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FIA F1 - Australian GP Driver Comments Post-Qualifying

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Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen on his surprise early exit from Q1 in Melbourne; Fernando Alonso on falling foul of the lack of grip at Albert Park and beaching his Ferrari in the gravel; Pastor Maldonado on outgunning new Williams team mate Bruno Senna to make it through to the top-ten shootout; and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button on securing the front row of the grid. All 24 drivers, plus senior team personnel, discuss Saturday’s action…

McLaren Lewis Hamilton (1st, Q3 - 1m 24.922s) “I’m massively proud of my team. We’ve been working incredibly hard throughout the winter: we’ve never given up, and everyone has just kept pushing and pushing. We’ve had some tough years, but everyone in this team wants to succeed: to be the best. I’m proud that I was able to do the job for them today. My first lap in Q3 felt pretty special – at the end of it, I felt it’d be surprising if anyone could push ahead of that. I tried even harder on my final run, but braked a little too late into the first corner and spoiled the lap. After that, I was just hoping that nobody would go any quicker. I just love qualifying, especially when you get the lap just right; when it all flows, the tyres work and you hit the sweet-spot everywhere. It’s like heaven. Today we showed that we not only have the most beautiful car in Formula One, but also the fastest! Of course, there’s still a long way to go tomorrow – looking after the tyres will be key - but we’re in the best possible position to have a strong race.”

Jenson Button (2nd, Q3 - 1m 25.074s) “Lewis nailed a great lap in Q3, but I think the whole team is really happy to have both cars on the front row - it’s been a long time coming to have the two of us there together. You always want to be first, but I couldn’t quite do that today. Nevertheless, I think we both want to thank the team - it’s a big vindication of how far we’ve come this winter. And that’s been crucial: having a good winter can really make the difference. We still don’t know exactly how strong our car will be in the race, but yesterday it appeared to be consistent and looked after the tyres during the stint. Tomorrow will be about getting the tyres to the right working temperature and looking after them across the stint. Tomorrow is the important day, and today is about making life easier for tomorrow. Still, this has been a great day for everyone in the team.”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal “It feels very good to be back at the front of the grid, not only bagging pole position but also P2, to tie up the entire front row for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. Both our drivers have driven really well all weekend, and this afternoon they were fantastic. Lewis’s pole lap - the 148th in McLaren’s Formula One history - was a brilliant combination of commitment and control. It wasn’t easy though, for either Lewis or Jenson. Traffic was a challenge in Q1, and in Q2 and Q3 it was a question of working hard to get the best out of the tyres. But, as I say, today we notched up McLaren’s 148th ever Grand Prix pole position, and tomorrow we’ll be aiming to score McLaren’s 176th ever Grand Prix victory. We think we’ll have a good race car; we know we’ll have two great race drivers; so, although we never under-estimate our competition, and although we’re sure tomorrow’s race will be as demanding as it will be entertaining, I guess you could say that we fancy our chances.”

Lotus Romain Grosjean (3rd, Q3 - 1m 25.302s) “Today is like a dream come true. I only really discovered the Albert Park circuit in the dry this morning and I didn’t know what to expect. When I heard my position over the radio I just could not believe it. This third position shows one thing: you must believe in your dreams and hold on to them, whatever happens. Very few people still had faith in me after my first life in F1, but we’ve all worked very hard to start a new adventure and I’m very happy to be able to put a great performance in right from the start of the season. Thank you also to the team for designing such a nice, tidy and quick little car. I will not get carried away because, as the saying goes, you don’t score any points on a Saturday. We all know that Melbourne can be a very tricky race. I hope we can keep going like this all season long and in the end it will be a nice story."

Kimi Raikkonen (18th, Q1 - 1m 27.758s) “Today didn’t go quite as planned. There’s no issue with the car; I made a mistake and there was a communication issue so the timing wasn’t right to get another lap. It cost us a good qualifying position but that’s how it goes sometimes. We should have easily been in Q2. It’s not the best start but we’ll try to put it right in the race. There’s plenty of speed in the car. The steering was fine. It’s not perfect for exactly what I want but it doesn’t affect my driving. For sure we can do better than 18th tomorrow so we’ll have to see what happens.”

Alan Permane, Lotus director of trackside operations “Overall we’re very happy. It’s clear we have a car with good pace here at Albert Park as illustrated by Romain’s qualifying performance. Things didn’t go quite right for Kimi; he was running late to the programme and he made a couple of mistakes, otherwise he would have been comfortably in a strong position. Through the winter we thought we had a good car, but you never know exactly where you stand against the opposition. In Albert Park today we stacked up pretty well so it’s a great start and we’ve exceeded our own expectations. After the setback we had missing a test over the winter it’s great to have all the hard work paid off with a quick car. Every time we’ve run the E20 we’ve been fairly comfortable. The base set-up has worked well at three different tracks so far. Let’s hope we continue like this for the other 19 tracks we will run at this year.”

Mercedes Michael Schumacher (4th, Q3 - 1m 25.336s) "The first qualifying session of the year proved to be as tight a competition as we had all hoped for. I am certainly happy with our performance which is a huge step forward, considering where we were in qualifying here last year. I can only thank the guys for all of the hard work that they have achieved over the winter. I also think it is important to stress that Mercedes-Benz have always believed in and supported this project, and I really hope we can deliver the results we all want. We have to take this step-by-step as the competition is very tight, so now we have to continue to work hard."

Nico Rosberg (7th, Q3 - 1m 25.686s) "We are happy to see that we have obviously improved the car over the winter. It seems that we can be strong in the race as well from what we learned during practice this weekend. Unfortunately I didn't get the most out of it today. I didn't quite find the right set-up as we have a lot of new things on the car and it will take a few races to get it working perfectly. I also made a small mistake on my last lap which cost me some time. Seventh place is still a good position though and I will be doing my best to move forward tomorrow."

Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal "From where we were twelve months ago, I believe we have seen a really good step forward here in Melbourne, and we have a great foundation to build on. We are very pleased with Michael's fourth position today, and he did an excellent job. Nico didn't get such a clean lap at the end, however he will have a very strong race from seventh place. We were able to spend some time running on high fuel this morning, and I am hopeful that will pay off tomorrow in the race."

Norbert Haug, vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport "An encouraging result for us and more was possible today with Michael 0.034s behind P3 and Nico 0.035s behind P5. Michael did a good job whilst Nico locked up a wheel going into turn three which cost him lap time and didn't help his left front tyre. The reigning World Champions and clear favourites for this season will be starting behind Michael which shows how surprising Formula One can be. Congratulations to Lewis and McLaren Mercedes for scoring the 32nd pole for Mercedes-Benz in the V8 era in the 109th Grand Prix since 2006. For the race, we should be in a good position and we will try to make the most out of it. A podium has to be our aim."

Red Bull Mark Webber (5th, Q3 - 1m 25.651s) “We knew there were some quick guys out there - McLaren and Mercedes especially and Roman did well too. Everyone always thinks we have special bits to keep coming back, but this year it’s opened right up. I didn’t have KERS at the end of the session, which affects your rhythm during qualifying – it’s a shame as it’s been faultless all winter. I’m pleased with my lap in Q3. We can still get on the podium tomorrow, but we have some fast cars around us, no question about it.”

Sebastian Vettel (6th, Q3 - 1m 25.668s) “It’s the first qualifying of the year, so it’s always difficult to know what to expect, but I think what we saw today was not a surprise, the lap times were close. We would have loved to have been closer to the front, but in Q3 I wasn’t happy with my lap. I made a mistake at the beginning and lost some time, so that was down to me. I could have been one or two places higher, but that’s how it goes. We are not starting at the front, but we are not starting at the back either, so it’s far from disastrous and regarding the car we know what we need to do. We have a long race ahead of us tomorrow and a lot of opportunities, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal “Mark lost his KERS going into Q3, which is the first KERS problem we have had all winter. It’s unfortunate that it had to strike at the most critical time of qualifying but, nonetheless, he did an excellent lap to record the fifth fastest time. Sebastian never seemed to really find the pace in the car that seemed to be there this morning, so we have plenty to look at this evening. Fifth and sixth is far from a disaster and with the double DRS zones available this year, I’m sure we can be in better shape tomorrow afternoon.”

Williams Pastor Maldonado (8th, Q3 - 1m 25.908s) “It was a great start to the season for the team today. We have shown that we are competitive, and we now need to keep pushing. The car has been improving throughout the weekend, and we need to keep going in that direction. It’s now down to our pace and strategy for tomorrow’s race.”

Bruno Senna (14th, Q2 - 1m 26.663s) “It’s a bit of a lottery when you go into qualifying without having had a full day of running on Friday, but the car feels good. Pastor qualified in the top 10 which is a really good sign for the team. I wasn’t particularly happy with my lap, but it’s the first qualifying session of the year. We have 19 more to go, and I am sure with a little more experience, everything will come together. Tomorrow is a different day, so we will see what we can do.”

Mark Gillan, Williams chief operations engineer “It has been a very satisfying day for the team with Pastor qualifying in a very creditable eighth position and Bruno, who unfortunately didn’t get a clear lap, finishing in 14th. The whole team is really looking forward to tomorrow's race, and we hope to capture our first points of the season.”

Force India Nico Hulkenberg (9th, Q3 - 1m 26.451s) “I’m very happy with today’s result because I was not sure we would be able to make Q3. We did a good job after FP3 to improve the set-up and I’m feeling much more comfortable with the car now. Obviously going into the race there is some uncertainty because we haven’t really done many runs on high fuel here because of the wet sessions yesterday, but all the teams are in the same situation. It’s the same case with the tyres because we will still be learning about them tomorrow and discovering how long they last. It should be an exciting race and I’m looking forward to it.”

Paul di Resta (15th, Q2 - 1m 27.086s) “It was quite a difficult session and I never quite got it together. I think my out lap was compromised by traffic and, as a result, I didn’t get the tyres in their working range, which hurt my quick lap. So there’s a lot of work to be done tomorrow and I need to work hard tonight to see if there’s anything that can be done overnight to improve things for tomorrow. Over the winter our long run pace has looked quite strong so hopefully I can move forward in the race and challenge for some points.”

Robert Fernley, Force India deputy team principal “I think we can come away feeling pretty satisfied with today’s performance. Nico has done an outstanding job all weekend and managed to squeeze the maximum from the car in Q2 and Q3. There are some quick cars behind, but I’m confident that we can have a strong race from there and remain in the hunt for points. As for Paul, he’s in the thick of the midfield battle and will need to fight hard to move forward in the race. He didn’t have the best run in Q2 due to some tyre issues, which compromised his only timed lap at the end of the session. We know he’s a fighter and hopefully he can make some progress in the race.”

Toro Rosso Daniel Ricciardo (10th, Q3 - no time) “That was nice! The ambition at the start of the weekend, as far as qualifying was concerned, was to get into Q3 and we have achieved that. Before we got to Melbourne, we did not have a clear idea of how our pace would compare with the other teams. In fact, I thought Q3 might have been a little bit out of reach, so this was a really positive result for me and for the team. We should have a strong race as we are in good shape, so it will be a case of trying to get the best start possible followed by a good opening lap and see how we get on from there. It will be a bit of a new experience for me compared to last year as this is the first time I start a Grand Prix from as high as the mid-field. Today, we have laid the groundwork for Sunday and Jean-Eric is not far behind me, which will keep me on my toes, so as a team we can be pleased with the work we have done.”

Jean-Eric Vergne (11th, Q2 - 1m 26.429s) “That was not bad I think, even if it is a bit disappointing to have missed out on Q3 by a very small margin. I got a very good lap in Q1, a bit less so in Q2. But I still have a lot to learn at this stage and the main thing is that everything went well and I am enjoying all the new experiences. There are many positives to be taken from the way qualifying went and I feel we have a car that should work well in tomorrow’s race. I am looking forward to it - it should be fun. My target for tomorrow? To score some points.”

Laurent Mekies, Toro Rosso chief engineer “The outcome of qualifying is positive, especially when you consider the mid-field is extremely close which meant we had an enjoyable fight with our rivals. Because of yesterday’s rain, everyone really only had this morning to sort out their cars and this added to the difficulty for our drivers. Ending up P10 and P11, in Daniel’s case at his first race with us and in Jean-Eric’s case on his first ever Formula One qualifying, is a very good sign. Tomorrow, anything can happen, especially as we are in the middle of the field. We will do our best and I’m sure that for the spectators it will be a great race to watch.”

Ferrari Fernando Alonso (12th, Q2 - 1m 26.494s) “It went like this: I got a bit on the grass under braking, the car took off on its own and I found myself in the gravel. I had managed to keep the engine running and was hoping the marshals would be able to push me back on track. I had done my time on used Softs: maybe with a new set I could have made it through to Q3, but I would not have been able to fight for the front rows. Today, we lacked performance, especially because we did not have enough aerodynamic downforce and we are still lacking in top speed. Tomorrow we will be racing defensively and will try and do what we can, hopefully making the most of having four sets of new tyres. Let’s hope for a good start in order to catch those who are a few rows ahead of us and then fight with them to the end. Here, at the end of qualifying last year, we were 1”4 off the pace, while today, in Q2 it was 1”, therefore hypothetically one could say we are more competitive than we were back then. Sure, there are other teams that have made progress, but I think we have plenty of room for improvement. In Malaysia, we will have the same car, therefore the situation won’t change much. We will just have to see how it will adapt to the track characteristics there. It’s true our target at the start of the year was to fight for the win right from the beginning and we have not managed that, but this will be a long season and all we can do is work on improving performance…There’s no point getting angry as it does not serve any purpose.”

Felipe Massa (16th, Q2 - 1m 27.497s) “I am very disappointed: this is not the start to the season I was expecting or hoping for. It was difficult right from the start of FP3: the balance of the car was never what I wanted and I never managed to get a clean lap. I was always lacking grip, both on the Mediums and the Softs and I suffered with oversteer on entry and understeer on exit. I don’t know why, but the car seemed to be worse than in winter testing, maybe down to the characteristics of this circuit. Now we will try and do what we can in the race tomorrow. It will not be easy, because I will start from a long way back, but I will give it my all. I don’t think we’ll be able to do just a single stop, but will have to try and make up the ground lost today in qualifying. Clearly we are behind, maybe more than we had expected and there are other teams that have improved a lot compared to last year. We must work to find the right direction for developing the car.”

Pat Fry, Ferrari deputy chassis director “There’s no denying that was a difficult qualifying. It’s true that with Fernando, we could have got into Q3 with relative ease, given the time he did on his only lap in Q2 with used Softs, but I don’t think we could have got higher than the fourth row. Unfortunately, Felipe was struggling with the balance of his car for the whole day and we will have to do a lot of work to try and sort out the situation as much as possible for tomorrow’s race. Let’s hope that over a long distance things can be better and we will at least try and exploit the fact that Fernando has no less than four sets of new tyres, while Felipe has two. Clearly the two drivers’ grid positions are what they are, but we will give it our best shot. And it is equally clear that we must work like never before to make the F2012 quicker and to try and reduce the gap to the best as soon as possible.”

Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal “We can only be disappointed after this qualifying session. It hurts to have neither driver on track for the final part of the session, even if we know that Fernando had every chance of getting at least this far if he had not got caught up in one of those incidents that are part of the game. Felipe was struggling with the balance of the car right from the morning and we need to look at it in depth to work out why. Everyone had been waiting for this hour of qualifying to understand what the pecking order would be: we knew it would be tough for us and that’s how it went. I understand that at the moment, our fans are disappointed, but I would urge them to be cautious before making any definitive judgement, as if everything was already over. We need to remain calm and concentrated. We have a lot of work to do and our engineers are well aware of that, as indeed they were before even leaving for Melbourne. The season is going to be very long, just as tomorrow’s race will be long and hard. Given our grid positions, the realistic aim is for us to get both cars into the points. As usual, we will do our utmost.”

Sauber Kamui Kobayashi (13th, Q2 - 1m 26.590s) “This is obviously disappointing. In Q1 I was really happy with the car and the grip and, of course, it felt great to have set the fastest lap. But then on my second run in Q2 with another new set of soft tyres I just could not find grip. I have no explanation for that, it felt totally different. I also had traffic in the last sector, but the main surprise was the lack of grip. Thirteenth is not really a nice position to start from and it doesn’t reflect the potential of the car. However, we will try to achieve the best possible result tomorrow.”

Sergio Perez (17th, Q2 - no time) ”We made some set-up changes to the car today and in Q1 I was busy adapting my driving style a bit. In Q2 I knew exactly what to do but then I could not shift anymore because of a gearbox problem. It is a true shame as there was a lot more to come from the car and from myself. Starting from 17th will make it very difficult to get a good result on Sunday. I will do my best.”

Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Sauber head of track engineering “P13 and P17 definitely don’t reflect our true potential, but things just went wrong in qualifying. It was bad luck that both our drivers were on their first runs when Fernando Alonso spun. In the second outing Kamui got held up by Mark Webber, who made a mistake in corner one in front of Kamui when he was on his out lap and was then not able to heat up his tyres properly. Sergio suffered a gearbox failure which we need to analyse. We will now do our utmost to fight back in the race.”

Peter Sauber, Sauber team principal “After a very promising start to qualifying, the result is obviously a big disappointment. Kamui was quickest in Q1 with a time that would have been seventh best in Q2. Unfortunately things didn’t work out for him in Q2 and he was out. Sergio suffered a gearbox failure and didn’t have the chance to set a time in the second qualifying session. The positive thing is we confirmed that our car is fast, which gives us hope for the race, although overtaking is not easy here.”

Caterham Heikki Kovalainen (19th, Q1 - 1m 28.679s) “I'm reasonably positive about today. We didn't get everything we could out of the car in Q1 but it felt better this afternoon than it did in FP3 and on my last quick lap I was held up by an HRT which probably cost me something like six tenths, but around this sort of circuit that's one of the issues you have to deal with. There are quite a few positives to take out of today, the main one being that we know we're much closer to the cars in front than where we finished last year, and now we have KERS and a better package overall, so I think tomorrow's race could be really interesting.”

Vitaly Petrov (20th, Q1 - 1m 29.018s) “For me that was an ok qualifying, maybe not quite what we had hoped for but we know there's more to come. We obviously lost time yesterday, and today the performance run was cut short in FP3 with a hydraulics issue, but I pushed as hard as I could and I think my engineer and I are finding out more about how to fine tune the setup for me every time I go out on track so the more time I spend in the car, the better I'm feeling.”

Riad Asmat, Caterham chief executive officer “I am relatively happy with where we finished today. The final positions may be the same that we finished with in 2011 but the gap to the cars ahead is considerably smaller and that is good news for the whole team. Both drivers could definitely have found more time, without the traffic Heikki encountered and the problem we had on Vitaly's car in FP3, but those are the sort of issues we all have to deal with and we will learn from that. We can also look back at the winter tests where we showed good pace over the long runs in winter testing, and we have two drivers who can race hard, particularly here where Vitaly finished third last year, so we are all looking forward to the race tomorrow where I think we can put on a display that is more representative of where we really are in the pecking order.”

Mark Smith, Caterham technical director “There are always pluses and minuses with sessions like today's qualifying. In FP3 Vitaly had a hydraulics leak on his car that was fixed before the afternoon session, but it cost us time we wanted to spend on his qualifying setup, and both cars then went into Q1 with a good balance, but our final positions are probably not really a fair reflection of where we are in terms of the gap to the cars ahead. We have a solid plan to keep improving the key areas of the car's performance and I think we can look forward to a more competitive display in tomorrow's race.”

Marussia Timo Glock (21st, Q1 - 1m 30.923s) “Free Practice Three was my first chance to drive the car in stable conditions and it was clear that we had a lot of work to do on set-up. We had a big programme for practice, and qualifying actually, and we made a lot of changes, all of which were the right ones and made us a little step better each time. I am very pleased with what we have achieved so far. Mechanically I’m very happy with the car and everything is working well. We’ve all had a great lift but we have a long way to go and plenty of hard work to do to make the car quicker. The baseline is right but we have a lot of catching up to do. I have to say though that I am looking forward to the future and it feels great to have fun driving a Formula One car again!”

Charles Pic (22nd, Q1 - 1m 31.670s) “Today has been non-stop and we have had a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. Everyone has worked so hard to get us to a good position for qualifying and the race, and I would like to thank the whole team for their support, which has been incredible. We haven’t had the best preparation and there is more to come that we don’t even know about yet. I’m happy for today and for the team. Tomorrow is another day and I have to keep pushing hard for the race. I am very excited but I want to stay focused and leave the weekend knowing I got everything I could ask from myself in my first race.”

John Booth, Marussia team principal “After Timo’s 12th place in yesterday’s FP2 session, we can’t be disheartened by our positions in today’s qualifying. We’ve had a massive mountain to climb and we’re still a long way from the top, but we are all aware that things could easily have gone in a far less positive direction for us so far this weekend. With an untested car, people might well have forgiven us for that as well. But even at this early stage we are a long way ahead of where we were. We’ve made huge progress and we haven’t even started the job of unlocking the obvious potential of the MR01. I have to pay enormous credit to our two drivers. Despite the fact that we have barely scratched the surface, Timo is obviously enjoying himself again at the wheel, and rightly so. He’s working hard to give us the right feedback and his positivity is a very good barometer for us. Charles has faced an enormous challenge and should feel very proud of what he has achieved so far. He is very ‘hungry’ and will be exciting to watch, for sure. As for tomorrow, we need to keep our feet on the ground and our minds focused because the race may well expose some of the frailties of the package that we have not yet had the chance to explore.”

HRT Pedro de la Rosa (23rd, Q1 - 1m 33.495s) "We did all we could today. The team put in a great shift and just making it to today was an accomplishment for us, because these days have been very hard for all of us, including the drivers. But there's a lot of room for improvement and, although it's true that we have to change many things, we know what they are, so all I can say is that we need to be patient. I already said it when I arrived on Wednesday, this is a test for us, it's our preseason. The downside is that we're doing it in front of the cameras because everything is more evident. We should have done it before but we lacked the time, so now all we can do is work for Malaysia and the following races and focus on the important areas to make the car quicker."

Narain Karthikeyan (24th, Q1 - 1m 33.643s) "We knew it would be tough coming into Australia but today's result is hugely disappointing for any driver, there's no doubt about that. We can try and come up with excuses but, at the end of the day, we lacked preseason running time. We were up against it from the word go and yesterday's weather wasn't good which resulted in us losing a lot of dry running, hurting us badly. We've had a lot of issues with the car, which is something normal during preseason, but the problem is that this weekend was our own particular preseason and we were fighting agains, true]); _gaq.push([t the clock. So there's a fair amount of work to do and hopefully we can improve and move on from this."

Luis Perez-Sala, HRT team principal "It's obvious that we still have a lot of work ahead to be where we should be and even more to improve on that potential, but today was the first time we were able to complete both sessions with both cars and that is positive. Although today wasn't the result we desired, we've fixed some of yesterday's issues and were able to spot out the weakest points. Now we can work on them and find a solution. These solutions aren't immediate but with every day and every session we're in better conditions. Time is precious and next week in Malaysia we'll have another four sessions to prepare for the next race."

Pirelli Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director “This was one of the most unpredictable qualifying sessions that we have seen since our Formula One debut, with a real sense of anticipation and excitement. The teams were only able to collect some meaningful data in the hour-long free practice session before qualifying due to the mixed conditions yesterday, which also meant that there was even less grip than usual on this track. The performance of the compounds is much more closely matched now, which will also be a feature of the race. We saw a stunning lap from both McLaren drivers, and we’d particularly like to congratulate Romain Grosjean - the reigning GP2 champion and one of our former test drivers, who did a great job for us - on his excellent third place. Having had such limited dry running up to now, the teams will still struggle to find the best compromise for a fully loaded car tomorrow, which is sure to provide plenty of interest.”