Sat: Force India, Renault, McLaren, Sauber

Date published: March 25 2017

Former team-mates Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg fell short in Melbourne as they dropped out of qualifying in Q2 while Sauber were slowest of all.

Force India

Sergio Perez: “It’s disappointing to miss out on the top ten by such a small margin – less than a tenth of a second. However, P11 is not a bad starting position and we can certainly race for good points. All the teams in the midfield seem to be very close to each other in terms of performance and there are going to be very close battles in the race. Tyre degradation is very low and finding the right rhythm during the race will be a challenge. Overtaking is difficult here, especially with these very wide cars, but I will fight hard tomorrow. I am determined to start the season well.”

Esteban Ocon: "I’ve been on the learning curve this week in Melbourne and I’m not feeling particularly satisfied with today’s qualifying session. Yes, it’s the first time I’ve reached Q2, but there is more potential in the car. I learned a huge amount during the session and despite being far away from Sergio in Q1, I was much closer in Q2. Unfortunately I made a small mistake on my final run, so I missed the chance to be higher up the grid. We saw today just how close the midfield fight is going to be this year because even small margins can make a huge difference. On the positive side, we improved the car during qualifying; we improved our procedures and we’ve learned things that will help us going forward. I go into tomorrow’s race believing there is a good opportunity to fight for points. The first challenge will be the new start procedures, which could really mix things up on lap one. I’m excited for tomorrow and ready for my first race in Melbourne!”

Renault

Nico Hulkenberg: “That was a solid first qualifying session with the team. We were just tenths away from Q3 and it was definitely on the cards however I struggled a bit with the balance and grip on my fastest Q2 lap so it wasn’t to be. It is difficult to predict what to expect tomorrow; but what I do know is that the midfield is very competitive. It should be an interesting fight in the race and points are the target.”

Jolyon Palmer: “Today really didn’t go to plan. I didn’t have any grip and I struggled with the brakes so we need to know what went wrong. Yesterday the car felt much better and was faster on the soft tyres, with a much higher fuel load, so there’s something not quite right. It’s been pretty far from the weekend I wanted to start the season so far, but let’s see what happens in the race.”

McLaren

Fernando Alonso: “After the difficulties we encountered in winter testing, we came to Melbourne without a clear idea of where we stood. But we’ve more or less run through all the sessions without trouble – which is better than we’d expected. I had sufficient sets of tyres to be able to enjoy my laps in both Q1 and Q2. I was happy with the balance of the car and was able to really push it. That’s useful because, at the moment, we need to extract the maximum out of the package we have. Tomorrow we’ll start 13th – in the middle of the pack – which is definitely not our target. Finishing the race is going to be tough. And, if we do finish it, to end up in a decent position we’ll need help from the weather and for other cars to encounter trouble.”

Stoffel Vandoorne: “I had a fuel pressure issue in Q1 and had to abort my first two runs as the engine was running low on power. That was a shame – because, after FP3, everything was heading in the right direction and I was feeling confident. But it’s always difficult when you only get one opportunity to set a time because you can’t take risks and have to make it really count. Still, we’ve made some good steps forward this weekend: Fernando and I both feel more comfortable in the car, and that confidence means we’re able to push it a little bit more. Obviously, we still have a lot of work to do, but we can take some positives from the potential we’ve shown so far this weekend, and I think we can have a good race tomorrow.”

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson: “It was a decent first qualifying for us. Throughout the weekend we have worked hard to maximize our current package. I managed to set a good lap in Q1, which was enough to put us in Q2. The second qualifying session started off well, but then I went a bit wide in turn 9, so I lost some lap time there. P15 is a decent position for starting the first Grand Prix of the 2017 season.”

Antonio Giovinazzi: “That is a special day for me kicking off my first Formula One Grand Prix weekend. I am really happy with my performance today, I was just a few tenths away from Q2. It will be a long race tomorrow; a lot can happen here in Melbourne. I will do my best to put in my maximum performance.”

Pascal Wehrlein: “My fitness level is not as it should be for a full race distance because of my training deficit. I explained the situation to the team yesterday evening. Therefore, the Sauber F1 Team has decided not to take any risks. It is a pity, but the best decision for the team.”