Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica reflect on Saturday’s qualifying session. Massa pipped Hamilton to the top spot by two tenths of a second, while Robert Kubica showed that BMW Sauber are still firmly in the hunt.
1. Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), 1m38.989s
2. Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren Mercedes), 1m39.199s
3. Robert KUBICA (BMW Sauber), 1m39.392s
Q: Felipe, congratulations. Talk us through your pole winning lap.
Felipe MASSA: Yeah, for sure starting on pole here is very nice. The track here is not very easy. The surface is slippery. I had a good lap and I was able to score the pole position. I think I have a good car for the race tomorrow which will be very difficult, but I will try to do my best.
Q: How did the lap go for you in terms of sectors?
Massa: I think I made pole position in the first sector. The first sector was just fantastic. I made some very small mistakes in sector two when you always have an oversteer car or understeer car depending on the corner. Then I had a good sector three but everything was done in sector one.
Q: Talk us through the weekend for you and your thoughts on the track.
Massa: For sure the track gets better all the time. Yesterday we saw the lap time getting crazier, improving so quick from the beginning of the session. We see that it was so green and as long as you put rubber on the track, lap times improve a lot and the balance improves a lot as well. I think yesterday we had a big, big shower which doesn’t help for the grip of the track, so today was also difficult in the morning. But it’s okay, I think it is a nice track. Let’s hope that we can have a good run tomorrow.
Q: The Ferrari car looks fabulous. How does it feel for you?
Massa: For sure we have a great car. We showed that at some many races this year. We showed that at the last race, unfortunately sometimes things happen. We showed again here that we are competitive. I think that is the most important thing. The team did a great job today, yesterday and also the preparation for this race which was also very difficult. We went to the simulator trying to find a reasonable balance to start with and also the job done yesterday. The team did a great job.
Q: Lewis, on the front row. A great race to start the inaugural grand prix in Valencia. Talk us through qualifying.
Lewis HAMILTON: It was quite straightforward for me really. I think we noticed we had a good car through testing and going into Q1 and Q2 it was all about getting through. There didn’t seem to be too much of a problem. The car was quick. I stayed on the option tyre for both my Q3 timed laps and I think the first one was not a great lap. I think I probably lost about a second to my second timed lap but I think the last lap was pretty good. I was quite happy with that. For sure, there is always a little bit of time somewhere but generally I am very happy. It is a good starting position for us for tomorrow and a great job done by the team.
Q: It looks like another battle between yourselves and Ferrari.
Hamilton: Yeah, as you can see we just watched Felipe’s qualifying lap and as he said in sector one he destroyed everyone. They are going to be hard to beat tomorrow but we will push as hard as we can.
Q: What was sector one like for you?
Hamilton: I think I was already down a tenth or two tenths after the first corner. I came though turn one or two and three, if you look on the map, and then turn three, turn four and five didn’t seem to be as strong as I would like. That is probably where the time went but generally it wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t a struggling lap. It was quite a good lap and I was quite happy with it.
Q: Robert, welcome back to the top three. It is good to see you back up here after qualifying.
Robert KUBICA: Yeah, I mean for sure it has been a very good qualifying for myself and the team. After some unlucky races the pace of the car here in Valencia is not as bad as it was before but also we have a bit of a gap to Ferrari and McLaren. Qualifying went pretty smooth. The weather was playing a bit, so we were anticipating every stint and every run, in qualifying three especially to make sure that we would be fine with the lap time to go into the next qualifying.
Q: We saw a bit of rain on the camera lens. What was it like for the drivers?
Kubica: The rain doesn’t have any effect for the drivers. Only in qualifying two there were some drops in the last part of the main straight but it didn’t have any effect.
Q: And the tyre choice. Again we saw a spread between the harder and the softer of the two Bridgestone tyres.
Kubica: Well, for me it was pretty clear. We saw yesterday which tyre we would probably use and we stuck to our first choice. I went on primes in qualifying one and on options in qualifying two and again on options in qualifying three.
Q: Felipe, your thoughts on this circuit and bouncing back from that big disappointment in the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Massa: Yeah for sure it is always nice to be on top after such a bad result especially how it happened. It was so bad to have a problem with three laps to go with a win completely in my pocket. After such a difficult race it is very nice to be here for the first time in Valencia and also after the problem we had in the last race and to be on the top. But for sure the race is tomorrow and we don’t know how it is going to be but it is always nice to start on pole position. We will try to do a great race. Valencia is a nice place. We always come here for testing and the city is fantastic. I have been coming here since 2000 when I was doing Formula Renault and it is amazing how the city is getting bigger and bigger and so modern and a nice place to go, nice hotels, nice atmosphere. It is very nice to be here and on pole. Let’s hope that tomorrow we can have a great race.
Q: Felipe, tell us about where you were gaining time.
Massa: Already in the first lap on Q3 I was thinking the lap was good but you think people have made mistakes or didn’t do a great lap. You always need to try the second one and try to improve everything, I think compared to my first try I improved the first sector. That was really good. I think I was a couple of tenths quicker than my first try in the first sector and it was already quite good. The second sector was normal, nothing special and the third sector was okay, so I think the pole position came for sure because of the first sector which was great.
Q: You changed from the harder tyre to the softer tyre for the second run as well.
Massa: Yeah, I was not sure about the tyres. This morning I was pretty sure about the hard but qualifying was a little bit strange in Q1 and Q2 to make the right lap. Then I changed my mind and tried the hard one in the first try and then the soft one on the second try and I think it was the right decision.
Q: Is there any concern about the positioning of pole position because it was on the left rather than on the right which is the more used part of the circuit?
Massa: I think they’ve changed it. Now it’s on the right. Usually pole position is something that’s very important. To start first, you need to be on the right line and here everybody drives on the right hand side and it’s really strange to have pole on the left side, so it would have been better to start second. Then they changed their idea, which was the right thing because it’s normal and now it’s OK.
Q: Lewis, are you pleased with your performance so far, and with the way you and the team have tackled the whole weekend given the new nature of this circuit?
Hamilton: I think we’ve done a great job. To come here, the way we’ve prepared, I think our approach was as good as ever. We really come here with quite a strong package and I think we are the closest to the Ferraris at least and I’m really quite happy with the job we did today. Being on the front row really puts us in a good position to fight for a win tomorrow. I’m very, very happy.
Q: Give us an idea of the state of the track because quite a few of the drivers are having little moments. Is it still quite slippery?
Hamilton: I don’t think it’s slippery. I think there’s grip out there but when you’re pushing on the limit, you eventually go over that grip level and that’s what everyone’s doing. Unfortunately Felipe was able to stay on that line, especially in the first sector and pull it out. I think everyone’s having some lock-up issues, locking the rears, locking the fronts and it’s really trying to find the best balance there, trying not to push too much but still pushing, trying to find the limit. I don’t think it’s a problem.
Q: How’s that going to manifest itself during the race itself? Obviously during a lap that’s one thing but the lock-ups, that sort of thing, hard braking here obviously.
Hamilton: Yeah, I think hard braking here… I think it’s quite a severe circuit for braking. I’m sure some people will be struggling but it won’t be a problem for us. I think tomorrow will be about managing the tyres and trying to make them last through a longer run but again, I don’t think we will have a problem.
Q: Robert, obviously you’re pleased to be back in the top three for the first time since Canada which of course you went on to win.
Kubica: Yeah, for sure, it’s better to start third than fifth or seventh. Qualifying went pretty well and here we are. The car worked better than lately but we have to remember that in Hungary, also, I was not starting far behind because I was fourth, so second row, and hopefully we will not make the same mistake as in Hungary in tomorrow’s race. Anyway, the track is quite slippery, at least for our car, so maybe we have to improve our overall grip. Trying to manage the tyres, as Lewis said, will be quite important.
Q: How difficult is it when you haven’t really got confidence in the track?
Kubica: I have confidence in the track. I haven’t been in any simulator. I walked a lap on Thursday before jumping in the car and after five laps I managed to find good braking points. I was quite consistent in every session, in every run without any big moments. Of course conditions are changing. Today the wind is from a completely different direction than yesterday, so it has some influence on the car balance. The grip level has changed. Yesterday it was improving but we had heavy rain last night, so it washed away the rubber a bit, so many factors are changing and you have to adapt very quickly to them.
Q: Is it more factors than normal perhaps?
Kubica: At least what I feel is that it’s changing very quickly and it can have a big influence, especially if you go off the line or your line is a bit difference than the others, so you have to adapt from where most people go, where they put their wheels because there is more rubber. But not all the cars take the same lines. We saw already yesterday in the first sector that we were struggling and it also happened today and in qualifying but it looks like this is our limit.
Q: And overtaking? Drivers say you have to go off-line to overtake and it makes it doubly difficult.
Kubica: Yeah, looking at it from the outside and from the car, there are some places for overtaking, such as at the end of the big straight at the back and also before corner 17. But it makes it difficult if everybody is so tight and so close, especially if the grip level was the same everywhere it would make it much easier but now there is a lot of dust off-line and this makes it very difficult.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Robert, first of all, what is the mistake that the team made in Hungary that you don’t want to make again, and secondly how do you explain that you’re third? Is it because it’s a new track and you like new tracks, or is it improvements on the car?
Kubica: First part of the question; I don’t think it’s a secret: we made a big mistake on the tyre pressures. I think probably operation-wise that was a mistake. What was unfortunately very bad in Hungary was that it was on all three sets. In the first stint, I was hoping that as soon as I put on new tyres for the second stint the problem would be gone but the problem was even bigger. But I think this is clear and we will improve. And what’s the difference? I don’t feel any difference. In Hungary I was P4, here I’m P3. I don’t see any difference. The car is the same, there is no upgrade from the last two races until now. In the end, we are just there and trying to set as best lap as possible in qualifying which we managed nearly all the time but in the race it makes it more difficult because if you’re missing grip, the tyres are wearing more if you’re sliding and your race pace is maybe worse than the top cars.
Q: (James Allen – ITV) I would like to ask Lewis and Felipe how the first two parts of this qualifying evolved for you because it seemed to take some time for both of your teams to fully get up to speed and we had some unusual names at the top of the time sheets for a while?
Massa: Yes, it was a little bit strange. Usually in Q1 we start on a scrubbed set, so we already expected not to be on the top. Then with the new set I did a reasonably good lap, I was second, and in Q2 I didn’t do a good lap, so I had to use another set which was a little bit of a waste for us. Fortunately many other people used a second set as well. So people were a little bit impressed by the lap times from the others, especially Vettel did a great job, he was very quick and that was a little bit strange for us; because of that we needed to use another set of tyres. But I think it’s also related to the lap time. I didn’t do a great lap and I had to try again, to be safe inside the top ten.
Hamilton: I thought Q1 was pretty sweet. I went out, did one lap and I was pole for the majority of the session. I’d done my time, I didn’t need to go out again and as the track evolved, people got quicker, that was quite simple I thought. In Q2 it was very, very surprising. We went out on the softer tyre and weren’t particularly able to improve the time that much, compared to the prime, and it was definitely a surprise that a few of the other teams were up front and so quick. So we did end up going out again, but again, we didn’t really need to.
Q: (Tomas Richtr – TV Nova) Felipe, what does it take to overcome such a huge disappointment from Hungary and did the summer break contribute to this or not?
Massa: No, for sure the summer break didn’t help the frustration, because when you have such a bad race, you want to race again, just to at least change the result or change your frustration. But sometimes the frustration can also be good to motivate you even more, so I was in contact with my team, even during the summer (break) to motivate them because we suffered together. I know I was driving the car but I was driving the Ferrari car and the Ferrari car belongs to a lot of people who work on it, so I think it was a big frustration for everybody and it’s nice to come here and be on pole. That’s really good and hopefully we can continue in that direction tomorrow.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, you’re starting on the front row with Felipe. We saw in Hungary that he overtook you in a fantastic way. Do you think there is some room to take revenge here?
Hamilton: As I say, it’s a good opportunity for me to start on the front row. We don’t know how the starts are going to be and being on the dirtier side or the cleaner side – I don’t particularly think there is a clean or dirty side. So I think tomorrow it’s important that we get a good start and I will be aiming to challenge Felipe but if I don’t get close enough, then I will just try to keep my position.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) The second question is for everybody: we heard that there is some issue with the asphalt in the pit lane. Could you explain to us if there is some issue about it?
Hamilton: Regarding the pit lane, I don’t think there’s a real problem, not for us, at least.