preferred to keep pole!

Tomorrow it’s very likely to be dry and we had a decent pace yesterday. Graining on the front tyres will be challenging but I will give it all from the very first lap until the end. Congrats to Lando on his first pole! It’s good to start beside him.”

Carles Leclerc

“The conditions today were not ones we experience very often during a season, but they are those with which, recently, we have struggled the most. So, despite knowing that we would start from the back row tomorrow, we decided it was a good opportunity to get out, rack up some mileage and learn for the future. I think we achieved that goal today.
I really enjoyed driving, as the track had very high grip in the rain and we were quite competitive right from the start. That was good to see. I’m happy for the team and Carlos for the good result today and we will both give it our all in the race.”

Laurent Mekies, Racing Director

“A very closely contested qualifying, run in very tricky track conditions, ended with one of our drivers on the front row of the grid. Carlos did a very good job on his final lap on dry tyres, as it really wasn’t easy to find the right feeling in these conditions. The team worked well with the driver, making the right choices at the right time.

Charles’ qualifying was obviously conditioned by the fact that, because of his penalty, he will start from the back of the grid. The choice we made comes at a heavy cost for now, but it will pay off in the coming races. We decided he should at least go out in Q1 so he could check the handling of his car in the wet and in fact Charles was very competitive. Tomorrow we will start from opposite ends of the grid with Carlos on the front row and Charles on the last one. As usual, our aim is to get the best possible result, trying to make the most of any opportunity that comes our way.”

Mercedes F1

P4 and P7 for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team in changeable weather conditions in Sochi

 Lewis qualifies P4 and Valtteri P7 for the Russian Grand Prix despite showing strong pace and dominating Q1 and Q2 on the Inter tyres on a very damp track.
 With conditions improving into Q3, the two Mercedes led the field out on Inters and again set the fastest times, before the cars behind made the switch to slicks.
 Given their track position, Lewis and Valtteri were the last to switch to the Softs and only had time for one timed lap, in contrast to the cars ahead who had time for at least two and improved with each lap as tyre temperatures rose.
 With the Soft tyre only coming alive on a second timed lap, neither Mercedes driver improved on their Inter times will have a battle on their hands in Sunday’s Grand Prix which is expected to be dry.

Lewis Hamilton

I made a mistake in the pit lane and I’m incredibly disappointed with that. Up until then, I was in the groove, I was in the zone and I am really sorry for all the team that are here and back at the factory because obviously that’s not what you expect from a champion. It is what it is, and I’ll do my best tomorrow to try and rectify it. At the end, it was so slippery when you don’t have any temperature and without the time for that second push lap, we couldn’t set the time of the guys ahead.

Those cars up front have got good pace and it definitely won’t be easy tomorrow. I’m just going to say my prayers and hope that our car can be fixed to be OK for tomorrow. These things are sent to try us, and as much as I feel terrible right now, I’ll turn it into a positive and try to do the best we can. But we’ve got a Brit on pole which is great, so congrats to Lando.

Valtteri Bottas

Q1 and Q2 were going well, we seemed to be strong in the Inter conditions but in the end when it started to dry, we came in and obviously we were hopeful to get two timed laps. In the end, we only got one and couldn’t get the tyres to work in one lap, it was too difficult to get the temperature into them. All the cars ahead of us got at least two laps and that was the issue. It’s not great but nowhere near over yet, we have a strong car and I’ve had strong pace all weekend. At least I’m not starting from the back like in Monza so hopefully we’ll be better and I can push on from P7.

Toto Wolff

There are situations like today that are just really unfortunate. You can’t point to a mistake today – we were the first cars out in the session and found ourselves in a sequence where either we would have aborted our last two runs on the Intermediate tyre to get two Soft runs in or play it safe by finishing the lap, which is what we did. If you could turn back time, you’d maybe not go out first and wait a minute later but then you’re into crystal ball reading.

Even without Lewis’ kiss on the wall we wouldn’t have been able to do two laps on the Soft and it was definitely a lap two tyre today. With the second lap, I’m sure we would have been fast enough for the front row but with one lap, you have no chance of heating the tyre enough. Now we need to turn it around tomorrow, these things sometimes go against you but the important thing is how you react. Lewis is still in the hunt for the win, that’s the target and Valtteri can go on the attack from P7, he’s looked very strong all weekend.

Andrew Shovlin

A frustrating end to a qualifying session where we’d been looking very strong throughout. The conditions were quite unusual in that was taking a long time to transition to dry. The intermediate was holding on well and not degrading and our plan in the final session was to set a time on the intermediates before swapping to dry tyres. Unfortunately, a single lap on the dry tyres wasn’t enough to get it working so we got jumped by a number of cars at the finish. It was encouraging to see the car working well in the wet but we’ve left ourselves with more work to do tomorrow than we hoped. However, our pace on Friday was strong so anything is possible.

McLaren

Lando Norris

"Obviously I’m very happy – probably the happiest I’ve been in F1! My first pole position in Formula 1 and in some pretty tricky conditions. It was very tough out there, a lot of risks taken, a lot of times I thought I could’ve ended up in the wall – but it all paid-off and was worth it. Thanks to the whole team for giving me a great car today. It’s an amazing feeling to get pole and something I’ve always dreamed of since I was a kid. So now I can finally tick that off, and hopefully tomorrow we can just go for another strong result."

Daniel Ricciardo

"I’m glad we got to get the session done – who would’ve thought we’d finish on slicks when there was a chance of not even doing qualifying today! So, it was fun. It was actually really fun! We enjoyed it. Congrats to Lando on his first pole, and to the team – to keep the momentum of Monza is really cool. So, everyone is really upbeat. From a position point of view, I’m okay with fifth. I think it obviously puts us in good shape for tomorrow. Those conditions today were so hit and miss, you could gain or lose time so easily. There were certainly a few corners that bit me, but it’s all good. We learn from it. I’m pretty pleased. Congrats to the whole team – it was exciting, it was fun and now let’s keep the train going!”

Andreas Seidl - Team Principal

“Lando’s first pole position, our first pole position since 2012 and Daniel qualifying P5 make this an excellent Saturday for our team. Congratulations to everybody at the track, back at the factory and our colleagues at Mercedes HPP, because that was an exceptionally challenging qualifying session, executed very well. All through the sessions, it was important to have the right tyres on the car, and the car in the right position on track. We judged that perfectly today and had two drivers who pulled it off when it mattered.

“We’re dedicating pole position to Mansour Ojjeh – today would have been his birthday – and looking forward to what should be another exciting Formula 1 race tomorrow. We have a competitive car and are in a great position to score good points.”

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