Another Grand Prix, another pole position for Sebastian Vettel. The reigning champ has now put his Red Bull Racing machine on pole for all four races in 2011. His best time of 1:25.049 was four tenths quicker than his teammate Mark Webber (1:25.454), who achieved his best qualifying result for the year to date. Nico Rosberg (1:25.574) also notched up his best quali result for 2011 and showed signs of an improving Mercedes GP outfit by qualifying in third place.
Interestingly, the Red Bull duo completed just one quick lap in the third qualifying session, opting to conserve tyres for the race. It’s a tactic that’s already been used in 2011, but it certainly attracted attention to see Vettel climb out of his car with 90 seconds of the final session remaining. Supreme confidence shown by the Red Bull team and perhaps a clear indication of a “catch us if you can” attitude to their rivals.
Make sure you read the full transcript from the post-qualifying press conference below. There’s some interesting discussion about the Webber–Vettel incident from last year. And, Rosberg’s final line, in written form at least, seemed particularly cutting; especially when you consider the glum face produced by Michael Schumacher (1:26.646) after qualifying in eighth place.
[Pic: Red Bull Racing/Getty Images]
Turkish GP – Conference 3
1 – Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull)
2 – Mark WEBBER (Red Bull)
3 – Nico ROSBERG (Mercedes)
Q: Sebastian, four poles out of a four this season. That is testament to your competitiveness this season?
Sebastian VETTEL: First of all apologies to the team and to the mechanics. I damaged the car pretty much yesterday so we couldn’t run at all. We missed the session in the afternoon but they fixed it for today. I think they did a very good job. We have been there since this morning so I am very happy with the result. We had not a really trouble free morning but all in all we still had a bit to catch up. I like the track so that helps and it was nice to see that without that many laps I was able to come back and find the rhythm so all in all very happy today. It was a bit funny as both Mark and myself we decided in the last bit of qualifying in Q3 to skip the second run and it is very strange the feeling that the others are on the track and you know that they can beat you but you can just watch. There is nothing you can do. Obviously it is good to save a set of tyres for tomorrow but it is an odd feeling – but very happy obviously.
Q: Mark, talk us through the thinking about that from the team side. You want to save a set of tyres but you must have been quite tempted to go out and do another run?
Mark WEBBER: Yeah, particularly for me it was a little bit more interesting. I would have liked to have a couple more tenths to have the margin. Obviously Seb did a good lap for pole but my lap wasn’t too bad. We spoke about it before qualifying that tomorrow is going to be a pretty long race and every lap you can try and get back today might help you tomorrow. Turns out we were in the best grid positions we could get. Obviously other way round here and there but generally the team did a great job so now we are in the best shape we can be in terms of grid positions and in terms of tyres. You cannot get through with any less tyres than that unless you are running scrubbed tyres all day but you are not going to qualify anywhere, so good decision from the team. A little bit of luck, of course, but in the end I was happy with today. Seb did a good lap and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s race.
Q: Nico, first time in the top three this season. Mercedes seem to have really bounced back in competitiveness terms. What is the secret to this bounce back do you think?
Nico ROSBERG: It is really great to see. I am very happy for all of us. I think we have just done really well to come back from the difficult start all the way to where we are now. We are getting ever closer to where we want to be and that is really nice. Today was a good day again. I got everything right and I think it worked well with set up and everything. Qualifying generally went very well and I even saved one set of options for tomorrow, which is very positive also for the race.
Q: Sebastian, the race tomorrow. Do you expect something like what we saw in China in terms of race strategies, overtaking and spectacle?
SV: Well we will have to wait and see. But surely I think the races we have had this year have been quite nice to watch. Obviously we were all busy but once we got the chance to see the race I think we were amazed by how much action there was, overtaking et cetera. I think here is a different place to Shanghai, to China, as probably the corner that determines whether you can stall the wing or not – turn nine/ten – is a bit more tricky to get rather than turn 11/12 in China so we will see. I think it will be a tough race, managing the tyres. We will see how many stops we will end up with. I just hope and keep my fingers crossed that we will have radio communication all the way as it is quite useful when your tyres start to go off to talk to your team about what to do and where you are. I am confident. We have a good car so I felt happy today. Hopefully we don’t get too much of the action and we just hope that all the action for the spectators is behind us so we will see. But it will be a difficult one.
Q: Sebastian, can we understand that basically the accident has had no effect on your preparation whatsoever?
SV: I think if I would have Turn Eight and inter tyres and the conditions again I would try not to do the same as there is a reason why we want to run on Friday afternoon. It was not nice to stand there to watch. Surely it is not the preferred option, but today we had a good day and it is down also to Mark having a solid run yesterday in the dry conditions. Obviously in the morning it was wet. The happier you are in general on Friday the better it will be on Saturday. Largely we could adapt and use the information Mark found out yesterday afternoon. Straight away I felt comfortable in the car. I found the rhythm of the track quickly so all in all I was very happy this morning and I was confident going into qualifying but it was not a 100 per cent smooth day today. There are still things we have to improve and do better but sitting here now I am very happy and very pleased after a bad shunt yesterday, especially the work load I managed to give to all the mechanics, not just mine but all the team. It was a pretty big hit and therefore a lot to repair but they did a very good job and I had a fantastic car today.
Q: Do we understand that KERS is working better in the Red Bull now?
SV: Well I mean it is not that easy. It is not just that you go home, you solve the problem and you come again and there never will be a problem again. It is a complex system. Teams like McLaren-Mercedes they are still far ahead as they had all these small tweaks and small problems probably in 2009 so there is still a lot for us to catch up but I think we get more and more confident. As I said on Thursday I am not that old, but I haven’t seen anybody who can give you a guarantee on anything so we are sitting here and we cannot guarantee, the whole team cannot guarantee, that we will not have any problems.
Q: You showed a certain amount of confidence with the fact that you went out, did one run and then didn’t go out again. Most people who do one run do it later when there’s a bit more rubber down.
SV: Well, I think we did the right thing, obviously. By doing that, you never know what can happen. Firstly, you can make a mistake. Obviously, when you drive on the limit, you can always have a wobble here and there and then the lap is not 100 per cent clean. If you do it at the end of the session, then you have no second chance, plus you have the risk of somebody spinning, somebody else making a mistake, causing a yellow flag, maybe a red flag which we even had sometimes last year. So there are pros and cons, obviously, but as I said, we had a good Q1 and Q2 especially so we were confident and both Mark and myself could save a set (of tyres) so that was good.
Q: Mark, well done, second on the grid, was it a coincidence or team plan that you both decided to go out early in Q3?
MW: Yeah, we spoke about it before the session. As Seb said, it’s nice to do it earlier than later. I think even Nico ran once, a few teams ran once in Q3. It just depends where you put it. Obviously if you make a mistake, late, you can’t go again. If you make a mistake earlier then you can maybe go again, so maybe other teams will look at this strategy in the future. Who knows? It’s not rocket science. There are enough clever people up and down the pit lane to have a look at it. We know it’s going to be a tough grand prix so everyone’s… so it’s a long race, we’ll do our best, see what happens with the tyres and go from there.
Q: A little bit of a gap between the two of you; can you explain that?
MW: Seb did a great job today. We know he’s running good pace on Saturday afternoons, so he’s done a good job. Yes, I would have liked to have been a bit closer but we know these cars are very complex and you need everything right to get the laps done so in the end I was happy with what I did, the team did a great job and it’s the ultimate result for the team. It would be nice to get pole but we’re on the front row. Seb did a good job, deserved pole and here we go, see how we go tomorrow. It’s the first lock-out we’ve had of the front row so we’ll try and have a smooth day tomorrow and that will be nice.
Q: You talked yesterday about turn eight being challenging with these new regs. Tell us about what sort of challenges you face?
MW: Ah, just said the tyres get destroyed through there; there’s a few corners on the track where the tyres are having a hard time and that’s normal, so it will probably be evident in the grand prix, how many stops we make, certainly more than two and less than six. Yeah, we’ll have a few pit stops, I’m sure.
Q: Nico, well done to you; you said the tyre situation was good yesterday, still good?
NR: Well, it’s going to be an issue, for everybody, for sure. It’s just a matter of finding the compromise in the race, how much you can push, how much you need to save tyres for the length of the stint that you have.
Q: Also, looking back to the last race as well, obviously a good performance there, but it’s looked good all this weekend as well. Are you happy with third on the grid or could you have done better?
NR: No, I’m happy for sure. It’s really nice to see the progress that we’re making, when you think where we were four races ago, and now it’s huge steps, and really learning from the mistakes and the problems that we’ve had and really making the most of the car that we have and just extracting more and more from it. So that’s really good and I think the team has been doing a great job there and that’s why I’m pleased with third, but of course, we’re still not where we want to be, so everybody’s still going to keep on pushing.
Q: You’ve got two McLarens behind you and two Red Bulls ahead; is it attack or defence or both?
NR: No, I’m going to have a stunning start because I’m going to be on the clean side of the grid, so I’m going to go straight past Mark and then we will see!
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Nico, you’re the first of the rest of the world behind the Red Bulls. Do you think you have the car to beat them tomorrow?
NR: For sure they’re quicker at the moment, also in the race so just take it as it comes and I think strategy-wise we are very strong. Another positive is that I have a new (set of) option left for tomorrow because I didn’t use it in Q3, so that’s going to help me a lot in the race, for sure, so I’m confident that we can have a really good race. How good it’s going to be we shall have to wait and see.
Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Sebastian, you now have five successive poles; do you feel that you can beat Senna’s record of eight successive poles?
SV: I think Ayrton was a master in qualifying. I don’t know. I go race by race, you know. In the end, there are so many good guys and so many incredible records. I think the more you start talking about (them) the smaller your chances become, so I prefer to not to talk about it.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sorry that my question is not one of the nicest for the two Red Bull guys but of course everybody is thinking now that you are on the first row and last year we saw some funny things between you; could you give us your thoughts now about tomorrow?
MW: I think last year when I was in this room there was a different atmosphere, for sure. It wasn’t the ideal race. There was a bit of momentum coming into that grand prix, obviously, a few different stories here and there so in the end there was contact, we had a crash. This happens in motor racing, very rarely between team-mates but it happened. I think it’s a bit more straightforward these days. The racing is still intensive but the DRS and things like that make it a bit less intense in some ways. You can only do so much. I think we both learned a lot from last year, not just in that situation but in some other situations. At certain stages tomorrow, of course, if we’re racing each other and we don’t know, sitting here, how the race is going to unfold but there might be times when we’re close to each other, and of course, we’re not going to repeat what we did last year. Wisdom helps you, DRS also, and things like that. It’s changed the racing a little bit, to be honest.
Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Mark, you’re four tenths behind Sebastian on your best lap, so was it a good lap?
MW: Perfect. Couldn’t go any quicker.
Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) So what can you do to beat Sebastian in qualifying ?
MW: I think they took me seriously. The Germans did especially. I think Seb’s done a great job, he does a good lap in qualifying, most of the time, we’re seeing in Q3 that he’s done some phenomenal laps over the years and the bar is very high, clearly. Yes, maybe he didn’t do a perfect lap. All of us can find a bit of time here and there but the race is tomorrow.
Q: (Ted Kravitz – BBC Sport) For Mark and Sebastian, can you just expand on the decision not to go out for a final run. Was it discussed in the briefing before qualifying what did each of you think when you were watching the final guys setting their times?
SV: We made the decision on Thursday. What do you expect? Of course we talk about it before qualifying. We talk about what can happen and so on, but you never know. You go into qualifying, you don’t know before, especially this morning, how quick the others will be, how much fuel they had on board, you know what you do yourself but surely we have seen in the last race and other races that this year the racing has changed and it’s important to handle your tyre situation. Obviously for both of us, after the first run, we had the feeling OK, we might be safe – might be – but you never know. You play that game until that day arrives when maybe you are wrong, and other people prove you wrong. In the end, you never know. If it works you are the hero, if it doesn’t, then you are not.
MW: But also, I don’t know what the big deal is to be honest because it’s not the first time that I’ve seen it this year. Nico did one run, we did one run, Heidfeld, Melbourne, I don’t know, there’s a few guys who have done one run, so it’s not, as I said before, it’s not rocket science what we did today, just did one run.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado do Sao Paulo) Nico, is the change of the exhaust system the main reason for the step forward?
NR: To be honest, we haven’t changed that much on the car in the last few races. We’re just getting the most out of what we had, because we just went a bit wrong at the beginning of the season, and a lot of things are just coming together and making it work. That’s why I’m also looking forward to what’s going to come now, once we get some more upgrades and everything is looking more and more positive. There’s not one reason, it’s just a lot of things coming together where we weren’t working the car well, and now getting the most out of it. One area is even mechanical, very simple things where we went in the wrong direction so we moved back in another direction with the springs and bars. For example, even that area definitely gave us a chunk of lap time. Confused ourselves a little bit.
Q: (Ralf Bach – Sport Bild) Nico, do you know what problems your teammate had this time?
NR: I don’t know. I don’t know what my teammate did.