ESPN rounds up all the reaction from up and down the Sao Paulo paddock following qualifying for the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton (1st): “It was so close between us, we needed 100 percent today, not 99. I was really happy with my lap and I think that we did a great job collectively as a team to get pole today. We had to do a lot of work overnight and the team was faultless with their efforts. I was really happy after my first lap, I immediately knew that we were off to a good start. The track felt good, the grip was amazing and it felt better than ever. It’s a fantastic circuit, they generally don’t make circuits like this anymore – it’s quite hilly, quite short, very technical and overall very challenging. The rain was popping in every now and then, so it was difficult to really tell whether it was going to be slippery in the next corner or not. That was definitely tricky, but I think all of us did quite a good job and luckily the rain held off, so we could push at the end.”
Valtteri Bottas (3rd): “With the pace I had all weekend it felt like I would fight for pole position, so to end up P3 with a Ferrari between Lewis and me is a bit disappointing. I think pole was up for grabs today. I was more than two tenths up in the second run of Q3, but I lost a bit of time in Turn 12 and I was the first car going up the back straight, so I had no tow and just kept losing time going up the hill towards the finish line. But it was an overall strong qualifying for us as a team and another great pole for Lewis. We will both start on a softer tyre than Vettel, so that could make the start tomorrow quite interesting. Let’s wait and see what the race holds for us.”
James Allison, technical director: “It is always tight at the top in Interlagos, with a short lap and qualifying decided by the smallest of margins every year. The pressure is always on here and all the more so in a session that threatened rain throughout and, although it never quite materialised, that spectre affected our decisions throughout the hour. The most tense moment was probably at the beginning of Q2, as we had to decide whether to take the risk of a single run on the Soft tyre or to go out on the SuperSoft; in the end, we went for the safer strategy and hats off to Ferrari for the punt they took which paid off. Nonetheless, we are delighted to have one of our cars on pole with Lewis and Valtteri just shy of making it an all-silver front row. However, starting on the softer compound tomorrow could be an advantage at a circuit that offers opportunities to pass at the start. We will hope to make strong starts with both cars and then to look after the tyres in order to try and convert our strong qualifying result into victory.”
Sebastian Vettel (2nd): “I think what happened today with the scales is clear, so I believe we should just talk about qualifying. Today we had some good laps and tyre management was really good. On my last run in Q3, I made a small mistake in Turn 8 and that cost me some time and momentum. I knew I had to push a little more, maybe it would work and maybe not, and in the end it didn’t work, but I am not complaining, as the car felt really good to drive. Starting on the Option (Soft) tyres tomorrow may be useful for the race, unless it rains of course: we also have an estimate of what the disadvantage might be right at the getaway, through having less grip, but it’s a very short run to Turn 1, so we’ll see. I think a lot will depend on the job we do at the start to get everything right”.
Kimi Raikkonen (4th): “Considering how difficult the weekend has been so far, this qualifying has been our best session. The result is obviously not ideal but we did a good job. I was happy with my car and that’s a positive thing for tomorrow. In Q2 the conditions were tricky, there was risk of rain, but we decided to go out with the Soft tyres to try and start the race on that compound and it worked. We think this is the best option for us, but now we’ll see, as there are many things that can happen in the race. On my last attempt I did a very good first part of the lap, but then I fell off a little bit in the last sector; I tried to get it back on the last corner but could not improve my lap time. The time difference with the guys at the front is very small, it was a close battle; the race will be very interesting tomorrow”.
Daniel Ricciardo (6th): “I think we have a good car and in qualifying to be half a second off pole around here, where from memory we haven’t been that close in the past, is positive. We also know from yesterday that we are even better in race conditions. Obviously, with the penalty I start a bit outside of the front pack in 11th but I will hopefully make my way through quickly and have some fun once I join the fight at the front. The rain passed pretty quickly but it did force us to use the supersoft tyre in Q2. Ideally, we wanted to start on the soft tomorrow but fortunately it was only Ferrari who made it work and Mercedes are in the same position as us. I don’t think it makes too much difference as we have a good car on the super and also good tyre management. Maybe this mixed strategy will also force a two-stop race through the field and mix things up. I had some experience last year of coming from the back so I know a few spots around this track to overtake on and I’m game for that. I think my race will be shaped on how quickly I can get through the field and latch on to the top five. Anyway, whatever happens it’ll be fun.”
Max Verstappen (5th): “We did the best we could, which was fifth, so I think we should be happy with that. Conditions were a bit tricky but everyone handled it very well in the garage and we came through with a good performance. We tried to get a quicker lap on the soft tyre in Q2 but just missed out. It isn’t a disaster starting on supersofts so we aren’t too concerned. The balance of the car wasn’t ideal, we were missing some front grip. If we had it spot on we may have had a small chance of challenging a Ferrari, but when you are losing so much time on the straights it is always going to be a difficult. I’m confident the car has a good set-up for the race. Tomorrow it looks like it will get warmer and therefore tougher on the rear tyres, we should be in good shape as I think this suits us better. It is always going to be a hard race in the dry around here so if the rain comes, I think it could play into our hands.”
Esteban Ocon (13th): “It wasn’t a great qualifying session. For various reasons things just didn’t come together for us. We made a set-up change between final practice and qualifying and it didn’t really bring the benefit we needed. So the car didn’t feel ideal for qualifying. Ahead of the session, I believed we had the potential to make Q3 but it didn’t work out for us. I’ve also got to take the grid penalty [five places] so I will be starting near the back and it’s going to make the race even more difficult. Perhaps some rain tomorrow would work in my favour and allow me to catch up and fight for points.”
Sergio Perez (12th): “It was a challenging session and it’s disappointing to miss out on Q3 by such a small margin. It’s been a difficult weekend so far, losing out on so much track time on a circuit where half a tenth can make a big difference. The truth is we weren’t as competitive as we expected to be, but I think we can still recover to have a strong race tomorrow. We really struggled in Q1 where we had to use an extra set of tyres just to make Q2, which meant we only had used tyres when the track was getting better at the end of Q2 and we couldn’t improve. I think our real pace is better than the speed we showed today and if we have a good start we will be in a position to fight for points. The weather could still play a big part, so we’ll go out to try and make up some of the ground we lost today.”
Lance Stroll (19th): “It was just a bad qualifying. It was a bit of everything – rain mistakes and not a good lap. It was frustrating as there was definitely a lot more in it. I shall have to reflect on qualifying, learn from the mistakes, bounce back tomorrow, hopefully I will get a good start and go from there, as it is a lot of fun to drive round here.”
Sergey Sirotkin (15th): “It was a good session with tricky conditions which is always good for us. When it’s cloudy and damp, we always perform better. The car felt very good, I had one run less than everyone else in Q1 and managed to get through which is positive for us. We went into Q2 thinking the rain would come, and when I exited the pits, due to the changeable conditions the scrubbed tyres were cold meaning I had to push hard to generate temperature. On my lap, I had to slow down to avoid Lewis, which in turn meant putting a wheel on the grass and ruining the lap. Overall, it was a good session and we are happy with the performance.”
Nico Hulkenberg (14th): “We were missing two or three tenths out there today. Q2 was especially challenging with the rain looking to come in and we probably made the wrong calls on timing, but with hindsight that’s easy to say. It was difficult to know the grip level and judging how much you can push the car into corners. We got everything out from the car but we’re lacking a bit of pace, which is why we don’t look so great on the timesheets. Tomorrow will be tricky with our starting position, but we’ll be realistic and fight for a good result.”
Carlos Sainz (16th): “It was a disappointing Saturday in general. We knew it would be tight out there and things just didn’t work out. The single-lap pace hasn’t been there all weekend for us. Our long-run pace looked more promising on Friday and we know tomorrow is a new day. We have some options to explore on strategy and we’ll be giving it a go in the race, like always.”
Brendon Hartley (17th): “I was two-hundredths of a second from going through to Q2 today, which is annoying. I made a mistake on my lap with a big front lock into Turn 8, it caused a small flat spot and I lost around one and a half tenths which made the difference of a shot at Q2. It was tricky out there with the rain, but I had good information from the pit wall and my engineers about the track conditions. I was happy with the car and I want to thank the team for the good work over the last days, after I wasn’t too happy with balance in free practice. The margins were tight today and we just missed out. It’s going to be a tough race for us, but the car felt decent and anything can happen tomorrow, especially if we have mixed conditions which are forecast.”
Pierre Gasly (10th): “I felt really good with Qualifying, it’s a great achievement to get into Q3 today. I’m happy with my performance and P9 is a good position to start from tomorrow (due to Ricciardo’s penalty). It was quite stressful and exciting at the same time for the whole session. The rain increased in Q1, but we managed to put everything together to make it through to Q2 and then Q3. It was tricky, because in these weather conditions you never know what to expect, how much grip you will have when you approach the corners, how wet they are going to be, but I think we did really well in the end. Even if we finished today’s Qualifying in the top 10, it won’t be an easy race as our competitors around us are very fast. I hope we will have some good battles and I will certainly push flat out to score some more points tomorrow.”
Romain Grosjean (9th): “We had wanted to be best-of-the-rest today, but we didn’t quite get the conditions as favorable as we would’ve wanted. I have to say, my car in Q2 felt amazing. I went for my first timed lap, and into turn three the kill engine switch went on, so I lost the power and had to switch the car on again. I knew then I only had one attempt at a lap time, and that lap was amazing. The car felt really good. I was confident heading into Q3, but then we picked up understeer for some reason. I didn’t quite get the same lap times, so we need to analyze that. With those conditions, it’s very easy to get a bit of a difference and not have the same balance. I think we should be alright tomorrow. Wet or dry, there’s nothing we can do about it. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.”
Kevin Magnussen (11th): “I’m very disappointed. It was bad luck, I guess. We were on the track when it was raining the most on my two runs in Q2. You do your best to try and go on track at the right time, but when it’s going like that, you never know when it’s going to start raining. It’s hard to know when is the best time to go out. Clearly, we didn’t get it right. I think the forecast is dry for tomorrow. It’s been pretty accurate so far this week. It’s just unfortunate as I think we had a very good car today. Between myself and Romain, we should have been easily best-of-the-rest. It’s annoying, but let’s see what positives we can get from having a free tyre choice for Sunday.”
Guenther Steiner: “It wasn’t a perfect qualifying session, but still a good one. We were just out always at the wrong time. These things happen when the weather is changing like that. The car was good and the drivers did a good job. We qualified ninth and eleventh, which should be eighth and 10th after Ricciardo’s penalty, which isn’t bad for Sunday. I’m sure we can fight for points tomorrow.”
Fernando Alonso (18th): “My qualifying lap was still enjoyable, and with new tyres and light fuel these cars feel good, although obviously not quick enough to go through the sessions.
“In dry conditions, early in the weekend, we already saw we didn’t have the pace. We’ve been slow all weekend and we were slow in qualifying as well, so there are no surprises. There’s nothing we can do now, other than try to improve tomorrow and try to help the team with some points.
“We need some rain or a crazy race to benefit from, as in terms of pure pace we are maybe not quick enough. We’re starting from the back, so we can take some risks and gamble on strategy.”
Stoffel Vandoorne (20th): “It’s not been the best weekend for us so far. We saw in practice this morning that we were never really on the pace, and it’s unfortunate to confirm that in qualifying today. We can never seem to really benefit from wet conditions in qualifying as it never rains at the right time for us.
“We’ll see what we can do tomorrow. We have nothing to lose in the race and hopefully the weather will give us something to allow us a bit of a gamble, as I think that’s the only opportunity we have to progress. We haven’t really been competitive all weekend here.
“In Mexico, the tyre degradation played to our advantage, but here it looks like it’s not going to be the case, so hopefully the weather will do that for us.”
Marcus Ericsson (7th): “It was a great day for us as a team, with both cars at the top of the midfield – a super performance. I am happy for the whole team and, as for myself, this is the best qualifying I have had in Formula One. I managed to improve in every segment, even in these tricky conditions, and didn’t make any mistakes. The car felt good and it is just great to deliver such a result for the team. With Charles just behind we have great starting positions for tomorrow, and I look forward to the race where we will aim to score some good points.”
Charles Leclerc (8th): “What an amazing day for the team. Qualifying as best of the rest, with both cars having such strong results is an incredible achievement that we should all be proud of. I was very happy with my lap at the end of Q2, a bit less in Q3. Marcus did an incredible job today, and well done to him.”
Mario Isola, head of car racing: “As usual, it was very close at Interlagos, meaning that just the smallest mistake or adjustment could result in quite a big difference. The same applies to the strategy too, which can make a real difference when everything else is so closely-matched. At the moment, it’s hard to make any predictions about the competitive order here, but the tyres are reacting as we expected them to. We’ve not seen any cases of excessive degradation – only some blistering that didn’t affect performance – even though the lap times are nearly a second faster than their equivalents last year. Teams were using quite varied run plans during both sessions today, so it’s going to be interesting to see whether or not that translates into a few different strategies on Sunday.”