Post quali press conference and Driver quotes
Q: Lewis, I guess the smile on your face says it all with the pleasure and the perfection of your pole lap.
Lewis Hamilton: Today has been a great day for me. I was so happy with all three laps I did throughout qualifying. It is always satisfying when you can go out, do one lap and come back in and watch everyone else going around trying to get their laps done. Today the team made no mistakes and I made no mistakes. I had four great laps but especially at the end. In my first Q3 lap I had a bit of a lock up at turn one and I had the same for my second Q3 lap but somehow managed to keep it together but the rest of the lap I was very happy with.
Q: And not an easy weekend so far with changing conditions. In Q2 we saw you running with the harder of the Bridgestone tyres compared to your team mate, so a lot of indecision going into qualifying.
LH: Not on our side. I decided to stay with the harder tyre for Q2 and surprisingly the option tyre, the softer tyre, is quite a bit better. I think everyone else was on the option tyre but I was on the prime and I was very, very comfortable with the pace that I had, considering I was on that tyre.
Q: You mentioned the lock up. That is not the first time we have seen you locking up. Is that something we should be talking about?
LH: Not really. It is one of the characteristics of my car and that's why we are quick, maybe, I don't know. But even with those lock ups we still managed to pull it out of the bag. I feel great. The team and the atmosphere in the team feels great, back at the factory but also here and really the solid job that they are doing is coming out in the results that we have, so I am absolutely thrilled to be here.
Q: Felipe, it will be a very tight first corner going into the Belgium Grand Prix.
Felipe Massa: To be honest, I did a great lap, I did almost a perfect lap but it was not enough. Sometimes you do a great lap and you are still missing something. On the qualifying these guys showed definitely a better performance than us and we need to understand why. I think yesterday we had a great car. I did a great job in qualifying but it was not enough.
Q: You are implying that going into qualifying you felt that the Ferrari was right there with the McLaren, although we don't know what the fuel loads were at this stage.
FM: Yeah, for sure we don't know their fuel loads. But I think they were quicker in all three qualifying sessions, so that is a sign they are pretty strong here. But the race is long and starting on the front row is always very important, so let's try to have a good race tomorrow.
Q: How does the car feel through Spa's fast open corners?
FM: It feels okay. The balance is good. For sure in terms of car balance we have a good car. We just need to pick up a little bit more speed to improve that couple of tenths to be in front of them. But it was not possible today, hopefully tomorrow we will see a different picture but it will depend on the track and the conditions, so we need to do everything we can tomorrow to have a strong pace.
Q: Heikki, P3 confirmed the speed McLaren have this weekend. Talk us through qualifying from your point of view.
Heikki Kovalainen: Well, it has been a pretty good weekend all the way through. We have not had any big problems with the car and we have been modifying it little by little trying to increase the pace at the same time. The three sessions in qualifying were fairly straightforward for me, no big problems, but not quite enough to be higher up on the grid. But anyway we have the race tomorrow and we will see if we can be a little bit better.
Q: How did your lap feel in the cockpit?
HK: It felt okay, no big problems. Obviously, we lost a little bit in the middle sector, I don't know exactly where in terms of corners but somewhere in the middle of the lap I think I lost a little bit. But that's life. Sometimes that's the way it goes.
Q: Lewis, this could not be more different coming here from Valencia. And your physical condition comparing two weeks ago to how you look to be driving now.
LH: Absolutely, I think coming from Valencia we knew we had some work to do. I have come here feeling better than ever and more and more comfortable in the car. The preparation has been fantastic. As you can see I am stoked and I am struggling not to smile. Tomorrow is going to be a challenging day for all of us but with the pace and the package we have we are going to be hard to beat.
Q: Lewis, to what extent do you feel you've been on top all weekend? Has everything been going perfectly? I know we saw you having a change of brake set-up yesterday.
LH: Yeah, otherwise it's been going pretty smoothly. We've not had any problems, the car's reliable. I think yesterday we just made sensible choices and good steps forward with the limiting running that we had and also this morning. But I felt pretty sure, coming here compared to last year, that the car that I have, the set-up that I've worked on with my engineers would be suitable for here, so I've felt pretty much on it all weekend.
Q: How much is a driver unsettled by the weather conditions here, by the showers coming and going, and the damp circuit?
LH: It's no problem for me. There's times when you have to go out and do what you do. For example, if we had the conditions that we had in P3 in qualifying then we would have been forced to go out and then obviously you are taking a certain risk. But there was no need this morning, it was undecided whether you went out on wet tyres or on slicks - there was a bit of a mix - and I just didn't want to go out and waste my time. This is going to be a very hard circuit in the wet if it does rain and without traction control, it would be a real challenge, especially with all the slippery white lines but I guess we will just have to do the best job that we can if it does.
Q: When you do a lap on this circuit, a long one with a fantastic range of corners, tell us about the satisfaction of doing that?
LH: I would say this is different to Monaco, Monaco being my favourite track. If you get a perfect lap at Monaco, that also feels incredible. When you just breeze past the barriers, it feels amazing, but here, being probably the most incredible circuit for me on the Grand Prix calendar, when you put a lap together, when it's clean, smooth, flowing, and you hit every apex that you plan on doing and you really extract everything out of the tyres, everything out of the car, it really feels incredible. It is very difficult to do so. You have to make sure that you have the right car and the right set-up and it's easy to push too much in one corner and struggle on the way out of another. I can't explain to you just how great it is.
Q: Felipe, obviously good yesterday, did things go off a bit today or did you feel you were still on top of it this morning and this afternoon?
FM: No. Difficult to explain, for sure. We saw that the McLaren pace in qualifying was pretty strong, but anyway, I did a great job, a great lap. I couldn't manage to get everything out of the car like Lewis just mentioned. I did a perfect lap but it was not enough. We missed a little bit of speed which would have put us in front of them. For sure, we need to look at the strategy first to have a clear picture but if you look at all three qualifying sessions they were pretty strong, so I guess they have a very strong pace here at this track. But you never know, the race is long, I think we can have a very good race pace to fight with these guys. It was very difficult to be in front of both McLarens but at least I was in front of one and we will see tomorrow how it's going to be.
Q: And the start here, is it certainly better to be on the inside or are you not worried about being on the outside?
FM: For sure, the pole position line is always better. We will see how it's going to be. We also need to see how the race is going to be in terms of weather. For sure, if it's damp and you have a dry line on the right hand side that can be a disaster for us but we need to wait and see. If it's a consistent track we can even do a good start I think.
Q: Do you see the championship becoming a bit of a duel between yourself and Lewis?
FM: Well, for the moment, in the last race we were fighting very close to each other, so… I hope so.
Q: Heikki, fastest in Q2 with a fantastic lap, what are your feelings about being third on the grid?
HK: Of course it's the wrong direction from Q2 to Q3. I would rather go from third to being on pole but couldn't find any more today. It was the maximum that I could achieve today and tomorrow I will try to do better, try to improve the position.
Q: Was the car perfect today?
HK: It's never perfect but it's pretty good. All weekend we haven't had any big problems and we have been just fine-tuning the set-up little by little and no big issues with the car. To be honest, it's working really well and I think the whole team has managed to improve the car during the last few weeks, so this is very encouraging for the rest of the championship.
Q: Tell us how the track has evolved over the last couple of days because the rain washes away the grip, it comes back and then it goes away again.
HK: To be honest it wasn't too bad, even to start with on Friday. It was in much better condition than any other circuits, particularly, I think, because people drive around here quite a lot in different kinds of cars and the rain hasn't taken that much of the grip away because the grip really hasn't been so different at any point. It's just when the water arrives, it makes it slippery and like Lewis said, the painting and all the white lines are very, very slippery, so that's the tricky bit. Yesterday, Kimi lost the car touching the white line a little bit, and a few other drivers as well, so it's very difficult when the circuit gets wet but in the dry the grip level has been fairly consistent.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mark Danby - Auto Magazine) Lewis, you mentioned before about the white lines in wet conditions. Is there any particular part of the track which concerns you more than other areas if it was to be wet tomorrow?
LH: I think if I was concerned, which I'm not, it would probably be with the higher speed corners: Eau Rouge. If you clip the outside and the inside of the kerb it could be quite unpleasant but also the outside kerb of turn ten through Pouhon. It's such high speed and you're relying on the grip level you have and if you just touch that white line, I'm sure it's going to send you flying, so it's very, very important that we try to avoid those.
Q: (Ingo Rörsch - Sport Bild) Lewis, how important is it for the rest of the season that the team has been decided for 2009, so there aren't any rumours who could be in the team next year, so you can concentrate on just driving?
LH: I don't think it was a particular problem because we knew the situation and what would be the team's plan. I think it's great for Heikki to know that he's here, he's got a comfortable place here next year and we can continue to work together. For me it's pleasing because Heikki and I get on so well and we do such a great job in testing and everything that we participate in with the team and that's really the reason why we are so strong this year. It's not down to one individual, it's down to all of us really, putting in a hundred percent, so Heikki's brought a lot to the team, and I'm looking forward to continue working with him for hopefully a lot longer than just next year.
Q: (Juha Päätalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Heikki, you said in the unilaterals that you lost a little bit of time in the middle of sector, but actually in your last attempt you were slower in the first sector than on the first attempt. Was there a certain problem there?
HK: Yeah, there was a little problem in turn one and perhaps I lost a little bit of time there. I just locked up all the wheels for a moment. I got a bit out of shape but that happens sometimes when you're trying to push a bit more.
Q: (Fréderic Ferret - L'Equipe) Lewis, in Budapest, Felipe made a great start and you were on pole. Is it something that worries you for tomorrow? And can you work on your start as a driver, and have you practised some starts since Budapest?
LH: Yeah, he's obviously been very quick in the last couple of races, his starts have been going better and better. In Hungary I think we had a very good start. I don't know in the last race that we had the best but we were on the dirtier side. I don't know whether we're on the clean side here, I don't particularly think there is a real clean side. The team has been working very hard… there's not really much more that I can do. If the grip's there, if the settings are right, then I will be able to extract the most from it but 1) if you don't have the grip you struggle, and 2) there are some areas that we can improve on but I think we will be strong tomorrow.
Q: (Thomas Richtr - TV Nova) Heikki, you actually start from a very interesting position considering the circumstances. Will your aim be to beat these two gentlemen or to keep Kimi at bay?
HK: Both, to be honest. Trying to keep Kimi behind and overtake both of these two. That would be the ideal plan.
Q: (James Allen - ITV) Heikki, I'm not much of a student of body language but in the unilaterals and here now, you looked pretty disappointed. Obviously with a car advantage throughout the session, not locking out the front row, how big a problem is that for you and McLaren?
HK: I don't think it's a big problem, it was the maximum that we could achieve today. The race is tomorrow and we are in a good position, so I don't think there's anything to worry about.
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto Moto und Sport) Lewis, there's quite a short run into the first corner. Does it make the start easier or more difficult versus a circuit where you have half a kilometre before the first corner?
LH: I think for the start it perhaps makes it a little bit easier. I think the longer the straight from the startline the more effect a good start will have. But I think it's tricky here. There's turn one and then you've got the longest straight in the world after turn one, so it's going to be an interesting start tomorrow but I plan on staying ahead.
Q: (Juha Päätalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Felipe, you are chasing Lewis in the championship, so how crucial is it to get a good start and maybe get in front of him, and are we going to see another Hungary?
FM: Well, the start doesn't work before, it works when you do the start and then you think what you have to do, so I think the most important thing is the initial part of the start, because in the initial part you see the possibilities you have to go side-by-side or whatever and under braking you always try to brake late and see how it's going to be. Then you can also have another possibility on the back straight which is a very long straight but it all depends on how you manage your start at the beginning, so we will see tomorrow. For sure we will fight each other but we also want to finish the race, which is the important key, so let's try to do our best in whatever conditions.
Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima on a tough qualifying session for Williams; Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais on clinching P1 in the first knockout session and securing P9 on the Spa grid; and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton on scoring his fifth pole of the season. All 20 drivers report back from Belgium…
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren (1st, Q3 - 1m 47.338s):
"I'm really happy about my pole position. We've got a great car and the atmosphere within the team at home in Woking and here at the circuit is fantastic. After Valencia we knew we had to improve and that's what we did. Today's outcome is also a result of this great preparation and I felt very comfortable when we came here. First, I decided to drive with the harder compound, but obviously the option tyre was the better one. Today I gave it my all and so did the team. At the beginning of my first lap, I locked up my right front wheel for a moment, but afterwards I didn't make any mistakes. I'm confident for tomorrow's race."
Felipe Massa, Ferrari (2nd, Q3 - 1m 47.678s):
"I did a great lap, but it was not enough to be on pole position. Today, we lacked a bit of speed compared to our main rivals but the race is very long and, over a distance, we know we can be very competitive and therefore we are capable of fighting for the win. The start? It will be difficult to do a repeat of Budapest, especially as the start-line straight is shorter than at the Hungaroring. Then, we will have to see what the various strategy choices are and obviously, how the weather evolves. If it was to rain, the race could be turned into a lottery."
Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren (3rd, Q3 - 1m 47.815s):
"A good weekend so far and we were able to improve throughout. Today's qualifying was fairly straightforward; however, in the end, I didn't quite do enough to make it onto the front row. I didn't make any mistakes on my lap, but obviously I lost a bit of time in the middle sector. Anyway, tomorrow is where it counts and I'm feeling optimistic."
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari (4th, Q3 - 1m 47.992s):
"On my second run in Q3 I made a small mistake, running wide at Turn Seven. A shame, as it cost me valuable time which would have seen me move slightly higher up the order on the starting grid. All the same, I am reasonably happy with my car, which seems to be behaving the way I like. Of course, I'm a bit disappointed, as I would have liked to have done better: fourth place is far from ideal to go looking for the win, but it doesn't mean I've given up hope. We know we have a good potential, especially in race trim. The weather will however be a key factor and we will have to try and assess it as well as possible."
Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber (5th, Q3 - 1m 48.315s):
“I’m happy with the qualifying result, and for me the weekend has gone well so far. It wasn’t bad on Friday, this morning I was quickest and fifth was the best possible result in qualifying. For me it is very important to know the work we have done has paid off. A couple of weeks ago we found solutions to some problems, and for me this meant an improvement, but then came the race in Valencia which was surprisingly bad. Then at last week’s Monza test we were able to learn something more. I have the feeling we are a little closer to McLaren and Ferrari here. However, I think in the race it will be very difficult for us to keep up with their pace. Tomorrow the weather conditions will be an important factor and a good start for me will be crucial. I will start from the clean side of the track.”
Fernando Alonso, Renault (6th, Q3 - 1m 48.504s):
“I am satisfied. We know that in normal conditions it’s very difficult to finish in the top four and that to finish in fifth or sixth place is a good result. So that means that we have done a solid job today. We now have a real chance to get a strong result tomorrow, which is important for the championship. I’m quite confident.”
Mark Webber, Red Bull (7th, Q3 - 1m 48.736s):
“We’ve got more pace here than in Valencia. It was a stress to get into Q3, it was very tight as usual and all the drivers were pretty evenly matched so you had to find that extra few tenths to get into the final group. We’ll see how tomorrow goes with the strategy, we’re in a reasonable position to mount an attack for some points. It’s good to see Alonso and me up there today, it’s encouraging for Renault and for our team, for everyone here and in Milton Keynes.”
Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (8th, Q3 - 1m 48.763s):
“Qualifying was difficult for me although the conditions were the best so far over the course of the weekend. The track was completely dry, but I have had problems with the balance of the car all weekend and I am lacking overall grip. This makes driving quite difficult, especially here in Spa where you have a lot of long corners.”
Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso (9th, Q3 - 1m 48.951s):
“A qualifying session when I can get out of the car and say that I drove well and that the team, as usual did a good job. The car worked well even if we couldn’t mix it too much with those ahead of us. But let’s see what strategies the others are on in terms of fuel loads tomorrow. A couple of tenths is all that separated us from sixth or seventh. It’s beginning to come together and it’s been a good weekend so far. I feel this track and its corners suit me better. It was nice to see my name at the top of a time sheet in Q1. It’s been a long time!”
Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso (10th, Q3 - 1m 50.319s):
“I’m quite happy and we can be satisfied to get both cars in Q3, which we did not expect at this track. It was a strong qualifying performance. I was struggling a bit on those sections where the driver doesn’t have to do much. I could not find the pace my team mate had. I messed up my last run a bit but it didn’t affect the result in the end. I think we have a good strategy for both cars so let’s see what happens. At the moment, I’m starting on the dirty side of the track but if it rains for the race it becomes the clean side.”
Jarno Trulli, Toyota (11th, Q2 - 1m 46.949s):
"We knew we would be struggling a bit today given these low temperatures and it was a difficult qualifying for us - this has been the trend of the weekend so far unfortunately. It was very hard to get the temperature into the tyres in order to make them work properly so it is then not easy to judge the car balance. As well as that I am on the second race with my engine and that is particularly important here because you have the long straights. Normally on the second race the engine loses a little bit of power and here this makes a difference to the lap time. But tomorrow is another day and I will do my best. The only positive point is that we can choose our strategy just before the race."
Nelson Piquet, Renault (12th, Q2 - 1m 46.965s):
“I’m disappointed not to make Q3 as I was in a position to be able to do that. I was on the pace, but my final run in Q2 just wasn’t enough to get me through to the top ten. I am now going to work with my engineers to be well prepared for the race tomorrow, and I will do my best to progress in the race and aim to finish in the points.”
Timo Glock, Toyota (13th, Q2 - 1m 46.995s):
"It was quite a difficult session for me today. In practice we were struggling a bit to bring the tyres to the right temperature and we suffered from this again in qualifying. It was particularly hard to get the heat into the tyres on my first flying lap, so we were not able to get the result we wanted. We are not getting the performance out of the tyres in these conditions and it is difficult to get a feeling for the car when that happens. It was really tricky to get it right today and it's hard to see it changing dramatically tomorrow; maybe the temperature rises a bit or it rains, you never know here. It would be good for me if it was wet because I like those conditions and our car performs well if there is a bit of rain. We will have to wait and see but whatever happens we will push as hard as we can to achieve the best possible result."
David Coulthard, Red Bull (14th, Q2 - 1m 47.018):
“I’m not so happy with that. Fourteenth doesn’t look good, but it’s so tight in the mid field and we’re separated by such a small margin. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Nico Rosberg, Williams (15th, Q2 - 1m 47.429s):
"I didn’t really expect us to struggle so much in qualifying today. While we knew that Spa was not going to be our best track, being this far back is unexpected and very disappointing. In one respect, my car was okay from a balance perspective, but there was a serious lack of grip which meant I couldn’t go any faster. Obviously looking ahead to the race tomorrow, some rain would give me a small chance to achieve something, otherwise it’s going to be very difficult."
Rubens Barrichello, Honda (16th, Q1 - 1m 48.153s):
"We have to be pleased with what we achieved in qualifying today, particularly given that we have been pretty much at the bottom of the timesheets so far this weekend. It was a good lap and a good effort from the team. It's just a shame that the car is not able to be more competitive here."
Jenson Button, Honda (17th, Q1 - 1m 48.211s):
“My first lap in qualifying was the first lap that I did today so in a way it was nice to be able to beat some of our competitors and be close to my team mate. It was a decent session for us, at the level of performance which the car is showing this weekend, and we will at least be starting from the clean side of the grid. Rain tomorrow would make the race more interesting but unfortunately it's not looking likely."
Adrian Sutil, Force India (18th, Q1 - 1m 48.226s):
"It was a very close qualifying today, with seven hundredths to the two Hondas and also very close to 16th place. I think we expected to be at this pace and we can be quite happy with the performance. We knew that Honda would be our closest competitor and it was close. We know we have a fast car on the straights here and I think we can do some overtaking and have a good race tomorrow."
Kazuki Nakajima, Williams (19th, Q1 - 1m 48.268s):
"I felt our car was better in practice this morning despite the fact that the dry conditions for qualifying made the circuit better this afternoon, but when we got into the qualifying session, I just couldn’t find any grip and I am still not able to understand why. It’s going to be a long race tomorrow and starting 19th will make things more difficult."
Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India (20th, Q1 - 1m 48.447s):
"We were struggling a little with the grip level in the qualifying session, but the balance wasn't too bad. I had a bit of traffic on the last run and also some problems with the rear tyres graining and I lost the rear end in three places, so I lost at least three to four tenths. I think there was a possibility to get 16th position, but tomorrow there is a good chance to move up some places."
@swca92: yes true. but seriously, we dont want them to get much worse