JAPANESE GP - SATURDAY - TEAM QUOTES
Fernando Alonso (5th, 1:30.371): "In the context of the characteristics we have seen today, this result is OK I think. We more or less knew that qualifying would be difficult for us after this morning's practice session, because we didn't have enough pace on one lap. We have done the maximum though, and I am the leading Michelin car - with Fisi right alongside me. The car feels good to drive round here, so now we have to believe in the Michelin tyres and their consistency in the race. Of course, the position is not ideal for the championship fight - but we have seen big turnarounds already this season. There is nothing to say it cannot happen again tomorrow."
Giancarlo Fisichella (6th, 1:30.599): "We did all we could this afternoon in qualifying, we just needed more pace on one lap. The grip levels were not fantastic, which meant that the balance was a bit inconsistent - some high-speed understeer and nervousness in slow corners. But as the grip improves, that will calm down, and we know that the R26 will be consistent for the whole race distance. The main thing is that in spite of a difficult day, we are not giving up. Fernando and I will be pushing really hard tomorrow."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "We often say that relative performance is what matters in Formula 1, and that has surprised us today. While we can draw some consolation from being the fastest Michelin runners, that thought does not help in the battle with our main rivals Ferrari. In yesterday's low temperatures we looked competitive, and things have become more difficult as track temperatures rose some tendegrees today. Certainly the grid suggests that these higher temperatures were not perfectly suited to our tyre over one lap, but it should be borne in mind that qualifying is just a means to an end. The key to success in tomorrow's race will be finding the right balance between aggression and damage limitation, and we are hopeful that our tyres will bring us the consistency we need in the race."
Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "The only real source of satisfaction after today's qualifying session is to see our drivers line up alongside each other, as the leading Michelin contenders. The performance of some of our usual rivals showed that this was not an easy qualifying session to come through unscathed, and we have certainly achieved our realistic maximum today in these conditions: we thought we would end up on the third row, and we have achieved just that. From a championship point of view, the Toyotas on row two make our life harder - and mean that the start will one of the key moments in tomorrow's race. Now, the important thing will be to not write off the Grand Prix before it has been run. This season has already shown us how quickly the balance of power can swing from one day to the next over a Grand Prix weekend, and we will have to hope that our deficit in first lap performance is transformed into an advantage in terms of consistency. On the engine side, both RS26 V8 engines have performed faultlessly, and they will provide our drivers with the usual blend of driveability and performance throughout the race."
Kimi Raikkonen (11th, 1:30.827): "Not particularly a great qualifying for anyone in the team today and not where we expected to be. I do not really understand what the problem was as the car didn't feel too bad, we were just too slow. We will now have to look at the strategies available to us so that we can improve in the race tomorrow. It is not ideal to be starting where we are, but it is not impossible to still get a decent result."
Pedro de la Rosa (13th, 1:31.254): "The balance of the car was OK, but we just didn't have enough grip over one lap with the Michelin tyres that we selected. However we can work on our strategy now and try to make the best out of this situation. Hopefully the tyres that worked well in qualifying might not be as strong in the race."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "Very much a qualifying that was dominated by tyres. Clearly our choice, which we thought was right after this morning's session, was in fact wrong. This was compounded by a strong performance from Michelin's competition. The race will be very much influenced by the weather and maybe with an optimal fuel load and better race performance from our tyre selection we can still aim for a good result."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "We were half a second too slow, our target is to be the fastest Michelin team, once the tyre competitor has an advantage, and this we didn't achieve. For the first time this year we didn't manage to get into the top ten, which obviously is disappointing. Anyway we now will optimise our strategy and aim for a much better result tomorrow."
Felipe Massa (1st, 1:29.599): "This is a fantastic result. To be on pole position at a track that I like very much and where the driver counts for a lot is very special. I managed to do a great lap, with no mistakes and starting from the front is definitely important for the race. I am also happy that we have both Ferraris on the front row and that our main rivals are two rows behind us and I hope we can also finish the race with them the same number of places behind us. I am looking forward to the race when I hope we can continue to score as many points as possible for both championships and for me to try and reach my personal target of finishing third in the Drivers' classification. The Bridgestone tyres and the car behaved very well and we can expect this to also be the case tomorrow afternoon."
Michael Schumacher (2nd, 1:29.711): "Two Ferraris on the front row is the perfect position for the start, given that our main rivals are on row three. There was a lot of wind and even when trying to push hard, there is always the thought that you mustn't go over the limit, also partly because we know we have a very competitive package. On the dry, our performance has proved to be very consistent, thanks also to the valuable support of our friends at Bridgestone and that means we can be confident about tomorrow's race. I can't wait to see if all these theories can come true tomorrow. I am happy with the position from which I am starting, especially as Felipe is alongside me, after doing an extraordinary job today. Driving on this track in the way the performance of our car has allowed us to do is really marvellous. I am having so much fun, especially in the Esses which are a part of the track I am particularly keen on."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "A great all-red front row, which comes at a crucial moment in the season. Felipe secured a really good pole position on a track which highlights driver talent. Bridgestone has brought excellent tyres here and it is not a fluke that the top four cars on the grid are all on the Japanese rubber. We know how important tyre performance will be in determining the final result and today it was clear that the overall package is in excellent shape. Now the biggest step of the weekend awaits and by that I mean the 53 race laps. The key factors will be the same as ever: apart from the aforementioned tyres, they are the work of the team and drivers, reliability and strategy. We will have to be perfect in every area to achieve our objectives."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "We are very happy with this qualifying: the cars proved to be well balanced, the drivers performed impeccably and the Bridgestone tyres were excellent. Of course, we now have to tackle the most important part of the Grand Prix weekend, namely the race, but I can confidently say that we have all the necessary ingredients to do well. We had a clear idea as to which of the two types of tyre we wanted to use and the choice seems to have been the right one."
Ralf Schumacher (3rd, 1:29.989): "That was a great achievement for the whole team. After the last two races we needed that to show where we really are in terms of pace. We knew from the previous races that we were always there from a lap time point of view and we needed to show that. Today, with the clear help of our Bridgestone tyres, we were able to show that our car is a good car. We've obviously struggled for results in the second half of this season, but our car has improved a lot. I've always said that if we had a good weekend and the tyre is right then we could be heading for the podium. This is my favourite track and while we will obviously have a hard race with the two Ferraris ahead of us, we will do our best to catch them. It is important to qualify up the grid at Suzuka and now that we have achieved that we will push as hard as we can."
Jarno Trulli (4th, 1:30.039): "It's great to be so far up the grid. We've been competitive all weekend, especially today, and we were confident that we could have a result like this. It was very windy out there but the car balance still felt good throughout the afternoon and we were very competitive. I was very quick throughout qualifying and I could have made it into the top three, but I missed out by a few hundredths. Still we have a very strong car for the race tomorrow so I'm happy both for myself and for the team. Obviously we are keen to record a strong result at our home race so we will fight from the start to finish. We appreciate the extra support that we receive at this race from our local fans and employees so we will hope to reward them with something to cheer."
Pascal Vasselon, Senior General Manager Chassis: "This is our best qualifying result of the season and a very different story compared to China. But we knew what went wrong in Shanghai so we were always confident that we were able to put in a performance like this. We saw early in the weekend that our car was well balanced and fast around one lap in all types of conditions. So this is confirmation of the potential of our car because you need a good car to be fast around Suzuka. You also need good drivers as both Ralf and Jarno are. They did well so it has been a fine day for us. We were very strong in Q1 and Q2 and we preserved a set of tyres so we could have two outings on new tyres in Q3, which is definitely the best tactic. The wind was not a problem for the drivers, which is another good indication of the car's quality. We must also give a big thank you to Bridgestone because the tyres are working very well, both in terms of the first lap and consistency. As for the race, we are on the optimal strategy according to our calculations, so we are in good shape and looking forward to tomorrow."
Nico Rosberg (10th, 1:31.856): "It was a good qualifying for us today, and being in the top ten is a good step forward. I was third quickest in the first session and then seventh in the second, so we've obviously made some progress with the car, which is a good sign for next year. The Bridgestones were working very well today, so a positive outcome in the race tomorrow is within reach."
Mark Webber (14th, 1:31.276): "Qualifying proved tricky for me as I couldn't quite get the balance that I would have liked. I think we could have done pretty well in the end but I had a moment at turn five and paid a big price for it. It's a shame because the car is obviously quick. I didn't have one of my better qualifying sessions today, but we'll just have to see how it goes tomorrow in the race."
Sam Michael, Technical Director: "It's good to get one car in the top ten. It's pretty clear that Bridgestone have the advantage here and there are no problems on the car, so now we'll work on strategy tonight to see how we can get some points tomorrow. Nico made it easily into Q3, Mark has flexibility on his fuel strategy and all the systems on the cars are working correctly, so we're hoping for a good race."
Simon Corbyn, Cosworth: "There are some big bumps here and, combined with the winds today, Cosworth saw significant time running right into our 20,000RPM soft limiter during qualifying. Strong engine performance always helps, but it is more significant around here than at many Formula One circuits. Nico made good use of his fresh Series 6 engine to see final qualifying on his first visit to the track and Mark was unfortunate not to join him. My thanks to everyone representing Cosworth in Suzuka for doing a sterling job."
Jenson Button (7th, 1:30.992): "I would obviously have liked to be further up the grid here but we made the best of what we had today. On low fuel the car was very good but as soon as we put the fuel in we were struggling for rear grip. For some reason, in these windy conditions, the car doesn't work so well but we're expecting it to be a lot calmer tomorrow. I think it will be a tough race but I know we will have tremendous support from the Honda fans out there and we will do everything we can to secure a good result."
Rubens Barrichello (8th, 1:31.478): "I would like to thank all the boys for doing a tremendous job. When the circumstances are not working in your favour it's very difficult, but we have done the best job we can. Thanks to the hard work of the team I was able to qualify well inside the top ten today. This is obviously our home race so we will be giving it everything we have tomorrow in order to secure the best possible result and to put on a good show for our home crowd."
Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: "Our results in this session were satisfactory. In the end we were the second fastest team on Michelins so far this weekend and we are in a good place for the start of the race. Given the issues that Rubens was having this morning, we elected to change him to the spare chassis. As a result he was much happier and fought hard to secure his place in the top ten. Jenson was very fast throughout qualifying and got everything out of the car this afternoon. We shall see how the different strategies play out tomorrow but hopefully we can put on a good show in front of Honda's many fans!"
David Coulthard (17th, 1:32.252): "I love this track it's a great challenge, but unfortunately our car just isn't generating the overall grip that's needed here. The balance isn't too bad, it's as good as it's been during any other lap I've driven here, we just lack efficiency on this type of high-speed circuit. We're not really performing as we should be. The year started badly and we've never really recovered from it, it's a big disappointment."
Robert Doornbos (18th, 1:32.402): "It's difficult to get the maximum out of the car and tyres in these dry conditions and we struggled during qualifying. I didn't think we'd qualify this low, I thought we'd get through to the second session for sure. We've got a long day ahead tomorrow, it's not going to be easy."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "Both drivers struggled today with performance on new tyres. The longer runs this morning were reasonable, but the car lacked pace on new tyres and it's obviously frustrating to qualify 17th and 18th. The circuit seems to favour Bridgestone at the moment, however hopefully some variable conditions in the race tomorrow will allow us to progress through the field and we'll be working hard on our strategy this evening."
Nick Heidfeld (9th, 1:31.513): "Everything was okay, and qualifying went as expected. It is obvious the fastest four are on a different tyre to us. Also we have to wait and see how their race strategy turns out. During the last part of qualifying there were a few rain drops on my visor, but they didn't have any impact on the grip."
Robert Kubica (12th, 1:31.094): "First qualifying was pretty good for me, but in second qualifying I suddenly got a lot of oversteer. I had two scary moments and the lap time was not very good, but we had a second set of tyres. On these I was about three and a half tenths quicker into corner five, but unfortunately then there was a lot of wind and I picked up a lot of understeer and lost two tenths. However, I was still quicker, but then I arrived into corner eight and the bottom of the car touched the inside kerb, which put me on the outside kerb and this pushed me on the grass. I was sliding through the gravel and was very close to the barrier. We now hope for a good race tomorrow as I think we have good tyres, even though the overall grip is not fantastic."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "Robert missed the third part of qualifying by a small margin, as on his decisive lap he went off the track so was 12th. Nick, as in his recent races, made it into the top ten. In the third part of qualifying the weather played a part as, due to the light rain, we stopped our long run to fit new tyres for our fast lap. Finally Nick qualified 9th, and from our starting positions I think we can do well."
Willy Rampf, Technical Director Chassis: "All in all we are satisfied with Nick's starting position, and confident for the race. We hoped to make up one or two positions at the end, but we don't know what fuel loads our competitors are carrying. Maybe we will see a few surprises tomorrow. For the first time Robert didn't make it into the top ten, as he had to stop his second run in the second part of qualifying after going off. For him it is the first time in Suzuka and on Friday he didn't have the chance to drive very much. Free practice today is not much of a preparation for such a challenging track."
Christijan Albers (16th, 1:33.750): "I think we had a fantastic day today, we took everything we could from the car to post some good lap times. My first outing was slowed a little by traffic but atleast I was able to do a quick one towards the end of the first session. We are really happy with the result today having two Red Bulls and a Toro Rosso behind us. Tomorrow will be a tough day but we have shown some good pace in qualifying."
Tiago Monteiro (21st, 1:33.709): "It was very frustrating today. I have been in F1 for two years and we have never had this specific problem before. It has always been a very reliable car and unfortunately something like this happens now. That's racing and it happens. There was a problem with the front end of the car that gave me a strange feeling on track about halfway through my quick lap. I kept pushing till the end to make sure I had a reasonable time but it was effecting the car's performance. It could have been both Spykers in the top 16 today but I will just have to push hard in the race tomorrow."
Colin Kolles, Managing Director: "I was very happy with our performance today even though Tiago encountered some problems. I am happy to say that I think he also would have qualified in the second session had these not occurred. Perhaps a bit of luck is coming back to us now and Christijan did a fantastic job to put the car ahead of a number of our rivals. I am looking forward to the race tomorrow."
Dominic Harlow, Chief Race Engineer: "A mixed qualifying session today with terrible luck for Tiago incurring a car problem early in Q1 meaning he could not complete a competitive time on new tyres. Christijan faired better finding his way into Q2 with another excellent lap. We took a more tactical approach to Q2 and expect a strong race tomorrow. The car has been well balanced in the dry and both drivers are confident that our Bridgestone tyres will offer us good race performance tomorrow."
Vitantonio Liuzzi (15th, 1:31.943): "I am reasonably happy about qualifying, with both Q1 and Q2 going quite well. The car's balance was okay and already this morning we saw the car responded well. This is a difficult and technical circuit where if you push hard you can make a difference, which is why I love driving here. Unfortunately in Q2 we had a bit of a problem with traffic on the final lap and maybe I could have done a bit better without that, but for us, just getting into Q2 is not that easy. I am looking forward to tomorrow's race."
Scott Speed (19th, 1:32.867): "The lap started great and I had a good first sector, then going into Turn 9 Jenson was trying to let me go and I caught up to him too quickly and lost some downforce. So, when I exited the corner I ended up going over the exit kerb, stayed on it too long and then ran onto the grass, got dirt on the tyres and that was really the end of my lap, and here, lap 1 is the only one that you have. We haven't hit traffic in the last five qualifyings, so I guess it was about time for it to happen again. It was unfortunate as the car was handling good. We did some guesswork on set-up going into the session and it was working well."
Takuma Sato (20th, 1:33.666): "We were quite happy with our progress during the morning's free practice session and felt prepared for Qualifying this afternoon. However, during Qualifying, we were just not quick enough, so I am quite disappointed. We shall now just have to see what happens tomorrow and hope that we have a strong package for the race."
Sakon Yamamoto (22nd, No Time): "After this morning's practice session and at the start of Qualifying I had a really good feeling about the car. I tried my best and pushed hard during Qualifying, but unfortunately I made a mistake at the Hairpin and the engine stopped. It is a real shame because I know that the engineers and the boys have worked extremely hard for this race, but I have a very good reason to be positive about the race tomorrow."
Aguri Suzuki, Team Principal: "We pushed hard to develop our car for this race and have brought many new aero developments to Suzuka. I want to thank everyone in the team for all of their hard work, but we need to improve greatly on our car performance because it is still not enough. Taku and the boys did a great job today and it is unfortunate that Sakon stalled during Qualifying. Looking forward to tomorrow, we will give it 110% and hope that we have a good race here at Suzuka."