ESPN rounds up all the reaction from up and down the Marina Bay paddock following qualifying for the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton (1st): “That lap just started perfect and it just kept going – it felt magical. It felt like one of the best – if not the best lap I’ve ever done. It’s what my brother and me would call a ‘sexy lap’. I only had that one lap in me today, I just couldn’t go any faster afterwards. This track is all about confidence, confidence in your braking points and the stability of the car, you only have a few laps to build your steps towards it. As soon as you lose it, it’s very hard to build back up to it. So I’m grateful that I had the extra two laps on the HyperSofts in Q2 as I could try and understand the tyre a bit more. In Q3, it really felt like each corner was on the limit, but no more, I didn’t have any wheel spin or any of that. I think the races have generally been quite strong for me this year, so I hope this will continue tomorrow. I’m going to work hard tonight to make sure the start is good. After that it will be all about looking after the tyres; making the HyperSofts last long won’t be easy, but we’re all in the same boat, so it should be interesting. The Ferraris and the Red Bulls in particular had good long-run pace, so we have a fight on our hands tomorrow. But I’m just so grateful that we did a better job today and so grateful for the support from everyone in the team today; this journey that I’m on with Mercedes and the entire team is just a remarkable experience.”
Valtteri Bottas (4th): “P4 is obviously not ideal, I can’t be happy with today’s result. Everything was going pretty well from FP3 all the way up to Q2, but then the others could find big chunks in Q3 and I couldn’t, I just didn’t really feel the track improvement. Lewis put in a great lap, but seven tenths is obviously a big gap, so I will need to have a look and analyse what exactly the issue was. The long-run times between Ferrari, Red Bull and us looked fairly comparable, so it’s a shame I couldn’t qualify higher and attack from the front row. We are definitely more competitive here than we were last year. The car has been improved and we also chose the right set-up direction. So I’m optimistic for tomorrow; it’s a new day and at least one Ferrari will start behind me. We still have a long race ahead of us and I will push hard to try and get ahead of Sebastian. With three teams in the mix, everything is possible. It’s difficult to overtake on this track, so both the start and the strategy will decide who wins this race.”
Sebastian Vettel (3rd) “Our laps today were not ideal and, all in all, our qualifying session was not as good as it could have been. I think we didn’t take the best out of the car. We didn’t have a smooth session, that’s it. The gap seems big but it’s partly because this is a very long track, so I am not worried. I think Lewis had a very good lap but he was not impossible to beat.Obviously, it’s always better to start from the front row, but I think tomorrow it will be fine. The car is good, so I believe we can stay with the group of the cars in front and then we have two hours of racing to work something out. You never know what can happen. Obviously, we should have done better because we had all the ingredients, but today we didn’t put them all together. I’m not completely upset because third is not a disaster, but for sure we wanted to qualify on pole and that was up for grabs today. However, we now turn the page and see how we can fight tomorrow”.
Kimi Raikkonen (5th): “This qualifying was a bit more tricky than we expected. In general, we struggled to ‘switch on’ the tyres straightaway and make them work as easily as it had been all weekend; so I was a bit surprised. Things can change quickly from practice to qualifying, that’s why there’s no reason to look at the lap times in practice, especially in places like this. The end result obviously is not great; this is the kind of circuit where if you get everything right your lap can be very good, but if you have some difficulties, the time difference gets big very quickly . Tomorrow will be a long day, everybody seems to be quite close to each other; it will be a long, tough and hectic race , and usually many things happen here. We’ll try to make the right decisions and the right calls”.
Daniel Ricciardo (6th): “It was a strange session and I was surprised that we lost so much pace in Q3. We made some changes between FP3 and Qualifying and initially the car felt pretty sweet. Everything we changed seemed positive and I thought we would get quicker and quicker as the track evolved, but we just lost pace as the session went on. I don’t have any answers as to why that happened yet which is pretty frustrating. I honestly thought we had a really good chance of a front row and in the space of an hour we lost a second to our competitors. Even with two attempts in Q3 we just couldn’t improve. It felt like we did everything right but the lap time doesn’t show it. I know we have good race pace but on a street circuit Qualifying is so important. It was strange and frustrating but hopefully we will find some answers.”
Max Verstappen (2nd): “Today was the best Qualifying session I’ve had in Formula One. Given the engine driveability issues we faced in Practice and Qualifying I was very surprised to bring it home in P2. My Q3 lap was really good and we made progress with the set-up in every session which meant the car felt great at the end. The main step was finding quite a bit of front grip, this helped a lot come Q2 and Q3. Around here if you feel it was a good lap with few mistakes it usually translates into a front row. Even with the odd false neutral we managed to be on the front row so I’m really happy. If I can take a metre against Lewis at the start, and get in the lead, there is a good chance of a win as it’s a hard track to pass on. You still need luck with Safety Cars but as always I will do my best. I can certainly say I have put myself in a good position to try.”
Esteban Ocon (9th): “I am quite pleased with tonight’s result. We had a great car and the upgrades worked really well, so we can be happy with what we achieved. My Q3 lap was not ideal because I brushed the wall and it probably cost me some time. Maybe without this I could have been higher up the grid. I feel good about tomorrow – anything can happen in the race and you need to keep out of trouble and be opportunistic. Overtaking isn’t easy around here so the first lap will be really important. I think we will have the race pace to score good points.”
Sergio Perez (7th): “It’s an incredible result; I am really pleased with our performance today. I think I produced a nearly perfect lap on a track where it is hard to achieve it. We’re ahead of our direct rivals and just behind the leaders. We had an advantage of four tenths on the Haas and six tenths on the Renault, and I think it goes to show that our upgrade package is already making a difference. This is a track that normally doesn’t play to our strengths, so I was a pleased at the pace we have shown. Tomorrow’s race is going to be a long one – nearly two hours – and there’s never a boring race in Singapore with incidents and Safety Cars influencing the end result. We need to make it to the chequered flag, avoid mistakes and hopefully I can make it eight races out of eight in the points in Singapore. Starting on hypersoft tyres can leave me a bit vulnerable to those behind, but track position is very important here. It’s not as crucial as in Monaco, but I’d rather be ahead than catching up.”
Lance Stroll (20th): “We need more grip to be faster, as this just didn’t suit our car. Looking at the time sheets today, tomorrow is likely to be a misery, but perhaps some rain could help. We have to figure out why we are off the pace, which we are severely lacking. Looking where we were, we tried something different with the car for the last run and my first few corners were even slower than the first run. I tried to brake deep into turn seven to see what happens, but I didn’t stand a chance, and just missed the corner. Tomorrow is going to be tough, but anything can happen.”
Sergey Sirotkin (19th): “It was really tough, one of the toughest qualifying sessions of the year, more of a survival. The way we have to approach each lap is to try and finish with as little damage and losses rather than attacking as a qualifying lap. I am very disappointed, we knew it was going to be tough, but with the change of conditions, it fell away from us. Tomorrow will not be the easiest race for us, so let’s hope for some rain!”
Nico Hulkenberg (10th): “It’s a little frustrating because we had the potential to be higher up on the grid. The qualifying pace in the car wasn’t as bad as it looks from the timing sheets as my final attempt wasn’t good. Seventh or eighth was probably possible today, but it didn’t go our way. We have to remain positive as our race pace seemed good yesterday. Tyre and race management will be crucial. Starting on the Hypersoft tyre won’t be easy, but we have to manage tomorrow as best we can. I want to have a good race, optimise everything and get back into the points.”
Carlos Sainz (12th): “It’s a disappointing result in the end as the car felt good in Q1 and little by little we lost grip from the rear tyres. When you lose grip through the session, especially at a track like this, it’s difficult to put together a perfect lap. We need to analyse why we went backwards after a promising Q1. We remain optimistic for tomorrow, however. We have a good chance with a number of options with strategy. Our target was to be further up the grid for the start, but points are given out at the end of the race.”
Brendon Hartley (17th): “We had a tricky session this morning, but we made some changes and got the car in a better window for Qualifying. It was pretty close to Q2; I had some traffic in my first run, my second run was clean but I made a couple of small mistakes in the middle sector which cost me time. Pierre got me by a tenth and a half of a second, and that was the difference between getting knocked out in Q1 and progressing to Q2. It’s a tricky track, you only get one chance around here. We were very good on tyres yesterday which was positive, so I remain hopeful we can make the strategy work and challenge for points in the race. We were hoping for better pace this weekend, but let’s see what tomorrow brings.”
Pierre Gasly (15th): “It has been tricky for us since the beginning of the weekend because we were not as competitive as we had of hoped yesterday. Today was a bit better but there wasn’t much we could do to compete with the other teams for Q3. We struggled with balance and grip so we tried a few things to find a solution, but we weren’t able to put it together which has made it difficult to extract the most performance out of the car. We’re aiming to make up some positions tomorrow, we know in Singapore that can be difficult, but we are usually competitive on the Hypersofts in extending the life of the tyres, so that will be the target during the race.”
Romain Grosjean (8th): “I think I had a great performance. On my last lap I had a massive oversteer into turn 21. I guess I lost about three tenths of a second, so it could’ve been really tight with (Sergio) Perez. You know, Force India, they were really quick in Monaco, and here it’s the same kind of track, so I’m a little surprised. It’s a shame Kevin couldn’t make it through. I think he missed a tenth or so, and on a track like this, it’s always difficult to find the limit in Q1. You don’t want to push it too much to crash the car, but you’ve got to push it to get up there. The race is going to be super long. The hypersofts are doing about three laps and then you better be on softs. It’ll be interesting tomorrow. It’s going to be hot, there’s probably going to be a safety car and, hopefully, we get a good race pace and keep the fight going.”
Kevin Magnussen (16th): “It’s not only been in qualifying, I’ve been missing the pace to my teammate. It’s really strange. I don’t really have any answers as to why I’m suddenly a second off the pace. It feels like I just don’t have the grip to go that fast. When you have a car that is somewhat well balanced, then it can only be overall lack of grip. I don’t really know why. It’s frustrating. I hope to find some answers as we look into it.”
Guenther Steiner, team boss: “Definitely a case of mixed feelings today. We had a good FP3, but then Kevin never really got the speed out of the car, finishing 16th in qualifying. Romain had a fantastic qualifying, though, finishing in eighth. So tomorrow, I think we’re in a little bit of a difficult spot. A lot of things can happen here at the start, and I’m hoping we’re not involved in those things. As normal, we will try to go for points. We look forward to tomorrow.”
Fernando Alonso (11th): “We have been competitive all through the weekend here and this qualifying result is good. We got back to our normal competitiveness and I’m happy about that. We knew that we were borderline on the Q3 cut-off, but starting the race from ninth or 10th on Hypersoft tyres can be a big disadvantage tomorrow, as those tyres seemed to have quite a lot of degradation yesterday in the long runs. So I’d rather be 11th with a free choice of tyres, and hopefully we can benefit from that. It would only be worth being in Q3 if we were fifth or sixth. In ten years of racing here, there has been a 100 per cent record of Safety Car periods, and we need to be ready for that in case there’s an opportunity, or a window to stop and change tyres. It’s a long and challenging race tomorrow and we need to stay focused and fight for points, but first of all we need to see the chequered flag. Reliability-wise, we haven’t been too strong recently, and we need to change that.”
Stoffel Vandoorne (18th): “My last run on the new tyres was extremely messy from my side – I touched the wall about four times I think. We should definitely have been in Q2 as that was when the track was at its best. It’s a shame because the pace was there to progress. I think the car is okay so that’s good. I tried to squeeze everything out of the car. When you do a bit too much and you overheat the tyres, the lap-time doesn’t come towards you. It’s all about qualifying here. I think our race pace is usually a bit better than qualifying – we’ve known that since the start of the year – but around here it’s very difficult to overtake, so it’ll have to be about a good strategy. The key will be to see what the runners on Hypersofts can do, how long they can make them last. At least we have free tyre choice so hopefully we can gamble a little bit. Anything can happen here in Singapore. There’s 100 per cent chance of a Safety Car so there’ll probably be one at some point!”
Marcus Ericsson (14th): “It was an interesting day for us. FP3 was rather difficult for us, and we were not fully satisfied with our performance. Nevertheless, we headed into qualifying feeling confident. The first session ran smoothly and I was happy with my performance. Unfortunately, Q2 did not go as well as we would have wanted it to. I felt good in the car, but couldn’t seem to improve enough to make it to Q3. We can see that the midfield is very tight, and will have to focus on tyre management and a good strategy to get a positive race result. I look forward to tomorrow.”
Charles Leclerc (13th): “It was a positive day overall. We made some improvements between FP3 and qualifying, and fought our way to Q2. We extracted the maximum out of our car, which is always our main target, and we can be satisfied with our performance. We have a long and tricky race ahead of us, and the high temperatures will be a good challenge which I cannot wait to discover.”
Mario Isola, head of car racing: “Qualifying has set up an intriguing mix of tactical possibilities, influenced by the decision to bring the hypersoft to Singapore. Its unprecedented speed is clearly beyond question, but this has to be balanced against the degradation we have seen so far when it comes to formulating the strategy. For this reason, we have seen a few different ideas during qualifying, and it’s going to be fascinating to see which strategy turns out to be the best option. Adding another variable is the fact that the Singapore Grand Prix is a very long and eventful race that has historically always featured at least one safety car period. So the strategies will have to be flexible enough to rapidly capitalise on changing circumstances as they happen. All three compounds could definitely play a potential role in the strategy, with nearly zero degradation on the soft.”