A genuinely good news story emerged in the world of Formula One at the Brazilian Grand Prix early this morning when Williams driver Nico HÃ¼lkenberg claimed an incredible maiden pole position. It is the first time since the 2005 European Grand Prix at the NÃ¼rburging, exactly 100 races ago, that a Williams has started from first on the grid.
While all three qualifying sessions were affected by wet weather it was the final session that gave HÃ¼lkenberg the opportunity to shine. With around four and half minutes left in Q3 the Interlagos track was finally ready for slick tyres and all 10 participating drivers came in to change. Initially, the grip provided by the slicks left the drivers on a knife edge. But with each lap the line became drier and the times began to tumble.
So much so that with just 13 seconds of qualifying remaining it was Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who held provisional pole (1:15.989). In the end his time was only good enough to secure fifth place on the grid, as Lewis Hamilton (McLaren â€“ 1:15.747), Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing â€“ 1:15.637), Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing â€“ 1:15.519) and HÃ¼lkenberg all went quicker.
HÃ¼lkenberg, though, timed his run to perfection and effectively had one more lap than the rest of the field. With only four seconds left in the final session the young German posted the quickest time. A time unable to be beaten by the two Red Bulls following close behind. And with the track conditions on the improve The Hulk improved on his provisional pole time to register his best time of 1:14.470 to lead the field by over one second.
It’s great for F1 to see the emergence of a new talent and it must be remembered that HÃ¼lkenberg is in his rookie season fighting to secure a drive in 2011. Meanwhile, the potential unpredictability of having a first-timer on pole with five men behind him still in the hunt for the World Championship means this will be one race worth getting up at 3am for!
A press release from AT&T Williams can be read after the jump, along with the full text from the official FIA post-qualifying press conference.
BRAZILAN GRAND PRIX QUALIFYING
SATURDAY 6 NOVEMBER, 2010
The AT&T Williams team celebrated Nico Hulkenbergâ€™s maiden pole position today, claimed following a storming drive at Brazilâ€™s Interlagos circuit in difficult conditions. The result marks the teamâ€™s first pole since the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in 2005 and the first in one hundred races. Rubens Barrichello concluded a successful day for the team as he claimed the sixth quickest time of the session in front of a home crowd.
I didnâ€™t expect to be on pole today but the team gave me a car that worked really well in these conditions and I hooked up a tidy lap. My engineer came over the radio and told me I was on pole, but I couldnâ€™t quite believe it. Itâ€™s such an amazing feeling. We have to stay realistic for the race, and Iâ€™m aware that there are drivers behind me fighting for the championship, but we are fighting for position and we will be doing everything we can to get a good result. For now, thanks to AT&T Williams for giving me a really great car today; Iâ€™m just so happy and I want to enjoy the moment with the team!
I am truly happy for the team; itâ€™s been a wonderful afternoon for us. We have a pole position, just not with me! I am thrilled for Nico though. In these conditions, you need to keep temperatures up in the tyres, but I had a car in front of me going a bit slow so I lost temperature and went off. Iâ€™m pleased with P6, itâ€™s still a strong place to start the race from.
Patrick Head, Director of Engineering:
That was a fantastic qualifying for the team; and for Nico and his engineers in particular. I think we saw something pretty special from him today. He did three timed laps on dry tyres, with his pole time over a second quicker than anyone elseâ€™s. Rubens also drove well to sixth, a good starting point for the race.
Brazilian GP – Conference 3
1. Nico HÃœLKENBERG (Williams), 1m14.470s
2. Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull), 1m15.519s
3. Mark WEBBER (Red Bull), 1m15.637s
Q: Nico, your first pole. What a time, what a place to do it and you were in a class of your own on slicks at the end and almost a second faster than the two Red Bulls. You must be in dreamland.
Nico HÃœLKENBERG: Yeah, I mean it is amazing. I still cannot believe that I have done it. A big, big thank you to the team putting a good car together for qualifying. To go on slicks was obviously the right decision and my engineer told me I had one last lap but I was good in the rankings already. I was just squeezing everything I could out of my car, trying to do a very smooth lap, not to get on any wet parts and make a mistake. What a nice surprise for us on Saturday to be on pole. Very, very happy obviously and I am just enjoying the moment.
Q: Sebastian, it really is all about timing and there was an awful amount to lose for the championship contenders, but you managed to get through.
Sebastian VETTEL: Yes, it was a tricky session. A tough call in the end in Q3 after the first run on inters. The circuit looked dry but still the last sector, particularly, was very tricky but I think everyone decided in the end to go on drys. It was getting better and better but extremely difficult, slippery. At first I thought I missed pole by a tenth but then I saw there was another digit. It was a four instead of a five, so one second. Congratulations to Nico. It is very tricky in these conditions, very easy to make a mistake, so as you said we were targeting for pole, but Nico was better than all of us today. But still it was very tricky but I am very happy with second.
Q: Mark, third for you today but the championship leader Fernando Alonso is a couple of places back from you. Tell us about your qualifying and how do you see the race tomorrow?
Mark WEBBER: Well, I enjoyed qualifying. It was a very challenging session for all of us. It is very easy in those conditions to get things wrong, so first of all I am very happy to be right towards the front and to get something out of that last session. It was really, really tricky to get the clean laps in and I did my absolute best. It was pretty close between Seb and I, and then similar to Sebastian I looked at the times and Nico, his car was obviously working very well and he was very confident and got the most out of it. Congratulations to him on his first pole. I think it was pretty eventful for people watching it at home and also for us not to put any stress in the cockpit. Enjoyable session and I am happy to be near the front.
Q: Nico, there has been a lot of talk lately that you might be under pressure for your drive in 2011. Tell us what this pole means for you.
NH: Well, obviously first pole position is emotional and hopefully an historic moment as I want to be in Formula One for many, many years. At the minute I miss the words of what I want to say as I am still shaking from the lap and all the thrill. I have to realise what we have just done and get on with the job tomorrow.
Q: Nico, how did you do that? It is all a mystery!
NH: I came here into Formula One for a reason. I donâ€™t know. When my engineer said â€˜you have got one more lap mate, squeeze everything outâ€™ I must say I did a pretty good lap without any mistakes. Very smooth, trying not to get on any wet parts as it was still pretty tricky out there, especially sector three, the last corner. It was very easy to make a mistake but that lap was spot on and enough for pole position.
Q: You were consistently quick all the time.
NH: Yeah, also a big thank you for the team. They have prepared a very good car for qualifying which gave us the opportunity first to get into Q3 but then also to have a good result. Even Rubens (Barrichello) is on P6, so it was a very good team effort and yeah, what can I say, it is amazing. I miss the words a bit what to say but obviously very happy and just want to enjoy everything.
Q: Up until now you have had a best of eighth on the grid. This is your eighth time in the top 10 as well and your first time here at Interlagos, first time you have seen the circuit. Are you now in love with it?
NH: I like the circuit. I must say it is not one of my very, very favourite ones. There are better ones but I still enjoy driving a lot here. It is a left hand circuit. It is a very competitive circuit and in some corners it is tricky and you need to understand it but since the second half of the season, since I am more familiar with Formula One, with the team, with myself and the car, everything comes a lot easier to me. I can push the car more, learn the circuits quicker. It is just a whole learning process I guess.
Q: You have got this whole World Championship battle perhaps taking place behind you. How is that going to affect you? How do you not be affected by that?
NH: The best thing is to do a good start and drive off from them but I think if it is dry it is not going to happen. I just try to do my race and do a good start. I know these guys are fighting for the championships, so I donâ€™t want to cause any trouble but I also have to look for my own performance. We are also battling with Force India for P6 in the Constructorsâ€™, so I am sure I can manage it and I hope I can bring some good points back home tomorrow.
Q: Sebastian, there was always the possibility there might be a spoiler in there. A Robert Kubica or a Nico Rosberg or somebody like that. I guess you werenâ€™t really expecting it to be Nico, though.
SV: No. I think no-one did. But generally I am happy with qualifying. The last session was very tricky, challenging. But at the same time a bit angry as I think if you get a second gap to the guy ahead it is not frustrating, but it is a statement. But he did a very good job today. I think we have seen yesterday, you know if you look at the beginning when the track was green, the Williams generally is a good car but still you need to put the laps together. It was not a lucky lap at all. If you out-qualify everyone by a second it means something. He did it probably three times in a row. But to come back as I said, happy with second. It could have been anything this afternoon. We knew that going into qualifying but then it was a tight call at the end. We decided for dry and it was the right decision. Generally happy with the lap. Unfortunately a little bit unlucky with traffic. Once I had the yellow corner at the last corner and I had to back off and the last sector was the most tricky one as it was the wettest. The second lap I had I went straight and the third lap I got it someway round. Still I think it would not have been enough to get on pole. Letâ€™s see. Tomorrow is a long race. We should have a good race car.
Q: Is second on quite a dirty side here?
SV: Oh, I donâ€™t think so. If Iâ€™m not wrong, didnâ€™t Rubens start from P2 last year? (No.) So, I was wrong. I think it should be fine. With a lot of rain today, it has maybe put some dust on the track or maybe cleaned it. Generally this year the circuit was very clean. Yesterday, to start with, all the drivers were very happy, so it should be good.
Q: And of course you were very quick in the dry yesterday. Are you expecting dry tomorrow?
SV: We do, yeah. I hope that it isnâ€™t mixed conditions because then it will be a boring race for Nico. It should be dry, and as I said, I expect to have a good car. I think we did some changes overnight which didnâ€™t work today, obviously, but it should be fine for tomorrow.
Q: How much do you race your championship rivals and perhaps not take any notice of Nico?
SV: I have to take notice of him, heâ€™s ahead of me. If he was starting from P8 I probably wouldnâ€™t notice that much, but heâ€™s ahead so heâ€™s a challenger, so we are racing against him. The race is long, a lot of things can happen, you donâ€™t know. We know that we should be quicker in the race. Our car is quite a bit quicker than the Williams, but we still need to find out tomorrow, so focus on having a good start and then, as I said, itâ€™s a long race, a lot of things can happen around here. A safety car is not impossible. If you have it at the right time it can help you, at the wrong timeâ€¦ and if youâ€™re unlucky it can ruin your race. There are a lot of things we need to watch out for. Itâ€™s a long race. Regarding the championship, I donâ€™t bother too much. I do my two races, starting with this one, so the focus is on tomorrowâ€™s race. I try to optimise my performance. I think thereâ€™s a lot of you guys telling me if itâ€™s looking good or looking bad afterwards.
Q: Mark, normally you might be pretty unhappy with third on the grid; what about today?
MW: Iâ€™m happy. It could easily have been 17th today, couldnâ€™t it? Very tricky session for all the drivers. If youâ€™d asked me after Q2 if I would have been happy with third, maybe not so but after the sessionâ€¦ It was a very, very tricky session on slicks, so good to be on the second row and Iâ€™m in a good position to start the race. Itâ€™s a long one and Iâ€™m looking forward to a good event tomorrow. Congratulations to Nico, very good lap, I must say. He made all of us look pretty average today. Apart from him, I donâ€™t think any of us got a mega-clean lap but thatâ€™s our job and he did a great job, so well done to Nico and Williams to get on pole.
Q: You had a little moment off the circuit; were you worried that that was it?
MW: No, because I knew that the last lap was basically going to be the one for everybody. Felipe didnâ€™t look too comfortable in front of me, so it wasnâ€™t easy to know where to open my lap with him, so that was my main concern, trying to open the lap each time behind Felipe because I knew he wouldnâ€™t pull over at the end of the lap, because he was trying to do his best as well. In the end, sensational team performance today. We got everything except one position. JB (Jenson Button) had a tough today, so letâ€™s try to capitalise on that tomorrow. There are a lot of positives from today.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ian Parkes â€“ The Press Association) Mark, thereâ€™s obviously been a lot of talk and speculation about yourself these past 48 hours since your comments on Thursday. Can you honestly say, hand on heart, that going into tomorrowâ€™s race after these last few days that your mind is clear, youâ€™re totally focused on the job in hand?
MW: Absolutely mate. When Iâ€™m in the car, absolutely, completely clear. Weâ€™ve seen that with my performances in the last five or six races. Of course Korea didnâ€™t turn out but none of us have had perfect seasons this year, so with the exception of that Iâ€™ve been very happy with how Iâ€™ve driven and you canâ€™t drive like that if youâ€™re not happy. The boys on the floor, everyone here, weâ€™re all in great spirits and ready to go and have a good race tomorrow. Thatâ€™s our focus.
Q: (Marco Degliâ€™Innocenti â€“ La Gazzetta dello Sport) Nico, your first pole, does this mean that your chances of being confirmed by your team for next season have increased now?
NH: Yeah, Markâ€™s just saying that that means a pay rise actually. No, just joking. I think the situation at Williams is still very open. Nothing is confirmed, obviously, but I just try to keep focused on doing a good job each weekend. So far, I think itâ€™s working pretty well. If I do that, and I donâ€™t make any silly mistakes, itâ€™s all I can do and then itâ€™s up to the team to decide if they want to keep me or not. Iâ€™m in a positive mood that we will have a successful ending to that story.
Q: (Rodrigo Franca â€“ VIP Magazine) For all of you: do prefer a race with conditions like that, a little bit wet or do you prefer a dry race?
NH: I donâ€™t mind really. Iâ€™d like to have a proper wetâ€¦ full wet conditions. Thatâ€™s what I like and what would be good for us. But either way, whatever it is, we go out there and race.
SV: Itâ€™s not in our hands, so I donâ€™t really care. I think we have a competitive car in dry and wet, so we should be doing well.
Q: (Ed Straw â€“ Autosport) Nico, the Williams hasnâ€™t been the best car off the starting grid so far this year. How confident are you that you will be able to get to the first corner in the lead and do you expect to have to be a little bit defensive when you get there if these guys have got a run on you?
NH: To be honest, this weekâ€™s starts have been very positive, all the ones weâ€™ve done. For different reasons weâ€™ve chosen some different gear ratios which allow us to have a better start, maybe give away a bit of performance during the lap but I think I can have a very good start tomorrow and still be P1 in the first corner and then see from there.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti â€“ Corriere della Sera) Sebastian and Mark, how do you rate the position of Fernando, considering tomorrowâ€™s race?
SV: Heâ€™s fifth, so he starts behind Mark, he starts from fifth. Thereâ€™s not much more to rate. To be honest thereâ€™s 71 laps here and I think that if you look back at the races over the last three years it has always been very entertaining and I think no-one predicted the outcome of the race as it happened in the end. So he starts fifth. Thatâ€™s it for today, tomorrow we will see.
MW: Yeah, where he is, is better than pole but it also could have been worse. Yeah, it could have been a slightly tougher day for him but as Seb said, heâ€™s fifth on the grid and weâ€™re not exactly driving around worrying about where he is because Iâ€™m not in the Ferrari, Iâ€™m in the Red Bull, so we will see where we are tomorrow afternoon.
Q: (Joris Fioriti â€“ AFP) To Mark and Sebastian: pure speculation, tomorrow you manage to overtake Nico, itâ€™s about the end of the race, Sebastianâ€™s second, youâ€™re third and Fernando is fourth or fifth. Whatâ€™s going to happen?
MW: Mmm, donâ€™t know. I donâ€™t think this situation will happen anyway. That a good T-shirt you have on anyway.
SV: I donâ€™t know. I donâ€™t like the T-shirt, I prefer the bigâ€¦.
Q: (Jon McEvoy â€“ The Daily Mail) Seb, would you give way if that scenario was real?
SV: Well, I think, to be totally frank, there are so many scenarios possible that I could give you an answer to any scenario but I think we would still be here tonight and I think itâ€™s probably wiser for me to go to sleep at some point in order to be recovered for tomorrow. Itâ€™s a long race. It depends on situations. In the end we are both fighting for the championship, we are fighting for the team, for the Constructorsâ€™. So we will see. Itâ€™s a long race and you always need to act according to the situation. We will see.