Q. Mark, it was a crazy session. But by the end you didn’t just seem to find extra pace but possibly a rudder to sail that Red Bull onto pole.
Mark WEBBER: It was a very tricky qualifying session for everyone. No question about it. When you look at the amount of standing water in places in Q1 and in Q2, just trying to get everything right, trying to get a clear lap, obviously there is a fair difference in pace between some of the cars. It was a pretty challenging session for everyone. My Q2 lap on the inters was a bit of a three-point turn around Pedro (de la Rosa) which was my quickest lap and you just knew you had to keep pushing as the conditions can change. Very challenging for everyone and some big scalps in the first session as well which was a bit of a surprise but it just goes to show how sensitive it is to timing. The pole is for my engineer. He made the call for the inters. He said, ‘mate, have a look at the track, what do you think, but yeah, let’s go for it, it’s going to be at the end on the third or fourth lap you are going to go for pole. That’s the proper tyre you need to be on.’ Tricky in places, turn two, but also stopping for the last corner there was a bit of aquaplaning. But it was the right tyre and I kept it on the black stuff and got the job done.
Q. Nico, a first ever front row start in Formula One for you. You seemed to enjoy the conditions a little more in Q3 than your team-mate did this year.
Nico ROSBERG: No, I think generally it was very, very difficult in qualifying. Really up and down and in the end qualí three was my best run and I was very pleased. It felt good out there and I thought I got a good lap in and then for the second lap the tyres had already started to degrade, so I couldn’t improve. But I was a bit worried as I saw Mark in front on inters and I was pretty sure that that was the right tyre and I was just about to dive in the pits and then I thought I understood from him, from where he was going, that he was changing his mind, so I decided to stay out but thankfully it wasn’t the wrong decision to stay on full wets either, so the front row is fantastic.
Q. Sebastian, take us through Q3 from your perspective. Mark, for once, had the better of you.
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, I said straight after the qualifying ‘good job, poker face.’ I think in the end we made the right call. It was very tricky at the start of Q3. There was a lot of water and it was the right thing to get the red flag out as it was just impossible for all of us. There was just too much water. The cars are quite low, so you end up swimming more than driving. But then I think in Q3 we did the right thing. It turned out that the water disappeared quicker than the majority of people thought and Mark was on the better tyre at the end. But, nevertheless, third is a very good position and result for us and the team and everything is possible tomorrow, so as they said already it was a very tricky session and I think it was much more important to get into the next round and qualify as high up as we can, which we did. Shame I had some moment in the fastest lap. I was very close to Nico. I think only about one-tenth, but if you look back there wasn’t that much margin either, so we can be very pleased with third today.
Q. Mark, for the third time this season a Red Bull driver starts on pole for the grand prix. How is the race going to pan out for you and are you worried about what’s happened to the Red Bull driver who has been on pole the first two times?
MW: Well, we know Sundays we haven’t executed the cleanest races so far this year. The guys have worked like hell at Milton Keynes and also at Viry, Renault engines and we are doing our utmost to execute those important Sunday afternoons. We have done a lot of great work on Fridays and Saturdays, but we know tomorrow is a big chance for us as a team to do well. Both of us together with some of our main contenders having a tough day today. But look, tomorrow, is a long race. This place can throw up lots of stuff in the two hour duration of the race, so we are not getting too far ahead of ourselves, but we did what we needed to do today.
Q. Mark, surely the session was all about making the right calls at the right time. We have seen that some people didn’t make the right call and became major casualties as it were. Who made the call about your intermediates?
MW: Collectively Ciaran [Pilbean, Mark’s race engineer] and I did. I have got to drive that car and he is having a look at the track conditions and also looking at the window with the weather. It is totally the wrong tyre if it lashes down with rain and totally the right tyre if it holds off for that little bit longer. It had already started to spit but the track in sections it was definitely the right tyre to be on. In other places it was quite high risk to throw both laps away and lose the car. I wasn’t aware I was the only guy on inters. I thought maybe Seb would be and I didn’t know who else would have a crack at them. I didn’t know I was the black sheep of the top ten, but in the end we made the decision together and it was about putting it together. But a tough hour for everyone. I wouldn’t throw egg at anyone, any team, as it is just so easy to get it wrong and it is easy to end up massively on the back foot and then you can’t respond as we saw with both Ferraris and Lewis (Hamilton) trying desperately at the end there when the track was gone. Q2 obviously we needed a canoe as it changes so quickly here and it is just absolutely undriveable in those conditions. You are doing a 40-50kph but even on the pit entry it was very tricky, so this place when it rains we know it is impressive. Fortunately for everyone today and also the TV we managed to get today’s work done and let’s see what we wake up to tomorrow.
Q. On that last lap, when you went faster again, could you just feel there was a fraction more grip everywhere? How did it develop for you with only three quick laps?
MW: I knew that I was improving again. I still had my dry lap in my rolling split, so I had a rough idea from the previous sessions – seven seconds down, nine seconds down – from previous corners where I was gaining or losing. I knew I wasn’t something half-decent but in those types of sessions you always have to try and push as hard as you can every lap as it is so changeable. Someone has good visibility and can put together a nice lap. Someone has something different and it doesn’t work for them. In Q2 it was a close shave for me because at the start you needed to do the time and Pedro spun in front of me, so I needed to duck around him and I knew I needed to finish that lap. I lost a lot of time but thankfully got through with that lap. It is very, very easy for anyone to not make it.
Q. It must feel like you won the lottery today?
MW: Not too bad. For all the guys. Melbourne on Sunday was a tough day. Again we have proven we can bounce back and make decisions as a team in tricky situations and get the job done for both drivers as well. That’s encouraging for us. We are doing everything we can to launch the right footing to go into a positive Sunday afternoons and we are doing the same tomorrow.
Q. Nico, your best ever grid position on a circuit that you say is your favourite circuit. But maybe not in these conditions?
NR: No, definitely not in these conditions. It was very difficult out there today and I just had to keep it on the road at times. I was very fortunate in Q1 to go through with a lap that was just a disaster but somehow managed to get it to the end. From then it was going well and I felt good in the wet. I got all my settings right with front wing and everything, so I got a really good lap in for Q3. I am really pleased for me, the whole team and even for Petronas as it is like a half-home grand prix for us which is great. In general good stuff and I think we can do really well from that position tomorrow.
Q. What is the weather going to be like tomorrow? What would it be like racing in those conditions?
NR: It is really difficult and even today in Q3 it was just too much water. We have to wait and see for tomorrow. I expect a really difficult race in general with red flags, this and that, but looking at it today I am quite confident that I can make it through to the end and get a really good result whatever comes. If it is dry, I think we can do well. If it is wet, we have a quick car, so it should be good.
Q. How much are you allowed to made adjustments during a session like that, given that it was the first wet session you had driven? It’s only the front wing, isn’t it?
NR: Yes, during the session you’re allowed to change the front wing, you’re allowed to do tyre pressures, those are the main things.
Q. Sebastian, happy to be third on the grid?
SV: I’m happy.
Q. Two poles so far, happier with the car this morning?
SV: Yeah, I think we did a step forward overnight and looking… they’ve said it all, really. It was a pretty chaotic qualifying today, up and down. As we saw in Q1 some of the favourites got thrown out going into qualifying. In the end, I think the most important thing was to get into the next round safely which I think we did. Overall, I think we were very consistent. The pace was there. In the end, I think third is a very good result, so I’m happy. There was not much gap missing to the next best car on wets, to Nico, I think about a tenth but also if you look back I think there was plenty of margin, so overall a good day I think. Obviously Mark was the poker face today and made the right decision at the right time. I honestly thought that going into Q3 that that’s (intermediates) a little bit too risky and as we have seen, the majority of people went out on wets. I think that looking back, we did the right thing.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q. (Mike Doodson) Sebastian, there have been a number of explanations for the problem you had in Melbourne, even to the extent of one of your suppliers issuing a statement to say it wasn’t responsible. Can you tell us what did go wrong and are there any new and/or different parts on your car as a result?
SV: It’s a difficult one to explain. Initially it felt like a braking failure, so that’s what we said straight after the race but it turned out not to be anywhere linked to the brakes, so the brakes were working fine, so Brembo did a good job. Sorry for the call on Sunday afternoon last week. But it turned out to be a problem with the… basically we lost the ability to transmit power or torque to the wheel. Accelerating is not a big issue because the wheels just get quicker, but as you know, we have brakes everywhere, on every single wheel on the car and to stop the car, you rely on every single brake you have, so on all four wheels, to work and on the left front, as I said, we lost the ability to transmit torque. When I was hitting the brakes, down to turn 13, all the brakes worked but the left front wheel kept on running, so that in the end I was kind of braking on three wheels, which, when you set your reference point, doesn’t really work, so that was the failure. As a consequence, we obviously had to understand why this happened, and I think we did, so we’re confident that we haven’t got any problems with that any more. I think we tidied things up a bit, so I think we know why it happened and we understood the problem, so it shouldn’t happen again, as I said. We haven’t really got new parts but trimmed a bit.
Q. (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Mark, from what moment in Q3 were you sure that you made the right tyre choice?
MW: Not the first lap. I had a huge moment in turn two, nearly spun the car at the apex of two and out of three. Obviously I had a look at the track on the out lap but then until you start pushing, you obviously don’t realise how the level of aquaplaning will be. So coming into finishing the second, starting the third lap, I thought I saw the quickest time on the board initially and then I knew when I crossed the line my lap was superior to that, so I thought that this is going well. So I thought ‘yeah, this is a good tyre to be on but quite high maintenance.’ I think it was the fastest tyre to be on but quite risky, in the end. It was right on the button between both the tyres, obviously. Whether I would be on pole on the wet tyre is obviously another subject but in the end everyone had the same chance to make the same choices. It looks like nine guys went one way and I went the other way and it turned out OK. The wet tyre was also working pretty well, because clearly it’s not like there’s five or six seconds between us, there’s just a second, which in those conditions… obviously in the dry it’s a lot but in those conditions it’s not much.
Q. (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to the Red Bull drivers: as you start from the front of the grid, is it good for you that the two of you – because all the big names are at the back – is it good to be back in the championship race for tomorrow? And secondly, are you worried by Mark’s engine failure yesterday?
MW: First of all, I think it can be a long race tomorrow. If it was a very, very dry, boring Grand Prix, of course those guys were going to have a bit more of an interesting afternoon, or a more difficult afternoon, to penetrate through the field. But if there’s rain at any stage, it can obviously change. There’s absolutely no question about it: we want to be starting at the front and we’ve done that today, so it’s a nice bonus for us. The engine failure? It (the engine) was very high mileage. You never want any engine failures, of course, but it happened. The guys are pushing incredibly hard. We are doing everything we can within the engine freeze, obviously, to find performance. We know we have a freeze which is quite tough on us, so we’re doing everything we can to close the gap to the guys who have a bit more power. In the end, we had a failure and we hope that we can learn from it and go forward but obviously we can’t change the spec of all the engines now. They’ve been the same since winter testing.
Q. (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Nico, your first ever front row and the first front row for Mercedes; does this give a special feeling to you?
NR: Of course, there’s a special feeling to be on the front row with the Silver Arrow – that’s great and that’s where I was hoping to be, obviously, before the season, so it’s nice to have made that happen. As I say, I also think we can do a good job tomorrow because we have a decent car in the dry also. There are some people behind me who are definitely slower than us, so except for Sebastian, directly behind, there are some people who are slower, so I think we can really look forward to a good result tomorrow.
Q. (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Sebastian, you were the only one of the top teams who went out immediately in Q1 and Nico waited quite a long time, like many others, which almost caught you out like the Ferraris and Hamilton. First of all, why did you go out early, and for Nico, were you getting nervous in the garage when you saw the others driving and you were being held back by the team?
NR: I wasn’t getting nervous because there was no more rain for the rest of Q1 according to the forecast. That nearly caught us out, we were lucky to get through.
SV: In the end, you decide as a team. Obviously, looking back it was definitely the right choice. We wanted to wait for longer but then obviously it makes sense to go out and set a lap, no matter what, because you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know which tyre is going to work in which conditions. We had zero experience in free practice, so that for Mark and for myself it was the same call. Obviously we wanted to go out and have a look and that turned out to be the right thing.
NR: I think also the main problem was with that forecast, that with these specific types of clouds it’s very difficult to see them coming sometimes and they just pop out, so that’s one of the difficulties I guess.
[Image via GP Update]