Australian GP Qualifying – what the drivers said

Lewis Hamilton; “I feel so fortunate to be in the position I’m in today. We had no idea that we’d have this gap to the others – we thought we were behind, we thought it was going to be a push, so we gave it absolutely everything and more to arrive here with the best possible package and delivery. Valtteri and I have been pushing the car to its absolute limits. We haven’t massively changed the car; it’s almost the same set-up we had in Barcelona, so this gap was really surprising to see. This is the first time we’ve unleashed the full potential of the car and I’m so happy to have a car that I can fight with. This is a really great start to the new season and it puts us in a good position for the fight tomorrow.”

Valterri Bottas; “I really enjoyed driving today, I was in a good flow and usually when you enjoy driving it shows on the time sheets as well. My first lap in Q3 was pretty good and I wanted to improve in my second lap, but I was stuck in traffic on my out lap, so my tyres were just a bit too cold at the start of the lap. Lewis did put in a fantastic lap, but I think without the traffic it would have been a close fight for pole today. We didn’t expect to be this strong – we’re happy, but frankly quite surprised to see that gap. We came here, not knowing where we’d be and actually thought we’d be a bit behind Ferrari. But we shouldn’t underestimate them; they looked very strong in winter testing and have a quick car, even if they struggled today. At the same time our team has done a really good job between Barcelona and here, constantly improving the car. Today was good fun, we both got some nice laps in, so let’s hope we will have a good Sunday as well. It’s a decent run into Turn 1, so hopefully I can get a good start, build a gap to the cars behind and have a good fight with Lewis.”

Sergio Perez; “Making the top ten is a great way to start the season. We did a great job throughout qualifying and I was really pleased with my lap in Q2. The key today was to avoid mistakes and be consistent. It will be interesting to see where we stand in the race but it’s never easy to overtake on this track so starting in the top ten is important. Hopefully we can hold position and make up some ground at the start. As I always say, it doesn’t matter where you start the season, but where you finish. There is great potential in this car and I’m confident we can keep improving as the year goes on.”

Lance Stroll, Racing Point

Lance Stroll, Racing Point

Lance Stroll; “My best lap today was affected by traffic. I came across Grosjean, who was on an out lap, at turn nine and it definitely cost me a few tenths. It’s a real shame because I really felt good with the car today and we had the speed to progress to at least Q2. All I can do now is try and make up some positions at the start and see how things play out in the race. I think we look quite competitive with our race pace so we can still come away with a good result.”

Alex Albon; “My Qualifying started off okay. I did my first lap and when I got told of the lap times I saw how quick it is around here. I hooked it up on the second of the Q1 laps and fell into the rhythm – it took me all the way until Qualifying to get there, but once you get the feel you gain confidence, because the grip is there as the track evolution is huge. I’m a bit gutted to miss out on Q3, we knew it was going to be close in winter testing, but it’s so tight in the midfield that you can’t afford to make any mistake! I’m happy with the lap I did, but on the other side a tenth or a tenth and a half quicker and I would have been in Q3! This track isn’t easy for overtaking, but maybe the new regulations will come into play and give us a chance to move up the field. Our long runs look pretty good – we’re close to the points so that’s the goal for tomorrow. I’ll be a bit nervous and I’m not sure if I’ll sleep too well tonight! I’m really looking forward to my first race in F1 and I’ll try to keep my nose clean and bring home a good result.”

Daniil Kvyat; “I’m happy with how the weekend went until Qualifying. It was perfect until Q2 where things got a bit scrappy. I had a bit of traffic on the last lap when Sebastian went off the track. I’m not at all blaming him but I lost time there. We need to remain optimistic because we still have to extract everything from the car, otherwise the timesheets would surely be different. I think my lap from Q1 would have been enough for Q3, but if you do it once you need to be able to do it twice, so we will work to understand where it went a bit wrong. It’s really nice to be back pushing the car to the limit, I’ve enjoyed every lap this weekend – it’s been cool! I think we can try to recover a few positions tomorrow as our long runs didn’t look too bad and with good tyre management and strategy we’ll see where it will get us!”

George Russell; “It felt like a really good lap, driving round a mega track at full beans. I got in three tidy laps and I am happy with my own performance but obviously we are a team and we want to push for more. The guys around me, the engineers, and myself, we did a really great job to get everything out of the package we’ve got. All I can do is drive as fast as I can, and I felt like I did that.”

Robert Kubica (POL) Williams Racing FW42

Robert Kubica (POL) Williams Racing FW42.
Australian Grand Prix, Saturday 16th March 2019. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.

Robert Kubica; “It wasn’t the best start of the season especially because I am last on the grid. I made a mistake on the last run when I had a good feeling and could drive the car better. I apologise for that, but that is how it is. It has been a difficult situation, but I am back on the Formula One grid and I would like to thank everyone that has made it possible, as well as the team.”

Nico Hulkenberg; “Making Q3 was definitely possible today. It’s unfortunate that we had a small problem, which cost us a shot at the top ten. I lost a bit of time on my first lap in Q2 through traffic and a lock-up, but we showed the pace was there for a strong result. We’re competitive. We know it’s close and small margins make a big difference. We’re not in bad shape ahead of tomorrow and a strong race from eleventh on the grid is possible. The car felt good with long-run pace on Friday and I’ve felt comfortable in the car all weekend. We have every chance to pick up points tomorrow.”

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team RS19

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team RS19.
Australian Grand Prix, Friday 15th March 2019. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.

Daniel Ricciardo; “I’m clearly disappointed not to make Q3, especially as it was just half a tenth and that’s something I can find in myself – I lost a bit of time in the first sector on the last run. We had the potential to make Q3 so when you don’t do the perfect lap, it’s frustrating. As expected the midfield is really close but I’m feeling optimistic for a strong result tomorrow. I always want to do well at home, but we have to keep a cool head, have a good start and then attack when necessary.”

Sebastian Vettel; “Starting tomorrow’s race from third is not too bad and the car is ok, even if it’s not exactly how we would like it and we are not as fast as we wanted to be. But we’ll start from there and see what we can bring home. This track is unique and conditions are different to what we experienced in testing. We have definitely improved the car overnight, but obviously not enough to be in front of everyone. In tomorrow’s race we’ll have time to understand the car further. We will race as hard as we can and see where that takes us. After all, we are just 16 metres behind pole position”.

Charles Leclerc; “I can’t say I’m happy with this qualifying result. After a good Q1 and a very good Q2, in Q3, especially on my second run, I made a few too many mistakes, especially in the first sector and I was unable to improve. I will try to learn from this and to prepare as well as possible for the race. As for the gap to our main competitors, I have to admit that maybe we had expected it to be smaller, even if this is an unusual track which often throws up a different order to what we can see on a more traditional track. On our side, I think there is still room to work on the car and the race is tomorrow and will be pretty long, so I am still aiming for a podium. I will definitely have to get a perfect start, because overtaking is far from easy here.”