Button unhappy with first DNF of the season

Jenson Button’s Belgian Grand Prix ended on lap one when the Briton was involved in a first-lap incident at Les Combes.

The Brawn GP driver, was tagged by Renault’s Romain Grosjean and was sent flying into the tyre wall.

Despite this, the world championship leader has assured the Formula One world that he has none of his motivation and will try hard to bounce back in Monza.

Rubens Barrichello’s race was compromised at the start with the Brazilian driver suffering  yet another anti-stall problem on the grid. He eventually finished seventh place with a trail of smoke pouring from his Brawn car, due to an oil leak.

Jenson Button – DNF: “I had a really good start and had made up a few places in the first few corners to be ahead of Lewis and Rubens. I had a good run going down the straight to turn five just after Eau Rouge. I was on the outside of Heikki and turned in for the corner but quite simply Romain outbraked himself and hit my back wheel. That was it for my race today. It’s frustrating as I was in a reasonable position having made up some places and with a lot of fuel on board but it’s better to have my first retirement here where I haven’t been so competitive than when I’m running at the front. We’re determined get back on the track at the next race and be more competitive there at a track which should be quite good for our car.”

Rubens Barrichello – 7th: “I have to be happy with seventh place and the two points really after such an eventful race. We should have had far more from today but the problem with the clutch at the start took away any chance of a podium which is frustrating for me and the team. We changed my strategy at the end of the first lap to fuel longer for the first stint which was a good move and gave me the chance to get into the points. I had fun in the race from then on and the move on Mark Webber at the Blanchimont bend was definitely one of the highlights. The oil leak gave us some worrying laps but I was able to manage the pace and bring the car safely home which was a big relief.”

Ross Brawn: “It was a very disappointing race for us today when there was potential for more. Rubens’ car went into anti-stall at the start which left him stranded on the grid which was very frustrating for the whole team. It was a technical problem on the car and we have to get on top of that quickly as it has caught us out too many times this season. When the safety car came out, we took advantage to switch Rubens onto what was effectively a one-stop strategy and he drove extremely well from there. His car had an oil leak with two laps to go therefore we asked him to back off from chasing Heikki Kovalainen and manage the car to the end of the race. Jenson had a really good start from 14th and gained a few places before he was hit from behind at turn five which ended his race. There are important lessons which we can take from this weekend and some hard work to be done back at the factory before the final five races of the season.”

Theissen welcomes BMW’s return to form

Dr Mario Theissen has praised the BMW-Sauber after a double points finish for the troubled team.

Both Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld signalled the German-Swiss outfit’s return to form, finishing together in fourth and fifth.

Robert Kubica – 4th: “I managed to make a good start and was second after the first corner. I was surprised to see Kimi next to me going through Eau Rouge. Approaching the fifth corner he braked very late and went off. It is a very tricky place. He came back on the track right in front of me and I played it safe as we saw a lot of accidents there over the weekend. Although we had a slight touch, I was able to continue. At times we lacked a bit of speed but, of course, it is good to be fighting for podiums again. The result means a lot of points for the team and is good. Unfortunately we didn’t have the chance to achieve anything better. The result proves we are quite competitive on low downforce tracks, which is a positive sign for Monza. However, we have to analyse why the car was more competitive and felt better during qualifying yesterday.”

Nick Heidfeld – 5th: “Although it is a good result for the team, I have to admit I’m disappointed. From third on the grid I had higher expectations, but I lost the race on the first lap. My thought pattern before the race went back and forth as to whether I should take the harder or the softer compound for the start. The harder was the quicker one but, of course, not the better one for heating up quickly. Because the sun was shining I went for the harder compound, and paid for it. After the start I tried to out brake Jarno on the inside of La Source, but I lost ground because the tyres weren’t warm enough. Up the hill to turn five several cars were in the gravel, including me, and that’s where I lost more positions. Later at my first pit stop I had to lock up the brakes in the pit lane to avoid crashing into Mark, who I was then able to immediately overtake on the track. In the last stint my pace was really good and I closed the gap to Robert. But, even though I was quicker than him, I couldn’t overtake because as soon as you are less than two seconds behind another car you start sliding due to losing downforce in the dirty air.”

Mario Theissen (BMW Motorsport Director): “After our best qualifying this was also the best race result of the season. With fourth and fifth we were the only team that managed to get both cars into the top eight, and we scored nine championship points. Nick lost the chance of a podium position on the thrilling first lap. Robert damaged his front wing right at the beginning, but was able to continue. A big compliment to the whole team for this strong performance.”

Willy Rampf (Head of Engineering): “We were all very excited before the start because we expected some action. And this happened exactly as expected. Unfortunately, Nick lost the advantage of his strong starting position in the chicane after the Kemmel straight. After this incident he was able to maintain a very good pace and he finally clinched fifth. Robert had contact with another car right at the beginning and lost part of his front wing. We checked the aero data and decided it would not make sense to bring him into the pits, which turned out to be the right decision. Today’s result is the reward for all our hard work during recent weeks.”

Alonso frustrated with missed podium

Fernando Alonso believes that his retirement from the Belgian Grand Prix, after problems with his left-front tyre, cost Renault its first podium of the season.

The Spaniard was running strongly until his first pitstop when the Renault pit-crew struggled to fit the wheel-spinner onto the left-front of his car.

The issue had originally arisen at the start when Alonso made contact with Adrian Sutil’s Force India.

Teammate Romain Grosjean also had a disappointing race after being eliminated during the first lap accident at Les Combes.

Fernando Alonso – DNF: “Today I missed an opportunity to be on the podium. I had a good start, making up a few positions and the strategy looked good. The car was better than we expected and I was in third position when I came in for my pit stop and it became clear that something was wrong on my left front tyre and the team asked me to retire. We now think it was damaged at the first corner at the beginning of the race. Anyway, Monza is in two weeks and I look forward to making up for the disappointment of today. ”

Romain Grosjean – DNF: “I made a very good start, moving up to thirteenth place and I was keeping a good pace but then Button took me out at turn five and it was the end for me. It’s frustrating because I would have loved to finish the race and learn more about the car on this very special track. Hopefully I can do better in Monza.”

Flavio Briatore, Managing Director: “Today we took the decision of retiring Fernando’s car although he was very competitive in the first part of the race. It’s frustrating also that Romain’s race came to an end so quickly. Let’s turn the page and move on and concentrate on Monza in two weeks time.”

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: “Romain’s race was unfortunately very short as he was hit by Button on the first lap, which is a pity because this race would have been a valuable part of his learning experience. Fernando’s race was ultimately ended by damage sustained also on the first lap. This resulted in a problem at the pit stop and for safety reasons we decided to retire the car.”

Hamilton aims to put Spa-misery behind him

Lewis Hamilton tried his best to shrug off his disappointment after crashing out of the Belgium Grand Prix on the first lap.

The world champion was involved in a four car pile up at Les Combes, with Jaime Alguersuari effectively ending the Briton’s race after pushing Hamilton into the barriers.

Despite this Hamilton wants to put his poor result behind him and focus on Monza in two weeks time.

Heikki Kovalainen faired considerably better than his team-mate. The Finn finished in a credible sixth place and thanked his team for a strong race strategy.

Heikki Kovalainen – 6th: “A good race for me. Even though our overall pace here hasn’t been as good as in the two previous races, our strategy worked out perfectly and I was able to overtake a lot of the guys stopping before me.

“I want to say a big thank you to all the guys in Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart for all their efforts. Today’s sixth place was the result of a strong, reliable car, a great strategy, a fantastic engine and a first-rate KERS – all of which helped me to make up nine places on my grid position today.

“We still have some work to do to be fully competitive on medium-downforce tracks, but Monza should be a different story as it’s a very low-downforce circuit and we are traditionally quite good there. Finally, I’m really happy for Kimi: he drove a great race and I knew he would be a tough guy to beat around this place.”

Lewis Hamilton – DNF: “Some days, when things go bad they go bad and this was just one of those days. I got a poor start, the anti-stall kicked in and I tried to recover, but got sandwiched at the first corner and lost a bit of my front wing. When Romain Grosjean spun Jenson around at Turn Five, everyone was trying to avoid them, so I slowed down to try and avoid the damage and got taken out by one of the drivers behind me, who was trying to avoid the accident too. A disappointing day, but we’ll come back and try to win this race next year.”

Martin Whitmarsh – Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: “Heikki drove very strongly from 15th on the grid to sixth at the finish, optimising a one-stop strategy that necessitated comparatively heavy fuel loads, and nursing his tyres judiciously all afternoon. Lewis was tapped by another car at La Source, and was then slammed into the wall at Les Combes by yet another. But that’s racing.

“On behalf of all at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, I’d like to offer congratulations to Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari on the occasion of their first win of the season, and also to Giancarlo Fisichella and Force India on a sensational second place a refreshing result that is very healthy for Formula 1 in that it demonstrates that the smaller teams are capable of turning the tables on the bigger teams from time to time.

“Returning to the subject of our team, we’d hoped to be leaving Spa with more than three world championship points but the reality is that, although our car has been much improved recently, it still isn’t as fast as the quickest cars. But we’ll analyse that, and we’ll work on it, and we’ll hope to do better at Monza in two weeks’ time.”

Norbert Haug – Vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “Both Lewis and Heikki lost places at the start, Lewis was hit in the first corner and then taken out in the third one in Les Combes. So Heikki’s sixth place is the best we could get today and this is not too bad as Heikki started from 15th.

“Congratulations to Kimi it must be a big relief for him having achieved his first win for 25 races and compliments to Ferrari for their first victory this season. Well done to Giancarlo for second place and to McLaren-Mercedes’ customer team Force India, who showed today, from the start to the finish, that they were a real match for the winner.”

Trulli upset with outcome of race

Jarno Trulli was left bitterly disappointed after enduring a terrible Belgian Grand Prix.

The Toyota driver started on the front row of the grid, but lost out to a number of cars at the start and damaged his front wing. Trulli’s race was also halted by a brake wear problem and eventually had to retire.

Timo Glock was also disappointed after finishing in tenth position. The German’s race was also compromised after a fuel rig problem during his final pitstop.

Timo Glock – 10th: “I made a pretty strong start and was running fourth when the safety car came out so we had a good chance of points. But at my first pit stop we had trouble with the fuel rig which cost me time and positions. The crew did well to quickly change to the back-up rig but nevertheless we lost time. Clearly there was a problem with the fuel rig and we have to analyse what happened and prevent any similar problems in the future. I did my best and the car was quite quick but it wasn’t to be.”

Jarno Trulli – DNF: “I can’t say how disappointed I am with that race. I was really expecting a strong result because we were in great shape after qualifying. But at the first corner I was right behind Heidfeld and at the exit I expected him to pull away faster than he did. I’m not sure if he had a problem but I just touched him slightly and that broke the front wing. It was vibrating a lot so I had no choice but to make a pit stop. There was nothing I could do after that and in the end the team saw a problem with brake wear and decided it was safer to stop.”

Tadashi Yamashina – Team Principal: “Unfortunately we couldn’t make the most of the car today, despite having such a promising grid position. I am sorry for our supporters because everyone was expecting a much better result. Jarno’s race was decided on the first lap and Timo had a problem with the fuel rig which prevented him scoring points. So it was a very frustrating day for us, particularly because the car is competitive and we achieved our target of a significant improvement in qualifying. We will work at the factory to solve the fuel rig issue and get more out of the car for the Italian Grand Prix.”

Spa as random as ever as Fisichella advertises his speed

d09bel1011Forumula1.com’s Hugh Podmore looks at the winners and losers from Saturday’s fraught qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Giancarlo Fisichella took an unbelievable pole position for tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps today. The Force India man had been quietly confident prior to the sessions, during all three of which he was very fast. But to see Force India take their unprecedented pole position was further testament to the unpredictable nature of the Ardennes track.

Force India have added further upgrades to their car this weekend, turning solid midfield runners into front runners for today. It is highly probable that Fisichella is light on fuel, however, considering that his team-mate Adrian Sutil is in a nevertheless respectable 11th. Conspiracy theorists might point to the speculation surrounding Fisichella and Ferrari, arguing that the team fuelled him very light for a one-off spectacular performance. Even if that is not the case, the contrast with Luca Badoer could not be more stark; the latter Italian had a torrid session, a good eight-tenths off Q2, and finished it by planting his Ferrari in the tyre barrier, to end up dead last. It is perhaps only in this crazy season that we might see a Force India on pole and a Ferrari last on the grid.

Spa threw some more jokers into the mix. Teams that many had written off for this year, such as Toyota and BMW, ended up second and seventh and third and fifth respectively. They will all be fancying their chances tomorrow, although fans will have to wait for the fuel-adjusted grid in order to have a clearer idea of real pace. The main winner from a championship perspective is the excellent Rubens Barrichello, who managed to find grip where his peers found none. He will watch and wait from fourth, and plan to take the victory.

His main threat may come from Kimi Raikkonen, who from sixth on the starting straight and with a KERS rocket in his pocket, will aim for a devastating start. The Red Bulls are not out of contention in eighth and ninth either, but they are a good deal further back than many thought they would be. In a sense they have failed to capitalise again on the misfortune of others, although events in the race may disprove that assertion.

But again this column is being written telling of the mysterious non-performance of Jenson Button. Newspaper inches talk of a lack of killer instinct; that when the going has got tough, Button has failed to get going. But the story must be more complex than that. There is obviously some deeper issue with the developed Brawn that Button did not have with its early-season incarnation. He is just not fast enough at the moment, and would be very happy with points tomorrow.

Other losers include the McLarens, who many tipped for the victory tomorrow. The new incarnation of the MP4-24 seems to be very good on high-downforce tracks, but obviously does not have the same pace through medium- and fast-corner-dominated racetracks. Lewis Hamilton is gamely fighting on with it, as much as his erstwhile team-mate Fernando Alonso is doing with the Renault, but they will both be hoping that the mercurial Spa weather turns terrible come tomorrow afternoon.

Fisichella flies to pole in Spa

Belgian Grand Prix - Spa FrancorchampsFisi a Force to be reckoned with in Spa…

Giancarlo Fisichella rocked the formbook in Spa-Francorchamps by securing Force India’s maiden pole position in a ruthless qualifying hour for the Belgian Grand Prix which claimed the scalps of championship leader Jenson Button and defending world champion Lewis Hamilton.

For once it wasn’t the rain that caused the upset in Spa. Fluctuating track temperatures in the Ardennes, which made the harder medium compound tyres the better option in Q3 as temperatures rose, produced one of the most topsy-turvy grids seen this season.

The situation played into the hands of those teams who used up their softer tyre options in Q1 and Q2 in a bid to progress to the shoot-out, while hampering the big-hitters who were saving their softer options for Q3.

Force India hit the sweet spot and timed the switch to the medium compound tyres in Q3 perfectly as Giancarlo Fisichella set a searing 1.46.308 in the closing stages to dethrone Jarno Trulli and Rubens Barrichello, and take his fourth career pole position.

“I didn’t expect to be on pole,” exulted Fisichella afterwards. “It feels just great, like a dream. I am so happy for myself, for the team, for the mechanics, the engineers, who have done a fantastic job. They did a great step forward for Valencia for the last race considering our budget and our resources.”

“This morning we had a small accident when I hit a rabbit, but my engineer said it would be lucky and it was ! What a result. I am now not only looking for points, but for more. We’ve got this far we need to finish the job!”

The performance will no doubt be a boost to Fisichella’s credentials for the second Ferrari seat as rumours gather pace that he will be in the car for his home grand prix in Monza in a fortnight.

Post-qualifying fuel weights confirmed that Force India are running Fisichella considerably lighter than their competitors would explain their lap-time advantage at the long two minute circuit. However, their raw pace was evident in the second qualifying session when Fisichella went second quickest.

Toyota and BMW Sauber also judged the tyre situation well with Jarno Trulli lapping to within a tenth of a second of Fisichella’s pole time.

BMW Sauber also managed their tyre allocations as Nick Heidfeld carried his pace from final practice into qualifying to go third quickest.

Rubens Barrichello, fresh from victory in Valencia a week ago, was the leading big-hitter as he hustled his Brawn car into fourth place, ahead of Robert Kubica. But teammate and championship leader Jenson Button, in identical machinery, failed to muster the same kind of pace from his BGP001 and has his work cut out in Sunday starting from fourteenth.

“I didn’t expect to qualify in 14th position today but we really struggled with grip levels, particularly on the softer tyre,” explained Button. “The car hasn’t felt quite right all weekend and unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any more out of it today.”

“Rubens and I are usually very closely matched but he was quick on the option and I wasn’t so we need to look into the reasons for that. I just couldn’t find any grip on the softer rubber so the rear end felt unstable and I had no confidence under braking, particularly in the middle sector.

“It’s strange as our set-ups are different but not by much. It’s going to be very tough in the race from here but at least we have more time to choose our strategy. We need to get it right and see if we can score some points tomorrow.”

Spa specialist Kimi Raikkonen was sixth fastest for Ferrari and will be well placed to start Sunday’s race given the advantage that his KERS device will produce in the first sector.

But Ferrari will now almost certainly look to replace their stand-in driver Luca Badoer in Monza after the Italian veteran qualified last, almost two seconds off the pace. As if Badoer’s afternoon couldn’t get any worse, he spun off at Les Combes and ended the session in the gravel.

“I m not happy, because this morning, at the end of free practice, I had hoped to make it through to Q2,” said the Italian. “Unfortunately, partly because of traffic and partly because of a few small problems, I didn t manage to put together a perfect lap.”

Timo Glock in the sister Toyota was seventh quickest ahead of the two Red Bull cars. Vettel and Webber are the heaviest of the front-runners and could come into play in the later stages of Sunday’s race.

Nico Rosberg completes the top ten.

Q3 – How it Happened

In Q3, Kimi Raikkonen laid down the gauntlet with a lap of 1:47.218 on the softer tyre options.

As track temperatures rose in the final shoot-out, the teams, quickly realised that the medium compound tyres were better suited to the track conditions, and all of the drivers on the softer tyres abandoned their first flying laps to switch tyres.

Nick Heidfeld was the first driver to set a time on the harder compound tyres and he quickly trumped Raikkonen’s time on a 1.46.895 with BMW Sauber teammate Robert Kubica going second quickest.

But an astonishingly quick lap from Giancarlo Fisichella saw the Italian take the top spot on a 1.46.308. Jarno Trulli slotted into second place.

Bad day for the Brits…

Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton and current championship leader Jenson Button both failed to set a time quick enough for the final Q3 shoot out and will start Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix from twelfth and fourteenth place respectively.

Hamilton, who planted his McLaren on pole position in Valencia a week ago, was quick in the first and last sectors thanks largely to his KERS system, but a slower middle sector saw him hover on the cut-off point for Q3. A searing lap from Nico Rosberg, one of the drivers tipped to replace Kovalainen at McLaren next year, ultimately pulled the trigger on Hamilton’s hopes of a place in the shoot-out.

“We did the best job we could today,” said Hamilton. “We d always known the car would struggle in the mid-sector corners: being one second down in the mid-sector shows the true downforce level of our car. We expected that we wouldn t have as good an aero package as some of the others we just didn t know to what extent. I guess today we found out.

“But I m not too disappointed this year has been a rollercoaster ride for everyone, but I m enjoying it still and I love driving this track. My plan for tomorrow is a points finish.”

Kovalainen in the sister McLaren endured similar problems to Hamilton in the middle sector and qualified fifteenth.

“This morning, we started to become a little surprised by the pace of some of the other cars,” said Kovalainen. “We were struggling in the high-speed corners a little more than in either Hungary or Valencia, where the circuit configurations are slower.

“We expected today to be tough and our results show we are still lacking in high-speed efficiency, downforce and straight-line speed.

“Still, it was very close today; there was quite a bit of traffic in the session and, with just a couple more tenths, we could have made it into Q3. I ll be racing hard tomorrow and I feel confident we can go forwards from here. Nevertheless, we know where we are and we re not down because of this. We ve shown progress compared with Silverstone and we ll keep pushing to improve on our issues.”

Adrian Sutil affirmed Force India’s performance by lapping eleventh quickest, just missing out on a place in Q3.

Scuderia Toro Rosso drivers Sebastian Buemi and Jamie Alguersuari set an impressive pace in Q1 but just missed the cut-off point after late flyers from Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica demoted them.

Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima, another driver under pressure to secure his seat in 2010 as rumours abound that Toyota will end their contract with the Grove-based outfit, qualified in eighteenth place, ahead of Renault rookie Sebastian Grosjean and Luca Badoer.

Belgian Grand Prix: Post-qualifying driver quotes

Each driver gives his view after one of the most unusual qualifying sessions of the year.

Giancarlo Fisichella – Force India (1st, Q3 – 1m 46.308s):“This is one of my favourite circuits, I did well in the past and I was sure we would be competitive again this year. I didn’t expect to be on pole though! It feels just great, like a dream. I am so happy for myself, for the team, for the mechanics, the engineers, who have done a fantastic job. They did a great step forward for Valencia for the last race considering our budget and our resources. This morning we had a small accident when I hit a rabbit, but my engineer said it would be lucky and it was! What a result. I am now not only looking for points, but for more. We’ve got this far we need to finish the job!”

Jarno Trulli – Toyota (2nd, Q3 – 1m 46.395s): “I am very happy to be on the front row again. We have always known that when things go right we have a very competitive car and all weekend we have looked extremely strong. In qualifying I was always in the top two, even though in first qualifying I took it a bit easy. I did a very quick lap in third qualifying and second place gives us a great chance tomorrow. We dropped the downforce a bit yesterday and spent most of the time balancing the car. Then we made a small change to the set-up this morning so I had better handling and traction for qualifying and it worked well. Also, I spent most of the weekend driving on race fuel so I am very happy with how things have turned out and it is looking pretty good for tomorrow. I have to thank the team who have worked really hard to improve and get a result like this; I dedicate it to all my mechanics.”

Nick Heidfeld – BMW-Sauber (3rd, Q3 – 1m 46.500s):“Today s good result is obviously very important for our team. After BMW announced it was pulling out of the sport we are working on securing the future for the team in Hinwil. Nobody has given up in this difficult period of time and today s qualifying result is a reward for it. We did our homework in practice, made several changes and I m quite happy with the balance of the car. I think the fact that the 2009 cars are run on a medium downforce level here for the first time this year might be the reason for the grid being very different to previous races. In Q2 I firstly got stuck in traffic and then at my second outing I had a set of tyres which wasn t as good, therefore I knew I would go faster once I was in Q3. I still wouldn t mind a wet race tomorrow – even though I m third and we did not take it into consideration in terms of fuel load and downforce level.”

Rubens Barrichello -Brawn GP (4th, Q3 – 1m 46.513s): “I’m extremely happy with our qualifying performance today and the second row of the grid is a great starting position for the race. The results today have to be one of the biggest surprises of the year and it’s great for Giancarlo Fisichella to be up there on pole. It’s good to see that the ‘old-timers’ still have it! I took the best out of my car today, particularly in Q2 which was one of my best laps around Spa, but that was only enough for sixth position in that session. We’ve been quite aggressive on the strategy and the race is wide open tomorrow so I’ll push as much as I can and we can get a good result from here.”

Robert Kubica – BMW-Sauber (5th, Q3 – 1m 46.586s): “Even yesterday we had a good feeling as we were quite competitive. When we changed the engine before this morning s practice session, I immediately started losing speed on the straights. Unfortunately we were not able to solve the problem before qualifying. This is a bit unlucky as we have a very competitive car for the first time this season. I hope we can solve this issue by tomorrow. I expect a tough race tomorrow as the pack is close together.”

Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari (6th, Q3 – 1m 46.633s): “Of course I would have preferred to have started from further up the grid, but I think we did our best today. We knew it would be hard to be at the front, but all the same, this is a good position, especially as the gaps between the front runners are pretty tight. With more fuel on board, the car handles better than on a light load and that was the case again in this qualifying session. Such an unusual grid makes it even harder to make any predictions for tomorrow and we will have to make the most of any opportunities that present themselves. The final outcome will depend a lot on the first two corners after the start. The fact the car handles differently at various sections of the track can be explained by the lack of aerodynamic downforce we have this season.”

Timo Glock – Toyota (7th, Q3 – 1m 46.677s): “Today was a good result for the whole team and it is a nice feeling to be fighting at the front again. My lap was pretty tidy so overall I am happy with it; we have worked hard on improving the qualifying pace and we got our reward today. The team brought a new aero package to this race and it seems to be working well. From the start of the weekend we believed we could be strong here because the car felt quick throughout practice and it’s great to carry that speed into qualifying. We had good race pace in Hungary and Valencia so I am optimistic for tomorrow. I hope to finish in the top five; it will not be easy but I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”

Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull (8th, Q3 – 1m 46.761s): “It was quite an interesting session – and not the best for us obviously; eighth and ninth will be tough tomorrow on the grid. Unfortunately I made a mistake on my last flying lap in Q3. I lost the rear going into Turn 14, which leads on to the back straight and lost all the speed, so there was no point in completing the lap. The results were quite a surprise today; I don t think anyone expected Fisi (Fisichella) to be on pole.”

Mark Webber – Red Bull (9th, Q3 – 1m 46.788s): “That was a strange session – we expected to be more competitive than that. Fisi on pole! A great day for them, but we were surprised by that. A lot of the guys were too quick for us; it shows you just never know in this game. It should be an interesting race tomorrow. We had to change the engine before qualifying, but that wouldn t affect our result and we were pretty confident going into the session. We put in a new engine as we had to make some checks on the one that we used this morning, but it looks like it is okay.”

Nico Rosberg – Williams (10th, Q3 – 1m 47.362s): “We have really struggled all weekend but we managed to get the best out of Q2 and finishing 10th was possibly the best we could achieve carrying quite a lot of fuel. We have a good strategy and therefore I think we can fight for some points tomorrow. It was a very strange qualifying session here today, I think maybe the way the teams are using their tyres is making quite a difference.”

Adrian Sutil (11th, Q2 – 1m 45.119s): “This is an unbelievable day for the team. Congratulations to Giancarlo: it was an amazing result for him and such a good boost for the team. We’ve worked hard so the guys really deserve it. For me, it was quite a good session but I’m still a little bit disappointed as I couldn’t use the soft tyre set effectively. The hard set was much better on my car – we don’t know why but we will look into it for sure. Normally we should have been Q3 – as Giancarlo showed – but from 11th I still think points are possible. We are quite good on the long run pace, the car feels good and it was from this point of view I am quite happy.”

Lewis Hamilton – McLaren (12th, Q2 – 1m 45.122s): “We did the best job we could today. We d always known the car would struggle in the mid-sector corners: being one second down in the mid-sector shows the true downforce level of our car. We expected that we wouldn t have as good an aero package as some of the others – we just didn t know to what extent. I guess today we found out. But I m not too disappointed – this year has been a rollercoaster ride for everyone, but I m enjoying it still and I love driving this track. My plan for tomorrow is a points finish.”

Fernando Alonso – Renault (13th, Q3 – 1m 45.136s): “Today we just weren’t competitive enough and we struggled in both Q1 and Q2 where I did my maximum but still missed out. However, it was an unusual session today as we had big competitors knocked out in Q2. Tomorrow this should make for an interesting race and then there is always the weather which may play a role. So we will not give up and will do our best to fight back tomorrow.”

Jenson Button – Brawn GP (14th, Q2 – 1m 45.251s): “I didn’t expect to qualify in 14th position today but we really struggled with grip levels, particularly on the softer tyre. The car hasn’t felt quite right all weekend and unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any more out of it today. Rubens and I are usually very closely matched but he was quick on the option and I wasn’t so we need to look into the reasons for that. I just couldn’t find any grip on the softer rubber so the rear end felt unstable and I had no confidence under braking, particularly in the middle sector. It’s strange as our set-ups are different but not by much. It’s going to be very tough in the race from here but at least we have more time to choose our strategy. We need to get it right and see if we can score some points tomorrow.”

Heikki Kovalainen – McLaren (15th, Q2 – 1m 45.259s): “This morning, we started to become a little surprised by the pace of some of the other cars. We were struggling in the high-speed corners a little more than in either Hungary or Valencia, where the circuit configurations are slower. We expected today to be tough and our results show we are still lacking in high-speed efficiency, downforce and straight-line speed. Still, it was very close today; there was quite a bit of traffic in the session and, with just a couple more tenths, we could have made it into Q3. I ll be racing hard tomorrow and I feel confident we can go forwards from here. Nevertheless, we know where we are and we re not down because of this. We ve shown progress compared with Silverstone and we ll keep pushing to improve on our issues.”

Sebastien Buemi – Toro Rosso (16th, Q1 – 1m 45.951s): “I had a good first run on the option tyre, but with my second set I had a bit of traffic on my warm-up lap and I didn t get my flying lap together. Then at the final braking point I locked up my rear wheels and so the lap was spoilt. Even though we knew it could be difficult to get to Q2, I am disappointed with my performance. Finding the right compromise on set-up is difficult here between running low downforce for the fast sections and having enough to deal with the slower parts. As for the race, we need to look closely at our tyre strategy as both types of tyre work well here.”

Jaime Alguersuari – Toro Rosso (17th, Q1 – 1m 46.032s): “It was always going to be tough to get into Q2. We were lacking speed on the main straight in Sector One and Sector Three, but I did a good time in Sector 2. The main thing for me is that I am making progress: in Hungary I was last on the grid, then Valencia 19th and today I am 17th, so it s getting better. Hopefully, I can work my way up to pole one day! I still need to build up more confidence with the carand the tyres in the quick corners.”

Kazuki Nakajima – Williams (18th, Q1 – 1m 46.307s): “We struggled here yesterday in practice, but Nico managed to either drive very well or find a set-up direction that I didn t. I hope I can learn something from the progress he made today and have a better time tomorrow in the race to make up for today s disappointment.”

Romain Grosjean – Renault (19th, Q1 – 1m 46.359s): “It was a difficult session today as there was a lot of traffic. I was blocked on a couple of my quick laps by a Toro Rosso and then my last quick lap was ruined by the yellow flag. However, the car has been good all weekend and I really love this circuit so I will give my maximum to move forward, finish the race and gain more experience.”

Luca Badoer – Ferrari (20th, Q1 – 1m 46.957s): “I m not happy, because this morning, at the end of free practice, I had hoped to make it through to Q2. Unfortunately, partly because of traffic and partly because of a few small problems, I didn t manage to put together a perfect lap. I was counting on doing so on my final run, but there was the incident with Vettel which then led to me going off the track and that put an end to my qualifying. I have made another step forward in terms of performance, but it s still not enough: for me the hardest thing is getting into a rhythm and finding the limits of the car. Unfortunately, there s no opportunity to do the testing that would put that right. I am sure that tomorrow, I will perform better than I did in the Valencia race. I will try and do my best.”

Badoer to soldier on in Belgium

Luca Badoer has vowed to try as hard as he can in tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix, after another bellow par performance from the Ferrari stand-in.

The Italian had a poor qualifying which resulted in a crash at Les Combes. He will start last for the second consecutive race.

Kimi Raikkonen faired much better for the Scuderia with the sixth fastest time of Q3. The Finn will hope to continue his impressive pace into the Grand Prix, a race which he has been mighty at for a number of years.

Luca Badoer 20th: “I m not happy, because this morning, at the end of free practice, I had hoped to make it through to Q2. Unfortunately, partly because of traffic and partly because of a few small problems, I didn t manage to put together a perfect lap. I was counting on doing so on my final run, but there was the incident with Vettel which then led to me going off the track and that put an end to my qualifying. I have made another step forward in terms of performance, but it s still not enough: for me the hardest thing is getting into a rhythm and finding the limits of the car. Unfortunately, there s no opportunity to do the testing that would put that right. I am sure that tomorrow, I will perform better than I did in the Valencia race. I will try and do my best.”

Kimi Raikkonen 6th: “Of course I would have preferred to have started from further up the grid, but I think we did our best today. We knew it would be hard to be at the front, but all the same, this is a good position, especially as the gaps between the front runners are pretty tight. With more fuel on board, the car handles better than on a light load and that was the case again in this qualifying session. Such an unusual grid makes it even harder to make any predictions for tomorrow and we will have to make the most of any opportunities that present themselves. The final outcome will depend a lot on the first two corners after the start. The fact the car handles differently at various sections of the track can be explained by the lack of aerodynamic downforce we have this season.”

Chris Dyer: “We are a bit disappointed because, after yesterday s showing, we expected a better result. Sixth place for Kimi must be assessed in the light of the different fuel loads of all the cars in the top ten. We believe we have come up with a good strategy and, given the car s performance over a long run, we expect that,yet again, we can fight for a place on the podium. As for Luca, everyone can see that, day by day, his performance level is improving: unfortunately, it is not yet at a sufficient level to see him through at least to Q2.”

Belgian Grand Prix: Post-qualifying Press Conference

2009 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX
SATURDAY POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE August 29, 2009

DRIVERS:
1. Giancarlo FISICHELLA (Force India), 1m46.308s
2. Jarno TRULLI (Toyota), 1m46.395s
3. Nick HEIDFELD (BMW Sauber), 1m46.500s

TV UNILATERALS

Q: Giancarlo, your best qualifying position this season up to this point was 13th. Only one question to ask you. How did you do it?
Giancarlo FISICHELLA:
I don t know. It is unbelievable. I did not expect to be on pole position, especially after yesterday. I was sixth and I was quite surprised because there was a lot of understeer and the measurements on the downforce were not good. This morning we went through the problems and the car was much better straight away and in the qualifying session the car was even better than I expected, so I was able to be the quickest in Q1, the fourth quickest in Q2 and pole position in Q3. It is amazing. It is fantastic. I am so happy about that and I need to thank the team as they did a fantastic job. I did not expect that result, so I am really, really happy and really confident for tomorrow.

Q: Jarno, you were quick all through the day; tell us why you think that we ve got the result that we ve got this afternoon?
Jarno TRULLI:
Well, it s a mystery honestly. We haven t done anything on the car compared to the last few races and suddenly here we are extremely competitive. We ve been competitive all the way through while we ve been setting up the car and it s great, it s great for the engineers, for the team and all my mechanics in the team because we re going through a difficult moment because we don t understand why sometimes we struggle so much and sometimes we are so quick like today. So it s a very good day, I m very confident for tomorrow because as I say, I ve been running most of the weekend on heavy fuel, so being second in qualifying with a good fuel load, I think I m going to have a good race tomorrow.

Q: Nick, a poignant result for you with BMW announcing that they are pulling out of F1. What will this mean to you and the whole team?
Nick HEIDFELD:
It is obviously very important to everyone in the team. We said after BMW decided to pull out that BMW wants to leave on a high and not with what we have shown in the first couple of races. It is even more important for the squad in Hinwil. We are working at the moment on securing the team. It is difficult to say what is going to happen at this moment in time but it is great that we can show that we had a good performance.

Q: Giancarlo, you have picked a great moment for all kinds of reasons to get this result. You have shown what you can do today.
GF:
Yes, absolutely. This is one of my favourite circuits. I did well in the past and I was sure to be competitive this year too. But I did not expect, as I told you, to be on pole. It is great. I feel so happy for myself, for the team, for the mechanics and engineers. Everybody did a fantastic job. We did a fantastic step forward, especially from the last race. Considering out budget I did not expect that.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Giancarlo, tell us really what has made the difference.
GF:
Obviously the new aero package for this circuit and actually yesterday I was quite surprised to be sixth and the car balance was completely away. We understood the problem this morning. We went through the problem and straight away when we put the car on the ground it was much better. We were confident to be top 15. Like that to be top 10. But to be on pole we did not expect that. In Q1 I was first and in Q2 I was fourth quickest, so we played to do the pole and I am on pole. It is a fantastic result. I am really happy for that and for myself, for the team and for all the mechanics and for the engineers. They did a fantastic job, even in the factory the development has been really good. I could not believe that considering out budget. It is amazing, so thanks to all the team and we need to keep going like that.

Q: There was a bit of an incident this morning when you hit something and damaged the nose. Can you tell us something about that?
GF:
It was on the out lap. It was a rabbit. You know what, my engineers told me that in England when you do something with a rabbit it brings you luck. That was true, so next time I will go round the circuit to find some other rabbit.

Q: But it damaged the nose section, didn t it?
GF:
I damaged the nose and we were able to repair it at the end of free practice and for the qualifying session everything was perfect.

Q: Would you say that you are quite aggressively fuelled for tomorrow?
GF:
Well, actually I think we are a little bit aggressive. We knew to be top three was important. But don t forget I was fourth quickest in Q2, so we are not so slow.

Q: Jarno, why do you think this situation is as it is?
JT:
It is a good question which none of us can answer at the moment, especially when things go wrong. As when things go right we know that we have got a good car. We always had it from the beginning of the season but we understand that sometimes it just slips away and we are not competitive and we are very bad sometimes. Sometimes it happens through the weekend from one session to another. We came here and straight away we were looking really strong and in qualifying basically I was always topping the time. In Q1 I took it a little bit easy but in Q2 I was again top and I think I did also a very good Q3, so it is looking pretty good for the race and I have to thank the team. I dedicate this to all my mechanics and everybody there as we are going through a difficult moment and sometimes it is hard to not understand what is going on.

Q: Obviously you had new wings here and a little bit of a problem with the back end. How much of a difference have the wings made and did you get the grip that you needed?
JT:
We did not really get any special update here, just the downforce and the wing level for this kind of circuit. We took a lot of wing off yesterday and spent most of the time basically balancing the car between the high-speed section and the mid-speed section which normally requires more downforce. The car has been more or less competitive. We made a little change on the car set-up this morning which went in the right direction for better handling and better traction and it is looking pretty good for tomorrow because I spent most of the weekend on race fuel and only qualified on low fuel. I am very happy.

Q: Quite a few of you came in after one lap of Q3 to change tyres. Was there a difference in tyre wear?
JT:
It was just a question of limiting time. We couldn t do two runs. We were only able to do one proper run, so as everybody did, we went out with a set of used tyres just to check the balance and come in for new tyres and do two flying laps.

Q: It was the same thing with you Nick?
NH:
Yes. The problem here is that the circuit is so long and you didn t have enough time.

Q: Having finished six times in 11th, you must be very pleased with third?
NH:
Yes, definitely I am. Before I was joking with my number one mechanic. He did show me three and for me it was clear that we would make it into Q3 anyway. I thought that was what he meant. Then I asked him do you mean position three or Q3. Then he laughed and said both and it was great that we managed to be there.

Q: And some new bits on the car here as well?
NH:
Yeah, we have a couple of small updates but nothing major. A bigger one is planned for Singapore. I think one reason why it s a bit more mixed here is that it s a completely different track. It s the first time that we ve used the medium downforce package. Up to this point we ve usually stuck on the car what we ve found but here that s probably why it looks completely different.

Q: And yesterday you said you still had some set-up work to do; presumably that went well this morning?
NH:
Yes. Actually, I think from the end of P2 until now we made good progress. We made changes overnight all of which we kept, and then this morning we made another couple of changes and it went pretty smoothly. Of course, from time to time we have traffic, that s a problem especially in Q1, that s what happened. In Q2, I wasn t happy with the set of tyres. We all know that sometimes there are small differences, so I was convinced that Q3 could be quite good.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Marco Degl Innocenti La Gazzetta dello Sport) Giancarlo, until yesterday it seems that you were dreaming of driving for Ferrari in the last two races. Has that changed something…
NH:
You d better stay where you are, no?
GF: Oh yeah, it s always a dream for all drivers in Formula One, I think, and even in the other categories, to drive for Ferrari. It s a dream, especially for an Italian driver like me. So far it s still a dream and considering today s result, I need to think about that if they are going to call me. I m just concentrating on Force India s season, on tomorrow s race and then we will see. I don t want to think anything about the next race, if I am there or at Force India, but I have a contract with Force India and I have had no contact with Ferrari.

Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Giancarlo, congratulations. Obviously it s an astonishing performance but is any part of today a show to try and help you get that drive with Ferrari?
GF:
I have no idea. I know that Luca (Badoer) is last again today and he had an accident but that doesn t mean anything. He s still learning and for sure, my result is something that is incredible with a Force India. It s a great day. As I told you, I want to do the best and just be concentrated on tomorrow s race.

Q: (Istvan Simon Autopiac) Giancarlo, do you remember when your first pole position was?
GF:
My first pole position was in Austria 1998, yes, it was wet; a long time ago.

Q: (Marco Evangelisti Corriere dello Sport) Giancarlo, your team is supposed to have financial trouble for next year. Can this kind of result help the team to go on and what about your own career?
GF:
Well yes, there are a lot of rumours about that but for sure being on pole helps any team, so I hope it s a good help. Our budget is limited compared to most of the other teams but we are doing well. Everything is going well, there is no problem to go ahead. And about my future, it s too early to say. I didn t have any contact with other teams and I still haven t spoken to Force India about next year but today is something that is good to go ahead for the future. I would still like to be a Formula One driver in the future, but obviously I need a car to be competitive, like today.

Q: (Balazs Vajta Autosport Es Formula) This is a question for all three drivers: for tomorrow, do you prefer a wet or dry race, and did you take that into consideration with your fuel loads in qualifying?
NH:
I would definitely prefer wet conditions. I enjoy driving in the wet; although I m starting P3, it would be nice. No, we didn t take it into consideration for the fuel level. It would have been even more important for downforce level. As I tried yesterday on low downforce, I tried the dry set-up, I was nowhere. You put a little downforce on the car and suddenly it works. We had a small forecast for rain maybe in qualifying which just appeared an hour before qualifying, but we stuck to what we planned and no, we don t think it will rain.
GF: Well, in my case, considering today it s going to be better if it s dry tomorrow, even if yesterday in wet conditions, from what we see, I was the quickest, so in any case I would be happier.
JT: Well, we planned a dry race and we ve been running mainly in dry conditions, so we prefer to go on dry.

Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Jarno, obviously Toyota have waited such a long time for that first victory. How would you assess your chances going into tomorrow now?
JT:
I will just go out and try to do my best. I know that we can win the race and I will really be pushing very, very hard because we need this win, the team needs it.

Q: (Marco Degl Innocenti La Gazzetta dello Sport) Jarno and Nick, we know that Sauber still want to race, and there are also some rumours about the future of Toyota, so how do you think that your performance and your race tomorrow at Spa could influence your near future?
NH:
Well, I think it s always important to show a good performance. For sure, people look at the performance you do at the moment but you know we have both been in Formula One long enough and we have both fought against very competitive drivers and I think I can speak for both of us, we did beat quite a lot of the good guys who are still in Formula One now. So it can only help. I m very confident for next season anyway, as I said before, both in talks with other teams before BMW decided to pull out. What I hope more is that this result will help the team to survive for next season. As I said, BMW is pulling out but it doesn t mean that the Sauber guys in Hinwil will stop. We are all working very hard to secure the future for them.
JT: Well, regarding the situation with the team, obviously a win or a good result will definitely help everyone, everyone in the team for a decision for next year. So far I m not aware of what s going on with Toyota but for sure they are keen to stay if they can win races and they can be competitive but as you all know, it s a deciding moment because in the economic situation they cannot take any decision on the future budget. But we definitely need a good result, especially for the team because I stand by all my mechanics and engineers working in the team with their families etc. They also need a job for next year, so I will go for it tomorrow.

Q: (Ottavio Daviddi Tuttosport) A question to both Italian drivers: apart from these results, I don t think this is a good moment for Italian drivers in Formula One. I mean there are no younger drivers coming in etc. Do you think this result can change the situation?
JT:
It s a crazy season, to be honest. If you look at the season, it changes at every race and sometimes we see competitive cars being slow from one session to another or from one race to another. It s hard to understand what s going on. It s also harder to get a feeling of what will happen. One thing that is certain is that there is a lot of uncertainty in Formula One at the moment, in the teams and in the drivers market. It s like that and you just have to play it by ear. We are out there to do our best and we will do it for us and for our team and eventually we will see.
GF: You know last race we didn t get through Q3 and this race we are first and second. It depends on the car, the situation. I think we show many times how good we are and we have been in Formula One since 1997,1998, so I think we are good enough to be good, to win. It depends on the situation, it depends on the car, that s all.

Q: (Joris Fioriti AFP) Jarno, you ve had lots of ups and downs this season; Nick, you ve had a season way beyond your expectations and Giancarlo, you are definitely coming out of nowhere, so is tomorrow going to be the day when you are going to take your revenge, all three of you?
JT:
It s not a question of revenge, we are out there tomorrow to try to do our best for us and for the team and obviously a podium finish for all three would be a good position, definitely. For me, I think I have another goal, because a podium won t be enough, especially to make the Japanese happy. They want to win and I want to give them a win and this is all I m thinking about, so I will try really hard.
NH: The same: it s nothing to do with revenge. As we all know in Formula One, sometimes, unfortunately, it s all about the car. You can believe that all three of us here didn t perform very differently from the beginning of the season, we are the same drivers but the cars just suit the circuit here better, obviously. You always try to do the best, no matter if you re fighting for tenth or first.
GF: At the beginning of the season, in testing, we were 1.8s/2.0s slower than the leaders and I was quite sad about that, because I was not so confident to have a development like that. Through the season we made a big step forward, they did a fantastic job: today we are on pole. It s just amazing. As I told you, the car is very important, you need to be lucky, to have a lucky day. Today everything has gone perfectly. In the last race the problem was in the last run and I was 16th but it was possible to get through, even into the top ten. You need to be lucky and focussed.