Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Team and driver reports

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Großer Preis von Aserbaidschan 2017, Samstag - Steve Etherington

Drivers and teams report from qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Round 8 of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, at the Baku City Circuit.


Lewis Hamilton, 1st: “My pole lap in Montreal was pretty special, but I think this one here tops that. My first run in Q3 was actually really good, but I was a bit greedy into the last corner, locked up and cost myself time. After the red flag, there was a lot of pressure on that final lap. All weekend we’ve struggled to switch the car on over a single lap, but it was an all or nothing moment so I just gave it everything I had. Valtteri was on a great lap as well, so when I came across the line and saw that I had pole, it was such a good feeling. Even if that time had only been enough for P2 it was a lap to be proud of. We were struggling yesterday but we made a lot of changes overnight. A big thank you to the team who stayed late last night to get the car to where it is today – they did a fantastic job.”

Valtteri Bottas, 2nd: “It’s disappointing to lose pole as that was the target today. It was looking good before the late red flag, but Lewis produced a great lap and mine just wasn’t good enough. That final run in Q3 was the first time we had tried to do a flying lap on the first lap, because of the temperatures, and I couldn’t get them to work as well as Lewis did – I just couldn’t find that grip out there. But what I’m most proud of today is the huge effort the team put in overnight to switch on the car. We were quite lost on Friday but we made some changes and turned the weekend around. Going into the race we have a fantastic starting position and I’m expecting a good fight with Lewis.”

Toto Wolff, Team Principal: “This is a fantastic qualifying performance after a tricky start to the weekend yesterday. The team did some great work overnight to put the car right in the sweet spot – and both drivers put in a strong performance. We had planned to do one long run in Q3, because that looked like the best way to get the maximum from the tyres, so the pressure was really on after the red flag with just one timed lap possible. That was the big pressure moment and both guys delivered – Valtteri found a quarter of a second then Lewis produced one of those hammer laps to take pole. Tomorrow, though, is another story again. The race pace is a bit of an unknown after some scrappy sessions yesterday, but we are in the best starting positions. Now we need to make a clean getaway then make the most of our opportunities in the race.”

James Allison, Technical Director: “A diva our car might be but the engineering team and drivers are gradually learning how to talk to her. This was a pretty impressive performance with both cars, and especially the performance on the last run, when we were able to set a competitive time on the first lap using tyres which have been tricky to warm up sufficiently during the rest of the weekend. This is not an easy track, and it has not been an easy weekend so far, but today’s result is a good indication of the steady progress we have made through each session. We will be aiming to build on that tomorrow.”


Fernando Alonso, 16th, 1:44.334: “We did a good job today in terms of preparing for the race: we only used one set of tyres, put in low fuel and did some checks. We know we’re not competitive around here, but the race is going to be long and demanding. We’ve seen many mistakes from almost every driver, and we need to avoid making any of those tomorrow. In these kinds of grands prix, we need to try and finish the race, get some data for the team, and keep developing the car. We need to make sure we keep away from the walls tomorrow. Let’s also hope we can end up in the points.”

Stoffel Vandoorne, 19th: “I think I was always destined to start 19th this weekend! There were no big surprises for us in qualifying today. Our focus this weekend has always been on the race – today doesn’t mean too much, really. We always expected to struggle a little bit around here, we’ve not been on the pace all weekend, so let’s just see what happens tomorrow. This is a tricky circuit – the long straights mean the brakes and tyres get cool, so the braking zones are very difficult to get right. There are definitely some opportunities to be had out on track – we’ve seen drivers going off in every session, so we’ll be looking to benefit from those.”

Eric Boullier, McLaren-Honda Racing Director: “This afternoon’s result was particularly disappointing – we always knew that we’d be towards the back due to the engine penalties both drivers have taken this weekend, but it’s never satisfying to be right at the back of the grid. Our focus has primarily been on developing a car for the race. While we wanted to go out and put on a decent performance for everyone this afternoon, we knew that the emphasis was always on tomorrow. We’ve seen spills and incidents in every session so far this weekend, so we’ll be aiming to capitalise on every opportunity to move up through the field. We are still racers, and we’ll be giving it everything tomorrow.”

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer: “We expected qualifying to be a challenge today as Baku is a power-hungry circuit with long straights. It was doubly tough for everyone in the team as we knew we’d be starting at the back of the grid with penalties whatever this afternoon’s result. Despite this, we thought we had the potential to get in to Q2 here; therefore it was disappointing that both cars were out in the first session. We’ve reverted back to the spec-two engine after Fernando’s issue in FP2, but we saw some positive PU power improvements yesterday so I think they would have put us further up the grid. We will start from the back of the grid tomorrow but I’m sure that both of our talented drivers will continue to push and do their very best. Also, this is a tricky race track through narrow streets, which might give us the opportunity to capitalise on any opportunity to collect some points.”

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, 11th: “I think the only way of getting into Q3 today was by managing to get a massive tow or slipstream from someone, like what happened to me in Q1 – that was a mega lap that put me P5! In Q2 I didn’t get the chance to do this again, but I enjoyed some clean laps. I’m satisfied with P11. For tomorrow, you can never be 100% confident about anything here in Baku, but we will obviously try and do our best and see where we finish.”

Carlos Sainz, 12th: “I would’ve preferred to have felt a bit more confident going into this qualifying session. Yesterday we had a very interrupted and rough day and we didn’t get to do some proper running due to the yellow flags and traffic… So it was difficult to tune the car and get it to my liking. This meant that we went into qualifying with a bit of a compromise, not feeling fully confident, and in the end we’ve ended up paying for this. Having said that, I think that even if I had been totally confident with the car, Q3 was still extremely difficult today because of these long straights. Hopefully tomorrow is different and we’re able to get into a rhythm in the race – if we do this, I’m sure we can show some very good pace and move forward. Unfortunately, I have a three-place grid penalty, but this track offers some good overtaking opportunities and we’re going to go for it!”

Jody Egginton, Head of Vehicle Performance: “The set-up changes we made overnight provided the expected results meaning that, other than normal adjustments to the various systems, we were able to focus on tyre preparation and utilisation with both drivers. We could also navigate the yellow flags without a big impact on the run programmes, although Carlos was unlucky to have his best lap disrupted by a yellow flag in Sector 1. FP3 tyre performance suggested that an extended run in Q1 could provide flexibility, so we took this approach and it paid off. We then elected to take the same approach for Q2. However, we were missing the last couple of tenths to make it into Q3 and Daniil was also forced out of phase due to a bit of traffic, so we were not able to progress to Q3 on this occasion, which is disappointing. Nonetheless, our grid positions provide us with a choice on starting tyre and we will aim to take advantage from this. Regarding our expectations for the race, the car was fairly well balanced during long-runs on Friday, so our task now is to make best use of this and move forwards with both cars tomorrow.”


Romain Grosjean, 17th: “I’ve been struggling with the feeling and struggling with the driving style. The tires are really hard to bite the track. It’s been something I’ve been struggling with since Russia – where the tires are hard and the track is really smooth. I don’t get any feedback from the tires on the grip and what’s in the corners. I need to work on that and be better in these conditions. I just didn’t find the right balance. It’s going to be a long race and looking at all the practices, there’s going to be a lot going on. Hopefully, we get a good race.”

Kevin Magnussen, 13th: “It was a good qualifying considering our position this weekend. It’s not been our most competitive track – perhaps the weakest track we’ve been to this year in terms of competitiveness. So to be P12, after penalties and all that are done, I think we should be happy with that. It’s going to be a tough race tomorrow, but I’ll do what I can.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: “I think to qualify 13th and 17th, which eventually becomes 12th and 16th once others serve penalties – I wouldn’t have expected that after FP3 this afternoon. I would say we’ve put ourselves in a good position again to score points for tomorrow. That’s what we’ll try to do.”

Force India

Sergio Perez, 6th: “I’m quite pleased with sixth place. The red flag in Q3 was not helpful because I had yet to set a competitive time and it meant I only had one chance to deliver right at the end. Normally we do an out lap, a preparation lap, and then push, but there just wasn’t time. So it was not an ideal Q3, but I’m still happy with our performance. There are quick cars ahead of us and also behind us, so it’s going to be a very close battle tomorrow. It’s a street circuit so it will be important to stay out of trouble and react quickly as things happen in the race.”

Esteban Ocon, 7th: “It’s the best qualifying position in my career and I am very happy about how the session went. I made a tiny mistake on my fastest lap and that probably cost me a position, but as a team we have been improving every step of the way. Today was all about pushing to the limit: I brushed the wall three times, something I didn’t do yesterday, but I wanted to give everything today. We are in a strong position for tomorrow’s race and we know anything can happen here. It’s a tight track and very tricky to get right. A strong first lap will be crucial, but the most important thing will be to finish the race. If you get to the end here, you can score big points. Our pace is good and I am confident we can get a good result.”

Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal: “Another excellent team performance, which sets us up nicely for a strong race tomorrow. The car has been quick since the start of practice and we’ve made steady progress through all of the sessions to give the drivers a well-balanced car. This track plays to our strengths and it’s satisfying to convert our speed into solid positions on the grid. It’s hard to know what sort of race we will get tomorrow, but it could be quite eventful. Whatever happens we will react quickly to optimise the strategy and hopefully bring home a bunch of points.”


Lance Stroll, 8th: “It was a good day, and it has been a good weekend. I am comfortable and confident in the car. I like the circuit and today everything fell into place. I missed a bit in Q3, and I think there was some more that was possible there, as we were four tenths off compared to my lap in Q2. In Q3, because the track temperatures had dropped, it was hard to get the tyres ready in one lap and also because of the red flag, we only had time to do one push lap. Sometimes round here it is better when you do one push lap, then another prep lap and then another push lap. But it is still a great result and I am just happy for the team.”

Felipe Massa, 9th: “It wasn’t a great qualifying for me. We struggled to make the tyres work. I just kept locking the front tyres and struggled to get into the corners. The car was better for me on used tyres than it was with a new set. The red flag didn’t help us there either, so my qualifying wasn’t great. I’m very happy for Lance as he did a good job. He managed to get in a good laptime. He was in a good fight today and he managed to make the tyres work better than me. Now we need to concentrate and put everything together for the race tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow and I’m confident that the result can be better than today.”

Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer: “We’re happy to get both cars into Q3. We saw great driving today by both Felipe and Lance to be able to do that. It was a tricky session with tyre temperatures and deciding whether to do warm-up laps or not. In Q3 we had two sets of tyres for Felipe and we were trying to go for one flying lap on each, but it was clear from the first lap that it wasn’t working so we boxed him early to switch and give him two laps on his final set. He went out to start that run and encountered the red flag, which meant he had to finish the session on a cold set of used tyres, having not set a time. So ninth was the best he could achieve. Lance had one set of tyres, which he chose to run at the end. With the way track conditions had changed we really wanted the time to do a warm-up lap, but there wasn’t enough time remaining, so eighth was the best Lance was able to do. Overall, it’s good to have both drivers towards the front, and we look forward to the race tomorrow.”

Red Bull

Max Verstappen, 5th: “The car felt very good during qualifying, I struggled a bit to get the tyres working in sector one but everything else felt like it was going in the right direction. I think we realistically had a shot at P3 today, which on this track would have been a fantastic result. The Red Flag didn’t really have an impact on me, I had just about completed my fast lap and then had a chance for one lap when the session was restarted, just like everyone else. On my final lap in Q3 I was going about three tenths quicker than my best time but then I lost gear sync in the second sector, it cost me a couple of tenths which was frustrating and meant we could not challenge for third. I’m hopeful we can get on top of these issues overnight and be ready for tomorrow. Once again Mercedes have made a big step today so I don’t think we can get close to them but we will be looking to challenge Ferrari come the race. It would be great to get on the podium and that is the goal.”

Daniel Ricciardo, 10th: “It’s obviously frustrating when you crash but in Q3 you are trying to give everything and get that last little bit out of the car. I knew turn six was a corner where I could do better, I was trying to carry more speed but I lost the rear on the exit and hit the wall. The rear was coming round and I tried to drive out of it but it kept going. The wall kind of comes back round a bit so I hit it. It’s not the wall’s fault, obviously, I’m not blaming the wall! There was no other reason, I was just pushing hard and on the edge of the grip. Sure I’m not happy with the mistake but it’s one of those tracks. Part of me doesn’t like it right now but the reality is that I do like street circuits for these reasons, it shows when you are on the limit and you pay the price when you are over that limit. It’s a shame as I thought we could have been fighting at the front today but the time from Mercedes was really quick, they proved to be out of reach but Ferrari weren’t too far in front at the end. This weekend Max and I have been happy with the balance of the car and it is responding well so we have made definite progress. I’m not disheartened for tomorrow, I think so much can happen around here and even if it is a one stop race I’m sure we can make progress.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal: “After such promising free practice sessions it’s perhaps slightly underwhelming to be fifth and tenth on the grid. It’s a shame for Max as he was three tenths up on his personal best before losing a bit of time at turn seven and then losing synchronization with the gearbox which prevented any chance of an improvement. Daniel unfortunately clipping the barrier, that we know are pretty unforgiving out here, eliminated him from Qualifying on the spot. Qualifying in fifth and tenth we were certainly hoping for more than fifth and tenth but hopefully from those grid positions we can have a competitive race in what will no doubt be an action-packed grand prix tomorrow.”


Kimi Raikkonen, 3rd: “The whole weekend has been about making the tires work well and today we struggled a bit more than yesterday. If you can get them working 100% on one lap you can easily go a lot faster, but it was not the case today. When we were able to switch the tyres on, the car felt nice, but this feeling kept changing from lap to lap and from set to set. I did not feel comfortable going into the first corner and could not push so hard. It was easy to slide or make a small mistake. It was always on the edge of working and not working, but on the last lap it felt a bit better. Third place is obviously not a disaster, I take it happily. I think we did the best we could achieve today. In the race, with more laps, the tires should start working better. I’m positive that we are going to be a lot closer to our competitors.”

Sebastian Vettel, 4th: “The result is ok, but obviously I am not entirely happy and this qualifying didn’t help. I don’t have excuses, I could have done better. I think I had the rhythm at the end but just didn’t get everything right. We were not quick enough, but tomorrow I think we still have a good chance. The car has been fast during the races and that was the case yesterday too, on the long-runs. So, let’s see what happens. The start of my qualifying session was a bit slow, then by Q2 I think I had the car under control. But my Q3 was not ideal. I had to stop at the end of the pit-lane when the red flag came out and my tires got cold. Tomorrow, anyway, it could be a different story.”


Marcus Ericsson, 18th: “It was a tricky day for me, in particular in regards to the tyre management and the track conditions keeping the high temperatures in mind. We did make some progress during FP3 during which we were able to narrow the gap between ourselves and the direct competition. In qualifying it was positive that we managed to get Pascal into Q2. Unfortunately, it was not enough for me, but it was still a step forward for the team. I am optimistic that we will be able to take some of this progess into the race with us tomorrow.”

Pascal Wehrlein, 15th: “I am happy with making it into Q2. We have certainly made a step forward in terms of the performance of our car since yesterday. My fastest lap was good from our point of view, and we could not have expected to qualify for Q2 on this track. As always, I will try my best to achieve a satisfying result on Sunday.”


Nico Hülkenberg, 14th: “There was an electrical problem meaning we lost power and then the car couldn’t run at the end of Q2. It’s a super challenging and tricky track here and we’ve seen a lot of issues up and down the pit lane. Tomorrow we’ll push and fight for points ; it’s not going to be easy this weekend, but it’s a long race so you just have to stay on the ball and seize every opportunity.”

Jolyon Palmer, DNS: “It’s obviously not ideal to miss qualifying, but we had what looks like a fuel leak which ignited, and obviously did too much damage to the car for us to be able to make qualifying. Tomorrow I’ll start from near the back of the grid, or the pit lane, so I should be in a strong position to capitalise if there’s any issue up the front of the field. Hopefully we make a few positions on the first lap, then anything can happen.”

Alan Permane, Sporting Director: “It was a tough day at the office for us. Jolyon was unable to participate in qualifying due to fire damage to his car caused by a high-pressure fuel leak in FP3. Nico proceeded to Q2 however his car suffered from an electrical issue. It was a far from ideal day on both sides of the garage. We don’t expect much tyre degradation here so we don’t expect to see numerous pit stops. Both cars start further back on the grid than expected so there’s everything to do. We can afford to be adventurous with strategy for Jolyon whereas Nico is still in a decent place to go for points from his starting position.”


Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing: “Qualifying went as we expected it to, with a bit more rubber on the surface and falling track temperatures. Most teams had used the out lap plus a preparation lap before setting their fastest times, but obviously this was not possible after the red flag at the end of Q3. Nonetheless, the fastest laps came in the final sprint. Looking towards the race, it’s clear that wear and degradation is very low, even on the supersoft, and so we would expect only one pit stop tomorrow, with drivers maximising their use of the faster supersoft. However, with safety cars and other race incidents seemingly quite likely, teams may be able to tactically benefit from evolving circumstances.”