Aus GP Qualifying: Driver Quotes

rbJenson Button (Brawn GP) – 1st: “To put the car on pole at our debut race is a fantastic achievement and I have to give so much credit to Ross, Nick and everyone at the factory in Brackley.

The last four months have been incredibly tough for the team and to go from a situation where you don’t even know if you are going to be racing to achieving pole at the first race of the season is just incredible.

Tomorrow is obviously the most important day of the weekend and there is a lot of work to be achieved to come away with a successful result however we have to remember where we have been and really enjoy this moment.”

Rubens Barrichello (Brawn GP) – 2nd: “It has been a great day and I want to congratulate the team for an outstanding job. I was hoping that I could put the car on pole and it was looking good in the first two sessions but in Q3 I developed some understeer in the car which comprised my final runs. However the first row for both cars is a real credit to the team and gives us a great chance in the race tomorrow. We have a really good car which everyone deserves credit for and I am just so happy to be racing at the front again.”

Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) – 3rd: “It’s been a difficult two days leading up to qualifying. I only had the pleasure of completing one lap in the first practice, then I made a mistake in the second, which meant we couldn’t run through our programme. Then we had a failure this morning, which cost us some track time, so it’s been anything but ideal! Nevertheless, I think we pulled everything together; we’ve been looking deeply at the data and trying to prepare well for qualifying. I think we succeeded, so thanks to everyone.

Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber) – 4th: “I’m quite happy with fourth on the grid. Looking at the first practice sessions of the weekend, this was more than we expected. We made progress with the car, and I was able to put in some really good laps. In particular, my lap in Q2 was very good. Unfortunately on my second run in Q3 Nico Rosberg went wide in front of me in corner 14 and put some dust on the track. As a consequence my tyres lost massive grip in the final corners of that lap. Most probably I could have finished third, but still I’m satisfied with my performance.”

Nico Rosberg (Williams) – 5th: “I think it is a good thing to be a bit disappointed with fifth place! Our qualifying session itself was consistent with everything else I have experienced so far and the car has been nice to drive all weekend. From the work we have done today, we are in a good position to start the race, perhaps better than we would have imagined when we arrived here.

“We are among the fastest cars but it will be interesting to see what fuel load everybody is running. The start tomorrow of course will be important, but thankfully we will don’t have too many cars running KERS close by us and possibly challenging us off the line. The big factor tomorrow will be tyres, but I think we have a good strategy and positive reliability, so we have all the tools to do a good job in the race.”

Timo Glock (Toyota) – 6th: “We struggled a bit in second and third practice to find the right balance but we worked hard to find a solution and we did some set-up work which got the car into the right set-up window. I think with a bit more fine-tuning maybe we could have been further up the grid – we were only a tenth behind the top three so it could have been better but I am quite positive about the result.

“The car feels pretty good now and we are clearly not far away so let’s see how it goes tomorrow in terms of strategy. I am pretty happy and reasonably confident.”

Felipe Massa (Ferrari) – 7th: “We reckoned it would be possible but very difficult to get into the top five and this turned out to be the case: we ended up seventh, which is definitely not very satisfying but it represents the best we could do this afternoon. Now we must concentrate on tomorrow’s race, which will be extremely tough.

“The first round of the season here in Australia is always a step into the unknown, especially as the track is slippery and accidents are a strong possibility. We will try to get to the finish and to pick up as many points as possible.”

Jarno Trulli (Toyota) – 8th: “That was a really hard qualifying for me. I expected a lot more from today so I am disappointed. Of course I will fight as hard as I can in the race but I don’t know what to expect because the car felt different in qualifying compared to final practice.

“I don’t know why but the tyres just would not warm up as expected and I was sliding around quite a bit. On top of that I had some issues with the brakes so it was really difficult for me.”

Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) – 9th: “This morning, a hydraulic problem meant I pretty much missed out on the third free practice session: a shame, but better that this should happen on Saturday than Sunday. The car was r from ideal for qualifying but I think we are in pretty good shape for the race.

“A points finish is possible even if we could have been further up the grid. From what we have seen today, clearly we lack a bit of performance compared to the quickest guys, but the race will be very long and we will see what we can manage to do.”

Mark Webber (Red Bull) – 10th: “I’m not rapped with my last lap. My previous flying laps had gone well, so I would have liked a better result, but that’s where we are so we’ll try to make something from the race. The bumps were quite bad in Turn nine on the final run. The team’s done a good job and we’ve worked well through our programme over the winter. It’s a shame I didn’t get the best time in qualifying, but we’ll see how we go from there tomorrow.”

Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber) – 11th: “We have been improving the car in every session and in qualifying it was okay. Also my final lap in Q2 was okay until the last sector where I just didn’t get it right, and especially in the last corner I had too much oversteer. Eleventh is certainly not what I was aiming for after the winter tests were quite promising, but at least it is an advantage compared to tenth because I am now free to choose my fuel load. I am hoping for a good race and some points. Using the KERS might be a small advantage just after the start, although here the straight before the first corner isn’t really long.”

Fernando Alonso (Renault) – 12th: “We arrived here to fight for the podium, but this might not be the case tomorrow. We were very close to Q3 times, only two or three tenths of a second off, but I made a mistake as I tried to make up some time in the final corner. I’m disappointed as I thought I could be fifth or sixth on the grid. However, last year I started in 12th and got up to 4th in the race so I’m still confident that tomorrow, if we have an eventful race, I can get a good result.”

Kazuki Nakajima (Williams) – 13th: “The car was good enough to make it into Q3 today, but I made a small mistake and it cost me quite a few places. There is however plenty to consider tomorrow and I think I still have a good opportunity, so it will be important to concentrate and get absolutely everything right. As it the first race I think there will be plenty going on, which will make it exciting, but challenging.”

Nelson Piquet (Renault) – 17th: “I knew it was going to be a bit tough today, after a difficult weekend for us. At the start of qualifying the car seemed okay, but then I started to struggle. This track is not one I enjoy particularly. I was pushing a little too hard and made a mistake in the last sector.”

Giancarlo Fisichella (Force India) – 18th: We knew that it would be difficult today, but considering what we have done so far this year, with the limited pre-season testing, being just two tenths slower than the 2008 world champion is a good result. Being so close shows it’s already a very challenging season. I had a good lap and I am happy as I have been struggling a bit with the brakes and locking all weekend and I’m not driving as I want. But all this considered, there is really good potential in this car so we are looking forward to working it through. For tomorrow, first of all we need to get to the end of the race – that’s the main goal and then we’ll see.

Adrian Sutil (Force India) – 19th: For sure we were hoping after yesterday’s performance to be able to make it into Q2 but in the end it was not possible. Things looked better in practice but perhaps the others were not showing all their potential. We know we have plenty to work on, our main problem is that we need a lot more downforce. My main goal now will be to make it to the end of the race tomorrow and then let’s see where we are. It’s even tighter than last year.

Brawn: Job is only half done

ross brawnRoss Brawn is refusing to get carried away with his team’s domination of qualifying ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

Jenson Button heads an all Brawn front row going into tomorrow’s season-opening race with teammate Rubens Barrichello looking strong behind the Briton on a potentially heavier fuel load.

Button’s pole lap of 1m 26.202 around the Albert Park circuit was over half a second quicker than that managed by Brawn’s GP nearest rivals confirming their impressive pre-season form.

But Brawn, who masterminded many of Michael Schumacher’s race victories at Ferrari, is under no allusions that it is tomorrow’s race strategy that matters most.

“Whilst this is a great achievement and gives both drivers an excellent opportunity in the race tomorrow, the job is only half done and our full focus is now on getting the best result possible in the race,” he said.

While Brawn GP are in many ways a new team part of their success has been a result of having top class facilities at Brackley, courtesy of Honda backing over the past few years.

There have been fears that the team may not be able to sustain their success without Honda’s financial backing, but a new sponsorship deal with Richard Branson’s Virgin Group – unveiled this morning – should secure the long term future of the team.

Branson was present in the team’s garage when Jenson Button grabbed pole position.

“Watching our two cars top the timesheets throughout qualifying capped an excellent day for the team which began with the announcement of our new partnership with Virgin this afternoon,” Brawn said..

“The track conditions were more favourable than we experienced yesterday and we found that the tyres worked in a more conventional way. In addition, the changes that we had made following yesterday’s practice sessions proved positive and both drivers had a well-balanced car which allowed them to concentrate on maximising the lap times.”

Jenson Button meanwhile was delighted to claim his fourth career pole position, his first since Canada 2006.

“To put the car on pole at our debut race is a fantastic achievement and I have to give so much credit to Ross, Nick and everyone at the factory in Brackley,” he said.

“The last four months have been incredibly tough for the team and to go from a situation where you don’t even know if you are going to be racing to achieving pole at the first race of the season is just incredible.”

“Tomorrow is obviously the most important day of the weekend and there is a lot of work to be achieved to come away with a successful result however we have to remember where we have been and really enjoy this moment.”

Teammate Rubens Barrichello admitted he was disappointed not to have taken the top spot himself will be hoping that he can overtake the Briton with his race strategy.

“It has been a great day and I want to congratulate the team for an outstanding job,” he said. “I was hoping that I could put the car on pole and it was looking good in the first two sessions but in Q3 I developed some understeer in the car which comprised my final runs.”

“However the first row for both cars is a real credit to the team and gives us a great chance in the race tomorrow. We have a really good car which everyone deserves credit for and I am just so happy to be racing at the front again.”

Alonso and Renault disappointed with P12

REN2009031739504 PVFernando Alonso says he is disappointed with his sixth row grid slot for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix but is determined to fight hard for points in the race.

The double world champion believes he could have ended today’s qualifying session as high as fifth or sixth, but mistakes on both his qualifying runs meant he was unable to progress to the top ten shoot out.

However, Alonso is determined to battle his way through the field in tomorrows race.

“We arrived here to fight for the podium, but this might not be the case tomorrow,” the Spaniard said.

“We were very close to Q3 times, only two or three tenths of a second off, but I made a mistake as I tried to make up some time in the final corner.”

“I’m disappointed as I thought I could be fifth or sixth on the grid. However, last year I started in 12th and got up to 4th in the race so I’m still confident that tomorrow, if we have an eventful race, I can get a good result.”

While Renault’s director of engineering Pat Symonds shares Alonso’s frustration he does not believe Renault are too far off the top teams.

“We are obviously disappointed, but the performance of all the cars is very close and our position in qualifying doesn’t necessarily reflect where we will finish in the race.”

“I think that we’re not too far from the teams that we should be fighting and we hope that our KERS system will bring us a genuine advantage during race conditions tomorrow.”

Nelson Piquet meanwhile showed little signs of making improvements to his driving over the winter and wound up seventeenth.

“I knew it was going to be a bit tough today, after a difficult weekend for us. At the start of qualifying the car seemed okay, but then I started to struggle. This track is not one I enjoy particularly. I was pushing a little too hard and made a mistake in the last sector.”

I could have got third, says Kubica

P90045028-zoomRobert Kubica has said that he could have got third place on the grid instead of the fourth with which he ended Saturday’s qualifying session for the Australian Grand Prix.

The Pole, whose BMW Sauber team-mate Nick Heidfeld could only manage 11th on the grid, told the BBC his final run was compromised by dust left on the track from third-placed Nico Rosberg. Prior to that, Kubica said he had been optimistic.

“I did a very good run in Q2 which got me already easy into Q3, that’s why in Q3 we were quite confident,” he explained.

“But in the last run, when I went out on new tyres, Nico [Rosberg] went wide at Turn 14 and he put a lot of dust on the track. I lost out their massively, my tyres were dirty and the next two or three corners were a disaster unfortunately.”

The Krakow-born driver acknowledged, however, that the Brawn GP cars were too fast to catch.

”But anyway I think Brawn was impossible to catch,” he said.

Unlike his team-mate Nick Heidfeld, Kubica is not carrying KERS this weekend. KERS is suspected to bring a significant performance advantage in qualifying, and so the inversion of BMW’s drivers is perhaps representative of mechanical gremlins on Heidfeld’s car.

Vettel: Third a solid starting point

Sebastian Vettel kicked off his first season with Red Bull Racing in impressive style pacing third quickest in qualifying for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.

The German said the result was a good starting point for the team.

Sebastian Vettel – 3rd: “It’s been a difficult two days leading up to qualifying. I only had the pleasure of completing one lap in the first practice, then I made a mistake in the second, which meant we couldn’t run through our programme. Then we had a failure this morning, which cost us some track time, so it’s been anything but ideal! Nevertheless, I think we pulled everything together; we’ve been looking deeply at the data and trying to prepare well for qualifying. I think we succeeded, so thanks to everyone.

“We had a tough winter and I’ve been surprised how close the feeling in the car is to last year. With all the regulation changes it’s impressive what all the people have done – it’s very tight at the front of the grid and all through the midfield. At times we have even wondered if we would make it to Q2, so now we are third on the second row of the grid, I’m looking forward to tomorrow. This is for sure a good starting point.”

Mark Webber – 10th: “I’m not rapped with my last lap. My previous flying laps had gone well, so I would have liked a better result, but that’s where we are so we’ll try to make something from the race. The bumps were quite bad in Turn nine on the final run. The team’s done a good job and we’ve worked well through our programme over the winter. It’s a shame I didn’t get the best time in qualifying, but we’ll see how we go from there tomorrow.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal: “It was a great team effort today and we have two cars in the top ten. After losing some track time this morning, Sebastian has done a great job. Third is a fantastic place to start the first Grand Prix and he’s the nearest car to the super-quick Brawns. I think we can enjoy a good race tomorrow. After all that Mark has been through in the last few months, recovering from a broken leg, I think he put in an excellent performance today. A small mistake on his final lap in such a tight grid cost him several positions, but I’m sure he will have a strong race tomorrow.”

Fabrice Lom, Renault, Principal Engineer Track Support: “After the last test, we didn’t know where we were in terms of pace, so it’s great to see that we are very near the front. Third is very good and Mark made some fantastic laps and showed good pace, so I’m positive for tomorrow. I’m happy and the engine is working fine. I have sadness for Pierre-Emeric and want to remember him. I think about him, especially in this moment of qualifying, when he was so focused and enthusiastic. So, we think about him and let’s see for tomorrow.”

Lewis unfazed by McLaren’s qualy meltdown

Hamilton Monza2Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton says he is relishing the prospect of battling from the back of the grid in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix after enduring a disastrous start to his title defence.

The McLaren driver dominated the race last year en-route to his maiden title but now finds himself starting last after a gearbox problem prevented him from taking part in the second qualifying knock-out session today in Melbourne.

Although Hamilton’s fastest lap in the first qualifying session was enough to put him in fifteenth place, McLaren have elected to change his gearbox unit meaning he will get a grid penalty.

“It was a gear failure and although we are allowed to change gears under the regulations, we will change the gearbox,” team principal Martin Whitmarsh told reporters.

McLaren have conceded that they have a colossal amount of work to do before they can challenge for race wins. In the meantime Hamilton says he is looking forward to jostling with his rivals in the mid-field.

“Something broke on the rear of my car on my second flying lap in Q1,” Lewis explained. “I just lost all drive in the gearbox and couldn’t continue. The team will look at the problem tonight and I’m determined to drive an attacking race – we’ll have some fun from 15th tomorrow.”

“My congratulations to Jenson and everyone at Brawn GP – they have done a fantastic job all weekend and have a lot to look forward to tomorrow.”

Heikki Kovalainen in the sister McLaren endured an equally troublesome qualifying session. The Finn wound up fourteenth but reported improvements in the balance of his MP4-24.

“The car’s overall balance was good,” he said, “we just don’t have enough grip at the moment to make the best use of it. The team has worked so hard, and we have made progress over the past few weeks so it gives us all a lot of hope that we will get back to the front before too long.”

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said he was impressed with his drivers’ performances given the difficult circumstances, but he conceded that the progress the team have made in recent weeks has not been enough to bring them into contention.

“Both drivers did a good job, though, in circumstances that were difficult for us all,” he said.

“The reality is that we’ve made progress in the past couple of weeks, but clearly not enough. There’s more to come, though, and everyone at Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart is working as hard as they can to turn things around in the shortest time possible.”

“A gearbox problem for Lewis in Q1 – probably a broken dog ring but we’ll have to investigate it to know for sure – prevented him from setting as quick a time as he might otherwise have been able to, but at least he got through to Q2 even if he was unable to take part in it.”

“Heikki’s first quick lap in Q2 was solid – but his next fast lap was quicker in sectors one and two but unfortunately not quicker in sector three. He therefore missed out on getting through to Q3 – by less than half a second.

Mercedes-Benz boss Norbert Haug added: “Heikki did a solid job and made best use of the pace offered by the car. It’s a shame that Lewis suffered a gearbox problem, which should not happen when he was on his best lap so far – there was not such a problem during more than 7000 km of testing.”

“Our speed was obviously not great, however Kimi and Nick – who were also both running KERS – were respectively 0.35s and 0.25s ahead of us, and Fernando is not more than 0.15s away. But of course, we have to continue to improve dramatically. Congratulations to Brawn GP for a superb debut. We are especially happy that our Mercedes-Benz engine powers the whole front row.”

Button: We deserve to be on pole

bgp001-12Jenson Button says his pole position for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix is just what he and his Brawn GP team needed after months of uncertainty about the future of the Brackley based outfit.

The Brawn GP pairing dominated the opening qualifying knock-out sessions, confirming their pre-season pace, but it was Rubens Barrichello who had the edge over his teammate.

A late charge from Button in the dying seconds of qualifying three saw the British driver take the top spot by three tenths of a second, prompting speculation that Brawn GP have elected to run their drivers on different fuel loads.

Button was delighted with the result and said it was a huge lift for the team after months of uncertainty about the future of the Brackley based outfit – a future which looked stronger today after Richard Branson’s Virgin Group was unveiled as the team’s chief sponsor.

“The last five and six months have been so tough,” he said after locking out an all Brawn front row in Melbourne. “Having gone from not having a drive or a future in racing to putting it on pole here is just amazing, it really is, and all credit must go to the team for making this happen.”

“This is where we deserve to be after the tough times we have had.”

He added: “This morning’s pace was pretty good on both tyres and I was really happy, but I didn’t know what the others’ pace was – and you don’t know untill qualifying. They seemed a bit closer than I thought especially in Q1 and Q2 where they were only one or two tenths behind us. I was struggling a bit on low fuel but when we put more fuel in the car felt normal – and that’s a good thing isn’t it.”