Russian Grand Prix – Who said what after qualifying

ESPN rounds up all the reaction from up and down the Sochi paddock following qualifying for the 2018 Russian Grand Prix.

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton (2nd): “This has never been the strongest circuit for me, but Q1 was really good. My run on the HyperSoft at the end of Q2 was a great lap, but then I couldn’t repeat it in Q3. I was two tenths up on my final lap but I made a mistake – I went quite wide and then the back stepped out at the next corner. I think I had the pace for pole, but Valtteri did the better job this time. It’s great for the team to have a 1-2 here, we’ll try and convert that tomorrow. We’ve made some big improvements to how we use the tyres and how we set the car up and it’s showing. It’s tough to overtake here, so the race will be about tyre management and who gets the best start. I’ll be pushing hard; you saw Valtteri’s great start last year, and I think that’ll be my best shot to win.”

Valtteri Bottas (1st): “It’s been a long time since I last took pole in Austria this year, so this feels very good! We made some changes after FP3 and the car felt even better in Qualifying. I managed to find time in almost every run in Qualifying; I just had to put everything together in Q3. I was able to get a really good lap in on the second run and it was enough for pole, so I’m happy. Our pace looked good so far; on Friday, we were very close to Ferrari and Red Bull, but today we looked strong, so we should hopefully have a competitive car tomorrow. The Ferraris will be strong as well, but we should have a car that gives us the chance to fight them for win. The start will be decisive; we need to aim for a very good initial get-away. The straight into Turn 2 is so long that it’s easy to overtake if the guys behind you get a better start. Today was a good start into the weekend and puts us in a good position for tomorrow, but the main day is still ahead of us and I’ll give it everything to maintain the lead.”

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel (3rd): ”I think the car today was better than yesterday. The session was fine, and I think we could use our car to its full potential, there was nothing wrong with it, but we just weren’t very fast enough. Nevertheless, the race is tomorrow, and if I can bring the good feeling I had towards the end of the session into the race, then I think we are in a good position. For sure, I want to do everything well and I think that there is a chance to overtake after the start. We need a good getaway-but not too good, otherwise you end up giving the other guy a tow!”

Kimi Raikkonen (4th): ”Today In qualifying our car was the best we have seen this weekend . On my last attempt in Q3 I had a pretty good lap going , but then one of the Mercedes backed off in front of me and the lap did not come together. The feeling with the car was pretty good, but obviously it was not enough. Overall, It looks like we are a bit behind here, and it has been like this all weekend so far. Obviously it’s not ideal, but it is what it is. This is not an easy place to overtake, but tomorrow we’ll do our best and see what happens.”

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo (12th): “Knowing you’re taking planned penalties before the weekend makes it easier to accept that you won’t complete qualifying and then you can just focus on the race. Obviously, we are never going to know where we would have been in Q3 but we’re pretty happy with the car this weekend and we’ve performed well on a circuit that we aren’t normally that strong on. There is a lot to do tomorrow and that’s when the fun really begins for us. There are a few of us out of position at the back of the grid, so let’s see who can fight to the front quickest and have some fun doing it. I actually hope the tyre degradation is high, like we have seen so far this weekend, that way nobody will be cruising on an easy one-stop strategy and hopefully we can provide some real entertainment. The main thing for now is to decide which tyre to start the race on. I think the temperatures are going to be higher tomorrow as well and the long run down to Turn 2 will be interesting. If I’m honest, the main excitement today was my AFL team winning. I got up early to watch the game and it was well worth it, my voice is definitely suffering after all the shouting though. I will put it all on the line tomorrow and try to return the favour.”

Max Verstappen: (11st): “We knew before qualifying that we would have to start from the back tomorrow, but I think it has all gone better than expected so far. We did a good job in Q1 which I’m happy about. The car has felt good all weekend, except for this morning, when I had some troubles, but we managed to turn it around and we are competitive again. We are closer than expected, what we lose on the straights, we can definitely make up in the corners. Even though we had good pace today, I don’t think it’s too painful for us to take the penalty here. We needed a new engine anyway, so it’s good for upcoming races to take it now. The performance we had today shows again that we’ve worked very well on the set-up. From FP3 to qualifying we made some good steps forward so I’m confident about tomorrow. We just have to make sure that we have good exits out of the last few corners and keep our tyres alive, because the overtaking will not be easy on the tyres. If you follow other cars closely, it’s hard on the front tyres, so we have to consider the best approach. You never know what can happen and we won’t stop fighting, but from where I’m starting, I think the most realistic birthday present will be fifth.”

Force India

Esteban Ocon (6th): “The car performed really well today and it’s clear we’ve taken a good step forward during the last couple of races. I’m happy with the result – P6 – but I made a mistake on my final lap in Q3, which meant I wasn’t able to really fight against Kevin [Magnussen] for P5. That’s a shame, but starting from sixth gives us a good chance tomorrow. It will be really interesting to see how the hypersofts perform in the race and we know there will be a lot of cars further back on the ultrasofts. Let’s see how the strategies unfold, but I believe we can convert our strong performance today into a good race result tomorrow.”

Sergio Perez (8th): “I am happy with how the car felt, but I think we could have been higher up the grid. My aim was to be in P5, but my Q3 laps were not the best and I lost a little time. Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to pick up some positions at the start. I’m optimistic for tomorrow, but it’s going to be a long race. Strategy will be crucial because we are not starting on the best tyre compound and those just outside the top ten, on a harder compound, will be our main threat. Maybe we could have tried to go through Q2 on the ultrasofts, but in the end it will be the same for everyone around us. We need to make our hypersofts last and make the most of the first stint. I am sure there will be opportunities and we’ll need to be there to take them.

Williams

Lance Stroll (20th): ”I did my first run but locked up so had to abort that. Then I was on a pretty good lap, but I didn’t get a final run because there were yellow flags due to Sergey spinning. We are off the pace, like we have always been, so nothing has really changed. It is frustrating, but we weren’t very quick. We will see what we can do tomorrow.”

Sergey Sirotkin (18th): ”It was a tricky session and I’m quite disappointed with my mistake at the end. I think we’ve been struggling quite a bit. I don’t think we really had that impressive performance today and I just tried to do more than was physically possible. I just didn’t want to do another steady lap, I tried to do something special and I didn’t get away with it. Unfortunately, I made a mistake which I’m very sorry and disappointed about. I wanted to do something more than just a good lap.”

Renault

Nico Hulkenberg (14th): “Today we ran a wise strategy. A decent qualifying position was out of reach on pure pace so we opted for the approach which means we don’t have to start the race on the Hypersoft tyre. Everything we did today should help us in our battle on track tomorrow.”

Carlos Sainz (15th): “Unfortunately we saw that our pace was not strong enough to fight for P5 or P6 so opting for the free tyre choice was too appealing to ignore with the tyre allocation here. We saw the potential benefits of this strategy in Singapore and it could make for an interesting Grand Prix tomorrow. In the end, our pace will dictate our ultimate position but we’ve given ourselves the best chance for the race.”

Toro Rosso

Brendon Hartley (16th): ”We didn’t put a lot of emphasis on Qualifying today because of the penalties we will incur tomorrow. Yesterday was a big exercise for Honda introducing a new power unit, but the decision was made not to use it for the rest of the weekend. It is definitely quicker, there’s no question marks there, but we want it to be perfect for Japan and make sure everything works as it should. What also makes it a tough race for us is starting from the back. Our long run pace yesterday looked promising on the Soft tyre, so I think there could still be a bit to play for tomorrow. We’ve seen a few incidents here in the past, it’s a tricky first corner because it tightens up after the long straight off the start line, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow – we will still aim to do our best.”

Pierre Gasly (13th): ”I think it’s been really positive since we introduced the new engine yesterday, there was some noticeable improvements and we decided to switch the engine back for the rest of the weekend to save some mileage for the end of the season. I’m really happy with the car, this weekend in Sochi I have a great feeling but it’s a shame we need to start at the back of the grid tomorrow after the engine penalty. Looking at last year’s race it seems it might be difficult to overtake here but, with the chassis the way it is, I’m still feeling confident. Tyre degradation will be key tomorrow, so hopefully we can make something with the strategy, I’ll give a big push and you never know, maybe we can fight our way through for a good result!”

Haas

Romain Grosjean (8th): “Unfortunately, we had too much traffic on the out lap of my last run in Q3. The tires were really cold to start the lap and I just didn’t get the grip. I couldn’t repeat my lap time from Q2, which is a bit of a shame, but it happens. Some cars were really slowing down a lot in the last two corners and that created a bit of a queue. For the race, well, we’re starting on hypersofts with Renault behind starting on ultrasofts. They didn’t run in Q2, but with the other penalties, they’re going to start 11th and 12th. I don’t know what it’s going to be like. We’ll do our best, but P9 is definitely not where I wanted to be.”

Kevin Magnussen (5th): “I’m happy. It’s best of the rest, again – pole position for us. It’s a good feeling. It was a good lap. It could’ve been better. The only place I messed up was in turn two. I hit the curb and definitely when you do that, you lose time with wheelspin. I thought from there it would probably be difficult, but I kept it together and did a good rest of the lap. Luckily, it’s not like the Red Bulls qualified into Q3 and then just didn’t run. We have more people running the hypersoft tyre – that’s a bit better for us. It would’ve been worse if the Force Indias or both Saubers had started just outside the top-10 with fresh tires. That would’ve been tricky. I’m sure the Red Bulls will come back strong. It’ll be interesting to see how far they get. There’s a good chance they’ll get back up, but the best of the rest is our target.”

Guenther Steiner: “It was a good result today. Starting fifth with Kevin, it’s very nice. Romain just had a little issue with the temperature of his tires as he started his last lap, so he’ll start ninth. Again, that’s not perfect, but it’s still not a bad position to start in. Let’s see if we can get some points tomorrow.”

McLaren

Fernando Alonso (17th): “In qualifying today we didn’t use our full potential because our starting position is already fixed due to the grid penalties we’ll receive. That meant I had two objectives this afternoon: setting a lap within the 107 per cent limit, and helping Stoffel with a tow along the straight. I didn’t go for a performance run: I used the engine in safe mode. Much of our focus has been on our race pace: hopefully we can execute a good strategy, look after our tyres, and look to be close to the points tomorrow. The tyres are looking a little tricky around here as it seems to be hotter than usual. We believe the softest tyre will suffer a little bit, so hopefully we’ll be in a position to benefit from that in the race.”

Stoffel Vandoorne (19th): “It was always going to be difficult for us around here this weekend. In FP3 this morning, I think we saw that the pace of the car wasn’t looking very strong. Going in to qualifying, our target was to try and get ahead of the Williamses: we managed to beat one of them today. I don’t yet know where that puts us once all the penalties are applied. Our car is lacking performance in a number of areas. The balance isn’t always perfect but it feels reasonable; we just lack general performance.”

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson (10th): “It is an excellent achievement for the team to have both cars finish qualifying in Q3. We have been strong all weekend, and should have a good chance to score some points tomorrow, which is great. I am confident for the race, and look forward to fighting for a good result.”

Charles Leclerc (7th): “I am very happy with today. We have made a good step forward since yesterday, and I improved my driving quite a bit. It is great to see the hard work that we have put in this weekend pay off on track. P7 is my best starting position so far this season, so I look forward to the race tomorrow.”

Pirelli

Mario Isola, head of car racing: “Strategy was clearly at the forefront of qualifying, so we’re going to see an interesting situation tomorrow with the top four cars starting on the ultrasoft tyre, immediately followed by six cars behind them starting on the faster hypersoft. If you add in to this the number of cars starting out of position due to grid penalties, with a completely free choice of tyres, then we could see a big mix of strategies tomorrow. The ultrasoft starters can target a one-stop race, but the situation for those starting on the hypersoft is less clear cut, even though they should be much quicker off the start line.”