Teams report from qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, Round 1 of the Formula 1 World Championship, at Albert Park in Melbourne.
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “P1 and P3 is a really good way to start the first race after a winter with so many changes. Under new regulations, there were no guarantees for us and we knew from testing that Ferrari were very strong. It was exciting to have that close battle for pole, right down to the wire with the final laps in Q3, and it’s clear that we have a big fight on our hands with Ferrari. Lewis has been flying all weekend so it’s great to see him put it on pole. For Valtteri, he might be a little disappointed to miss out on P2 by just a few hundredths. But you cannot expect everything perfect on the first weekend. He improved with every run and there is still more to come, no doubt. Now we need to get our heads down, do the homework and see what tomorrow brings us. Whatever happens, it will only be the first part of the answer to how the competitive picture looks. But I hope most of all that we see a great battle for the fans to enjoy, to begin this new era for the sport.”
James Allison, Technical Director: “That was an exhilarating session. Massive credit to all the people in this team who, after such a strong year in 2016, have created a car to a new set of regulations, come back a year later and put it on pole again. It’s a splendid effort from the entire team. But what is clear is that it’s very close. We’ve got some serious competition and this could be the start of quite a memorable season. We’ve just got to make sure that it’s us who keeps our nose ahead in the development race. I’ve joined a very strong group of people here and it’s a privilege to be part of this team.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal: “A frustrating qualifying for Daniel, unfortunately losing the car in Q3 on his first run where the rear end of the car just got away from him at turn 14, and it looks like the guys have got a bit of work on tonight to get the repairs all sorted in time. Max extracted everything out of the car today. You can see we’ve got some time to make up compared to Mercedes and Ferrari but we are fifth on the grid for tomorrow’s race and hopefully we can make some progress from there.”
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer: “Unfortunately it wasn’t a great day for Lance with his accident in FP3. It really set his whole day off to a bad start, from which it was difficult to recover. There was a lot of work needed on the car; we changed the entire back end as well as most of the front suspension. The team worked very hard to get the car ready for qualifying but there was only time for him to get one run in the first session. Under huge pressure and with not very much practice in the car in any sort of qualifying format I think that Lance did a good job to get that time on the board. On Felipe’s side it was actually a very good day. We were hoping to get a position in the top 10 after a good session in FP3 with some long runs to gather the data we missed yesterday. Then it was a solid qualifying session for him with quite a tight fight in the top 10. Felipe did a great job to get P7 on the grid. I think Felipe can put up a good fight for points tomorrow in the race. Realistically for Lance, the race will be difficult but it will be a good opportunity to gain experience and put him in a better position with more confidence for China. Congratulations to the team for producing a car that is able to compete strongly in the top 10 from race one. The 2017 season is underway!”
Eric Boullier, Mclaren-Honda Racing Director: “Fernando showed all his experience this afternoon, and coupled it with his undiminished natural speed, to carve a perfect lap whose verve and fluidity deserved better than P13. But in truth that’s all our car is capable of delivering at the moment, and Fernando produced it all. Bravo. Stoffel suffered a fuel pressure problem that caused him to have to abort not one but two runs early in Q1, but then kept his cool to post a very good lap in extremely frustrating and stressful circumstances. He’ll start tomorrow’s race from P18 – but, like Fernando’s, his lap was a lot better than that. We know we aren’t where we want or need to be, either performance-wise or reliability-wise, but we’re working through our problems together, and I’m massively impressed by the esprit de corps that exists within both McLaren and Honda. Well done, guys. Tomorrow’s race may be a difficult one for us, but we’ll pull together to get the best result possible.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head Of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer: “Today’s qualifying was important because it gave us the first chance to judge our current position on track compared to our competitors. And although P13 and P18 is not where we want to be this season, after such a tough winter testing we can be relatively satisfied with our improvement. Fernando drove incredibly to extract everything out of the car, and Stoffel handled the pressure of qualifying extremely well despite having issues throughout the session. We are very lucky to have two such talented drivers in our team. Hopefully we will have a good start to the race tomorrow and we will have the opportunity to fight for points in the race. We know anything can happen, and you can be sure our drivers will be ready to grab any opportunity thrown their way.”
James Key: “As we thought could be the case, margins looked to be incredibly tight behind the three fastest teams. The first qualifying session of the season is where you begin to see where everyone is and, sure enough, it is really tight between the teams round us. Having said that, to get both cars into the top ten is great, the team’s done a really good job today. We didn’t have the best start to qualifying with a balance that was not as good as it was in FP3 this morning and I think we reacted extremely well to improve the situation with each run. Both drivers did a really professional job too and did what they needed to do – the objective was to get into both cars into the top ten and they achieved that up against very stiff competition. What also is encouraging is that their lap times were extremely close to each other throughout the session – that’s what we expect from them and that’s exactly what they delivered. It’s tomorrow that counts; we’ve got two cars ahead of us that we’d like to take on – we want to be the best of the rest behind the top three teams, so clearly we have a target there. Equally, we have people behind us that we know will be very competitive too, so we’re looking forward to an exciting and I suspect very close race tomorrow.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director: “It’s clear we’ve made a huge jump over the winter… It was a positive first qualifying session with the R.S.17 although it’s frustrating not to make Q3 as the pace was there. Nico did a great job and has shown that we are where we wanted to be, in the midfield and very close to Williams, Toro Rosso and Haas, so we expect a good fight tomorrow. It’s clear we’ve made a huge jump over the winter and we’ve got a lot more to come from the car. There’s frustration for Jo and we will have a close look at the data and his car ahead of the race as he’s clearly capable of much better things. It will be the first race with these cars to the new regulations so it’s going to be interesting to see how it pans out. Nico starts just shy of the points so his target is clear. Jo has a lot of work to do and we’ve nothing to lose with being ambitious with his strategy.
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Pirncipal: “The potential was certainly there for us to make Q3, but Sergio didn’t have the cleanest lap during his final run of Q2 and he missed the top ten by a whisker. Esteban is still finding his feet with the team and is on a very steep learning curve. He’s taken a very mature approach so far and is gradually building his confidence and speed with this car. He made good progress during the session and he knows there is more to come. It’s a long race tomorrow so let’s see what happens. Scoring points with both cars remains the objective.”
Haas F1 Team
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: “It’s been a great weekend for Romain. Not the same for Kevin. We had issues with his car. We couldn’t find a balance, so he didn’t run properly in the free practice sessions. He never tried the ultrasoft tire over the weekend, so he went into qualifying with an unknown. It didn’t work out. I think we made good progress in FP3 and it will come. Again, great for Romain. He put a lap down, second to none, I would say. Thanks to all the time again because what they did was fantastic. It’s our best qualifying – sixth-place behind the big ones. That’s great for the youngest team on the grid. I hope we have a good race tomorrow. We are ready for it. The car seems to be on a good pace, on the long runs as well. Hopefully, we can get Kevin further up the field in the race. I think even where Kevin is we can still go for points. If we get a good start, everything is possible for both. The start is new for everybody and I hope we get a good one. You don’t know but we’ll try our best. It’ll be an interesting day at the front end. It seems like it’s closer than it’s been in a long time. So, let’s see what happens.”