Malaysian Grand Prix – Qualifying Results, Quotes, Photos
After a solid showing in Free Practice 3 earlier today, spirits were high in the Lotus F1 Team garage as the drivers rolled out of the garage to begin their first qualifying runs under the blistering Malaysian sun.
Qualifying 1 got off to the best possible start as both drivers put themselves firmly in the frame to progress to the next session with strong early laps. Despite sitting in P6 and P7 respectively with just a handful of minutes remaining, Kimi and Romain sat poised in the garage ready for another run to cement their places in the top 17. As it turned out neither required an additional stint, dropping only as far as P8 and P9 as the chequered flag was waved.
The second session followed a similar pattern for Kimi. The moment the green flag was flown he fired his E20 down the pit lane and put in a scorching lap to occupy top spot, where he would remain until the end of the session without having to set another time. Romain’s approach was more measured, waiting to see how the track evolved before completing an equally short stint (3 laps) to end the session in P6.
With both cars safely through to the pole position shootout, the excitement in the team garage was palpable as the drivers went for two runs apiece in an attempt to plant their E20s as high up the order as possible. Kimi ended the session in P5, setting an identical time to Mark Webber in P4. With his effort just 0.2s shy of the pole lap, the Finn believed he could have grabbed top spot without a small slide in turn 9. Romain adopted the same strategy as his team mate, ending the day in an impressive P7 to seal his second top 10 starting berth in as many races.
SkySports Live – KR: “It was ok, a bit of a shame we’re only going to be 10th tomorrow but the car is working well. A small mistake in a few corners cost us a few tenths but we had the speed today to have the perfect lap to be in the front… We’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
Pos--Driver---------------Team-----------------Time -----------Gap 1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m36.219s 2. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m36.368s + 0.149 3. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m36.391s + 0.172 4. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m36.461s + 0.242 5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m36.461s + 0.242 6. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m36.634s + 0.415 7. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m36.658s + 0.439 8. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m36.664s + 0.445 9. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m37.566s + 1.347 10. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m37.698s + 1.479 Q2 cut-off time: 1m37.477s Gap ** 11. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m37.589s + 0.874 12. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m37.731s + 1.016 13. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m37.841s + 1.126 14. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m37.877s + 1.162 15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m37.883s + 1.168 16. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m37.890s + 1.175 17. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.069s + 1.354 Q1 cut-off time: 1m38.437s Gap * 18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m39.077s + 1.905 19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m39.306s + 2.134 20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m39.567s + 2.395 21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m40.903s + 3.731 22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m41.250s + 4.078 23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m42.914s + 5.742 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m43.655s + 6.483
Kimi Räikkönen – 10th*: “The car was working well today. Unfortunately, I made a couple of mistakes on my fastest lap which probably cost a couple of tenths. Without that, we were in with a shout for pole today. I got a little bit sideways at the exit of turn nine and we lost some time, but that’s how it goes sometimes. We had some issues with KERS yesterday, but there was no repeat today; the car worked exactly as it should and it felt good. It’s a shame we have a penalty on the grid but the car works well. Today was definitely a positive day. Tomorrow we start from tenth and will try to improve from there.”
Alan Permane, Director of Trackside Operations:
Q. Two drivers in the top ten. That’s a bit more like it…
AP: “Obviously we’re happy from today’s performance, but as ever in Formula 1 we always want more. Kimi felt he made a mistake in a couple of corners, and with a perfect lap he could have certainly done better, but overall to have the fifth and seventh fastest cars in qualifying was encouraging.”
Q. What can we expect from the race tomorrow?
AP: “Looking at all the data, we should expect a strong race. We have a good handle on the tyres in these conditions. We have good set-ups which both drivers feel very happy with. Weather permitting, we should expect to have both cars in the points tomorrow.”
Q. We changed Kimi’s gearbox. Are there any concerns going into the race?
AP: “None at all. We saw high temperatures on Kimi’s gearbox in Australia after the cooler was blocked by grass and debris. It completed most of the race like this. We checked both gearboxes thoroughly and there were no concerns with Romain’s gearbox. Kimi has a new ‘box on his car – for which we receive a five place grid penalty – but this was necessary.”
Q. Sepang is notorious for its variable weather. How do you plan a race strategy for this?
AP: “We plan for a dry race and the fastest strategy possible given our grid positions. We monitor the weather reports and satellite information as well as looking at the skies in the build-up to the race, and we have a plan in case it rains. It’s almost impossible to make a concrete wet race strategy in advance as there are so many variables involved. It’s a time when all of us on the pit wall really have to earn our salaries with our strategy calls. It’s a time for cool heads and calm decisions.”
Asked by AUTOSPORT if he could have been one of the two fastest drivers in qualifying, the winner of this event in 2003 replied: “Yeah for sure. It’s [his time] a tenth away from the top three and for sure we lost that easily.
“I got out of shape in two places and lost maybe a tenth or two, and on a perfect lap for sure it could have been two tenths faster, but it’s not often that you get everything right like that so…”
The Finn also revealed that he was happier with his car after overnight changes to the floor and repairs to his KERS, which hadn’t functioned properly during Friday’s practice.
“It worked today, so I mean it didn’t work yesterday, we had some issues with KERS and all sorts of things,” he explained. “Now it is normal and it’s fine. I don’t think in Melbourne… it didn’t feel something [right]. We ran the same floor, and then we changed the floor yesterday because we had some issues and suddenly it’s like it was in testing.”
The 2007 world champion was quick on race pace on his return to F1 at Melbourne last week, where he finished seventh, and though he hopes to be able to achieve a similar speed on Sunday, he was cautious about predicting a podium place.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll tell you tomorrow. I mean the cars in front of us, they are fast, but I think we were pretty good in the race in Melbourne in the long runs. Yesterday I had a good speed in the long runs so we will see.
“It depends, a lot can happen in the first two corners, if you can get through clean and with no problems. That’s why it would have been nicer to start closer to the front.
“Yesterday in my long run the car was pretty good, even though we didn’t have KERS and the car probably wasn’t perfect overall. But then the soft I don’t know.
“If it is the same like yesterday I think we have a pretty good car.”