Webber leads Red Bull 1-2 at Suzuka
Mark Webber won his first pole of the 2013 season ahead of his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel at Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton was third for Mercedes ahead of the Lotus of Romain Grosjean.
Vettel is just under two-tenths of a second back from his teammate, despite car issues. He had KERS issues and also braking issues. Vettel reaction on his in-lap to his pits: "Car is quite poor under braking. Thanks for trying to bring the car back, make sure we get it fixed for tomorrow.”
Felipe Massa was 5th for Ferrari as he once again outqualified his teammate Fernando Alonso.
Ironically Grosjean outqualified Lotus teammate Kimi Raikkonen again meaning Ferrari's two picks for drivers next year are getting beat week in and week out, which does not bode well for the Scuderia.
Webber admitted beating dominant teammate Sebastian Vettel to pole at Suzuka was "hollow".
That's because world champion Vettel, who could win his fourth title on Sunday, struggled all day in Japan with a KERS problem.
"Unfortunately Seb didn't have KERS (for qualifying)," Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told the BBC, "so with that deficit to get on the front row was really a success."
Retiring Australian Webber, who has been outclassed by Vettel all season, agreed: "Sebastian had a problem so it's a bit of a hollow pole but you have to grab the opportunities when you can."
Spaniard Alonso looks set to play his part, as he has struggled all weekend in the Ferrari and qualified just eighth on Saturday.
"More or less I was eighth, ninth all weekend. It has not been a good weekend," he admitted.
But if Vettel's title depends on Webber moving over for the German, bearing in mind the 'Multi-21' affair of Malaysia, would the Australian play along?
"They (the drivers) will do the best they can for the team," boss Horner said coyly.
Mark Webber (1st, 1:30.915): "It's a great track and we always enjoy driving here. The laps weren't too bad today to be honest, but you always want a little bit more here and there. Sebastian had a problem in qualifying, so it's a little bit of a hollow pole position if you like; he still did a phenomenal lap. But, I'm happy to be on pole; you have to grab the opportunities when you can and still get the laps in. It's a very, very nice farewell for me to have pole position on my last attempt here at Suzuka. It's a great circuit and I'll never forget the first sector today, it's what us guys strive for and it's what our profession is all about; driving that is a real highlight for us."
Sebastian Vettel (2nd, 1:31.089): "First of all congratulations to Mark, I think he did a very good lap. We had an issue in qualifying, but I'm not a big fan of thinking that without this, with this, if this, you know… it's always unknown and we're P2. I'm happy with the result, a front row for the team is great. The car was phenomenal today, especially in the first sector. You realize afterwards that the car was really fantastic through there and you don't get many days when the car feels that great and you can really push it to the limit. I enjoyed qualifying today and I'm happy with second place"
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "It's great to have secured front row for tomorrow's race. It was a very strong performance by Mark today to claim his first pole of the year and Sebastian, despite the failure of KERS on his car, produced a great lap also to get onto the front row for tomorrow's race. We need to understand the issue with his car, as it's the second session we had a KERS problem. Hopefully we can convert these very strong grid positions into a good points haul tomorrow."
Thierry Salvi, Renault: "Seb had a KERS issue in qualifying, which he had to try and manage throughout the lap. I let you imagine the job he had to do during those timed laps, but at the end he did not have the benefit of any KERS boost. It was a brilliant effort by both drivers to lock out the front row. It takes the Renault total to 209 poles and a new record for engine manufacturers – something we can be very proud of. But equally important is the advantage it gives us for tomorrow."
Felipe Massa (5th, 1:31.378): "Managing to put together a perfect lap on this incredible track is always extremely satisfying and it reminded me of my pole here in 2006. Even if it's a fifth place, it's still a good starting point for tomorrow. Already yesterday, I could feel the car was well balanced and today we did a good job, managing to get all the potential out of it. More than this was not possible, but I am very happy all the same. Sure, tomorrow's race will not be easy, because we have some very fast cars ahead of us, but we can be in the game and for that we must concentrate to the maximum on strategy and tire management. Getting a good result will depend very much on having a strong pace. Last year, I finished second here and this evening I will try and remember how I did it."
Fernando Alonso (8th, 1:31.665): "Today's result is more or less what we were expecting, not having had a great pace all weekend, always being between sixth and tenth and even in Q3, I could not do more. Here the long run tests went better in terms of degradation than in Korea and that gives us hope that we can make up ground in the race. Tomorrow, we will give it our best shot, as always, trying to count on our strong points; the start, the strategy and the way we manage tire degradation. The aim is definitely not just to finish in the first eight to keep the Championship alive, because if Vettel doesn't win here, he will do it in one of the next races, when the number of combinations that can affect the result will be less. Now we need to pick up points for second place in the Constructors' Championship and for that we need to finish ahead of Mercedes, who are only one point behind us."
Pat Fry: "It was a really very closely contested qualifying. The performance of the car improved since yesterday, partly because of the work we did to adjust the handling, partly because of the track conditions and the wind, which was particularly strong in the first sector. The positions more or less reflect our expectations, even if the gap to the leaders is smaller and that is an encouraging sign for us. Unfortunately we continue to suffer from a lack of aerodynamic downforce and so we struggle to fight for the top places. Today, we did a lot of work to find the right car configuration and both drivers gave their best. It's never simple tackling a race starting from these positions, but in Suzuka, as we know, anything can happen. Now we must concentrate on preparing for the race and ensure we are ready to make the most of any opportunity, trying not to make any mistakes. Our pace on a long run, as seen yesterday, means we can be confident about tomorrow, even if we will have to take into account the variables, such as the weather and track conditions, which as we have seen today, partially affected the performance of all the cars."
Jenson Button (10th, 1:31.827): "In Q3 at Suzuka you want to go out and have fun – which is exactly what I did. I couldn't have gone any quicker. I did three laps in Q2 and Q3 that were almost identical, so I think P10 was as good as our car could get here today. There wasn't any more time left out on the track, but it was fun trying to find it! Looking forward to tomorrow's grand prix, I think it's going to be a different sort of race to those we've experienced recently, because the tire degradation is more reasonable here than it's been in previous races. Actually, I think both compounds are working well here. I'm really looking forward to the race, and hopefully we'll be able to make progress and bag a decent haul of points. It's going to be tough out there though – but that's why we enjoy this sport."
Sergio Perez (11th, 1:31.989): "It was frustrating to miss out on Q3 by the smallest of margins. It was extremely close: my first set of tires in Q2 were the Options I'd run during Q1 when we'd aborted because of the red flag. That meant my reference for my second Q2 run wasn't ideal as I didn't really know where the track was going. Obviously, yesterday we missed out on some useful track time owing to the accident, so this morning was spent trying to recover that time, changing set-up and learning about the track. To miss out by just over tenth wasn't ideal but, on the other hand, I think we're in a good position to score points tomorrow."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "Both drivers did a good, solid, professional job in qualifying here today. Checo was unlucky to miss out on going through to Q3 by the narrowest of margins, and as a result he'll start tomorrow's grand prix from P11. Jenson got through to Q3 reasonably comfortably – which was why, especially as the upper midfield is so close and competitive these days, he elected to run in Q3 in an effort to improve his grid position for the race. In the end he just failed to do that, but we believe that it was the right decision to give it a go even if hindsight now informs us that the P10 he'd already secured was in fact the best we could have managed here today. Having said that, Jenson loves Suzuka, won brilliantly here two years ago, and invariably races very well here. No-one is expecting him to deliver a repeat victory tomorrow, but you can be well sure that he'll be putting in his usual measured yet forceful performance in an effort steadily to climb the leaderboard in the cut and thrust of tomorrow's 53-lap race. Checo, too, will be eager to score as many points as possible tomorrow, and he's well placed to do just that."
Romain Grosjean (4th, 1:31.365): "The Red Bulls have looked very strong and we knew it would be tight with Lewis [Hamilton] for P3, so I think we did a good job to take P4. The car feels much better than it did yesterday; especially on the hard tires which we had been struggling with previously but were then fastest with in Q1 today. The team worked hard to address this overnight and we've shown great progress through the weekend once again. It's a tight, technical circuit, the wind is still making things tricky and it should stay pretty hot, so it'll be interesting to see what we can do in the race. I'm feeling pretty good."
Kimi Raikkonen (9th, 1:31.684): "The car has felt much better here than it has in recent races; even if we don't have a better position on the grid for tomorrow. A small mistake on my quick lap cost me a little bit of time and it's very close here, so a small amount lost can mean quite a few positions dropped. We'll have to see what happens in the race, but the car has certainly been more to my liking this weekend so the position on the grid is not a drama."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "Today went reasonably to plan with both drivers in the top ten for tomorrow's race. Romain continued his good qualifying form and P4 on the grid is a good result, but agonizingly close to P3 once again. It was a very close qualifying session so to have Kimi start P9 is no big drama; especially as we know how well he can work through the field in race conditions. After missing some long runs on Friday, we spent more time on race preparation during morning practice and managed to unlock some extra pace in the car – especially on the primes – so we're now very happy on both compounds. Yes, we did struggle with the hard tires yesterday, but we've made a significant setup change which has certainly been beneficial in this area. Both drivers are much happier with their cars. The weather forecast looks fine, while the wind – which is often a factor here – looks to be coming from a similar direction to today although maybe not as strong. With that in mind – added to our pace on both tire compounds – we're confident we can come up with a good strategy for a strong result."
Lewis Hamilton (3rd, 1:31.253): "I am really happy with P3 on the grid and the team has done a great job this weekend, so thank you to everybody for their hard work. It seems to me that we have a better package here than we've had for a while and the car felt awesome to drive. The wind direction changed around from yesterday's practice session and that changed the characteristics of the circuit, which felt like it had much more grip. Third place is a strong result from Qualifying but the Red Bulls were just out of reach today. Managing the tire degradation will be key tomorrow so hopefully we can get a good start from the clean side of the grid, then see what we can do from there against the guys in front."
Nico Rosberg (6th, 1:31.397): "It was a good lap but it's annoying when you step out of the car and the gap to the cars ahead is so close. I have put my set-up more towards tomorrow afternoon, so I'm quite confident about what will be a challenging race for the tires. P6 is not a bad position to start from and I will try to climb some places up the order. Qualifying always involves some compromises in terms of set-up but we saw in Korea that it was working out quite well for me in the race until my wing broke. I hope we have found the same good balance between qualifying and race performance this weekend."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "That was a slightly patchy qualifying session for us during which it was tricky to put the laps together in the very gusty conditions, so I think we can be reasonably pleased with third and sixth positions on the grid. Both drivers did a very creditable job in the circumstances to maximize the car they had under them. Looking down the timesheets, it's intriguing to see such close gaps on a circuit of such challenging complexity, with hundreds of a second accounting for several grid positions up and down the field. Tomorrow's race will in large part be dictated by how well the cars and drivers are able to manage the tires and I think we can expect a very interesting afternoon."
Toto Wolff, Mercedes Motorsport Director: ""Both drivers worked hard this afternoon to get the best out of a session where the gaps were very close indeed behind the two Red Bulls. The key factor now is finding the correct strategy for the race and I am sure we will see a mixture of approaches tomorrow afternoon. We will be working hard overnight to find the right compromise for our cars and drivers in the race."
Nico Hulkenberg (7th, 1:31.644): "We knew we could fight for the top ten today, but P7 is a nice surprise. It was very tight, everything had to fall into place and I think we managed to do that. Compared to yesterday, the wind changed so we had a tail wind on the straights and this makes you really quick. That means we have a head wind in sector one, which gives you a lot of grip. It was so much fun to put a really good lap together in Q3. I am very happy. Clearly tomorrow we'll be aiming for points."
Esteban Gutierrez (14th, 1:32.063): "We are not as competitive as on previous tracks. I was just two tenths slower than Nico in Q2. This is the first time for me driving on this track and I pushed right to the limit. Regarding the fire, I just saw it and jumped out. The guys had everything under control and I was relieved that I was able to continue my qualifying. We put a good lap together and now I have to stay optimistic for tomorrow, as I think we have a good pace in the long runs. Points are not easy, but we will do our best."
Monisha Kaltenborn, Team Principal: "We are happy with this qualifying, because we knew it was gong to be extremely tight. Nico, again, did a fantastic job and is in a good position to score points tomorrow. Esteban also did a great job on a track that was new to him, and it is impressive how he has improved over the weekend while learning such a difficult track. The difference for him to be 11th was not even a tenth. All in all an exceptional qualifying and we are hoping for points tomorrow."
Tom McCullough, Head of Track Engineering: "It was clear from FP3 qualifying was going to be very tight in the midfield, and we saw that again in Q2. It was very windy today, which we needed to take into account, and both drivers did a very good job on that. Esteban was unlucky to miss out on Q3, as he was so close to making it, but, again, he did a solid job on a very difficult circuit that was new to him. Nico got the most out of the car, and, starting from P7 tomorrow with the long run pace both cars showed in FP2, our target is clearly points. We did have a fire during Q1 from some unburnt fuel, which meant we had to change our plans slightly, but there was no damage to the car and we were able to continue."
Paul di Resta (12th, 1:31.992): "Given where we started yesterday, I think we should be pretty happy with P12. Slowly but surely we've made the car more drivable and in qualifying it felt quite good. The overnight efforts of everyone at the track and back at the factory have helped dial the car into the circuit. Compared with yesterday the car feels much more stable and predictable, and that's allowed us to get within a tenth of making Q3. I'm feeling upbeat about the race because the long runs have looked consistent and we are well placed to fight for points with a free choice on tire strategy."
Adrian Sutil (17th, 1:32.890): "It's not been an easy day. I made a mistake this morning, damaged the car and we had to change the gearbox. I have to say a big 'thank you' to the team for getting the car ready in time for qualifying because they had a lot of work to do during the lunch break. In Q1 the car was quite difficult to drive, I didn't feel comfortable and was missing the grip to be competitive. All I can do now is look forward to the race and hope we have a better day. With the grid penalty [for the gearbox change] I will be starting near the back so I need to try and deliver consistent race pace and hopefully move towards the points."
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal: "Suzuka has been quite a challenge for us this year, but the changes we made overnight were a step in the right direction and improved the drivability of the car. An accident for Adrian halfway through FP3 was unfortunate and although the mechanics did a fantastic job of repairing his car, he was on the back foot going into qualifying. On the other side of the garage Paul was in better shape and showed very strong pace in Q1 and Q2. In the end he was unlucky to miss out on a place in Q3, but he's done enough to be firmly in the battle for points tomorrow. We're feeling quite optimistic about our race pace and tire life, and if we get the strategy right we can take the fight to the cars ahead of us."
Valtteri Bottas (13th, 1:32.013): "We were fighting for positions higher than we expected today after a very close qualifying session. It was a welcome surprise and we can be happy with P13 today. For the race tomorrow we are hoping to be able to challenge the cars around us and fight for the top ten."
Pastor Maldonado (15th, 1:32.093): "We managed to get 100% out of the car today and are just about where we expected. We didn't get a lot of running yesterday after the problem with the wheel and the accident in the afternoon. Overall it wasn't a bad today so we'll now see what we can do tomorrow in the race."
Xevi Pujolar, Chief Race Engineer: "Following final practice this morning, we were struggling with overall grip and so we were expecting a difficult qualifying. However, we knew if we could put together a clean lap on the medium tire we had a chance to be closer to the competition than at previous races. The wind was also quite strong and that added another challenge, but both drivers delivered a single clean lap when required to qualify 13th and 15th. Even though the grid position is only a small step forward, we are much closer in terms of performance as a single tenth of a second would have jumped us much further up the order in Q2. This track is going to be hard on tires for everyone tomorrow, so with the right strategy we have an opportunity to fight for some points in the race."
Daniel Ricciardo (16th, 1:32.485): "That wasn't a good session for us, which is disappointing as yesterday was one of the best Fridays we have had in a while. The wind has played a bit of a part today, but we definitely should have been further up than that. I would have liked a better result of course, but we will have to see what we can do in the race. I just wasn't happy with the balance of the car. Jev's problem? I heard about it, but from what I've been told there's no reason for me to be concerned about it for the race, as everything was fine on my car."
Jean-Eric Vergne (18th, 1:33.357): "As I was going out of the pits, my engineer was on the radio to me, so I had to wait until the middle of sector 1 before I could tell him something. I thought I had an engine problem, but then I realized the rear brakes were stuck. I tried to brake and there was nothing in the pedal, then I saw the fire and had to stop the car. The team will have a lot of work to do tonight, because it took quite a while for the fire to be out. Hopefully the main components are undamaged, the engine and gearbox, but there will be many things to change. I am fine, apart from getting a bit of fire extinguisher material in my helmet. All this bad luck? I just hope that I have used up all my share of it for next year too. It won't be an easy race starting from this far back, especially as it is not so easy to overtake at Suzuka."
James Key, Technical Director: "Yesterday we were happy with the balance of the car. Today, the wind direction changed completely and that affected the balance, particularly in Sector 1, although, in Daniel's case we were still happy with the rest of the lap. Jev picked up quite a bit of performance today and was increasingly happy with the car going through FP3. For qualifying, we made a few additional changes to try and help the balance in Sector 1, but we still could not get the car to work as well here as in the rest of the lap. Unfortunately, just when Jev expected to make up a big chunk of time on the Option tire, his car developed a rear brake circuit problem, with the resultant fire. However, his car is fully repairable for tomorrow's race."
Charles Pic (20th, 1:34.556): "FP3 started with a car that was better balanced from Friday, especially in sector one. However, the traction wasn't as good but to avoid compromising the aero balance we'd found we worked on the diff and brake balance for run two and it made a small improvement. We stuck to the normal plan and did a second run on the primes and then onto the options, with a bit more front wing for the performance run but I couldn't feel a big gain in grip on the mediums today, unlike Friday. The car was understeering more, particularly in the high speed sections so we made another couple of changes before quali to deal with that. On my first run in qualifying we went out on mediums for three timed laps and the car immediately felt better. We'd made some more changes over lunch and the balance had improved a lot. Run one was ok but with more time to come we opted for a second one lap run at the end of the session. Just as we exited the pit the red flags came out so we came straight back, but had enough time for one more lap. Unfortunately, with the time left in the session when it restarted, we didn't have enough of a gap on track so even though I was 4/10ths up on the last quick lap, I came up behind another car and couldn't improve my time which is obviously a shame."
Giedo van der Garde (21st, 1:34.879): "We started FP3 with a pretty good balance. I was struggling a bit with entry into turns 11 and 16 and there was a bit of understeer as the tire wear increased, but not too much to be a concern. For the performance run we made a final change to the ride height and front wing to try and improve the car's behavior on entry and it seemed to work a bit. The car balance had improved but we still needed to improve its behavior in entry to the corners in the low speed turns, so we did that over lunch in preparation for Q1. We started quali with a three timed lap run on the medium tires and I couldn't really find any real pace. The track was very busy and there wasn't much clear space, but the car had been quickest on the first lap so we went for one timed lap on run two. Just when I went out the red flags came out at the same time so I had to come back in and that meant we were always going to struggle to get the best out of the tires when the session was restarted. As soon as it began again we went straight out but the tires had gone so I couldn't get everything out of it. Still, there's a few penalties which will mean we'll begin the race higher up and with another start tomorrow like I've had recently I'm sure we can be back where we want to be on race day."
Max Chilton (19th, 1:34.370): "I'm so happy to have put us ahead of both Caterhams in qualifying for the first time since China. One would have been a result, but to beat both Pic and van der Garde is really incredible and shows just how much fight there is in all of us at this crucial stage in the season. It has not been the most straightforward weekend for us on track and leaving the garage after the red flag, with just under three minutes of the Q1 session, remaining seemed like a tough ask. The track conditions had also shifted in that time and the wind made things more difficult in sector one for sure. I gave it all I had and my lap was as good as I could have asked of myself. I'm just really looking forward to my first Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka and I hope we can carry the momentum through into the race tomorrow. Well done to all of us in the Team."
Jules Bianchi (22nd, 1:34.956): "It's a really good achievement for the Team to have got the car back to a stage where we are capable of outclassing the Caterhams on merit, so this is positive news for the remaining races. As for here, it has been a bit of a struggle since FP1 and with only 33 laps over the weekend so far - most of them from this morning - we haven't had the opportunity to get back to where we started out so well on Friday morning, plus we have had to focus mainly on the race. Qualifying did not work out so well for me. We had planned to do just one option run but because of the red flag my quick lap was on scrubbed rather than new options. The race will be hard as well because there is a big job to do from the back row. On a positive, the Team have done a fantastic job with building up the car and enabling me to get so close to van der Garde in such a small space of time and this is an achievement in itself. I hope to build on that tomorrow and have a better race."
John Booth, Team Principal: "We spent a busy night in both the engineering office and in the garage, but I am pleased to say that the hard work paid off this morning and Jules' chassis was ready in good time to ensure a swift resumption of running. We hadn't had the best car balance with either driver yesterday and after going through the data the engineers came up with a revised package for this morning which has paid dividends on both cars. With Jules, our main focus this weekend was always going to be on the race, given his penalty, so in FP3 he did high fuel running on both types of tires. This of course meant that we were asking a lot of him in qualifying as we planned to only use one set of option tires, again with one eye always on the race. Unfortunately, his run of bad luck continued with the red flag deployed on this single run. Given that we had already decided to save tires for the race, there seemed little point in taking another new tire in qualifying, but in actual fact he showed impressive pace on his scrubbed tires in the final run this afternoon. Max has benefited from improved car balance this morning and he delivered a good first run in qualifying, albeit he was a little unlucky with traffic on his first lap. He got a fantastic final run and overall we are delighted with his finishing position. With Max's grid slot, and an arsenal of new tires available for Jules, I'm sure both drivers can have a good race."
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