There were top ten times in qualifying for the Italian GP for both Red Bull drivers, the Force India pairing and Esteban Gutierrez.
Daniel Ricciardo: “We expected to be floating around the top five and we were one thousandth of a second off fifth. It’s a little frustrating but at least there were no major surprises. Qualifying on the soft tyres would have been ideal but the pace was really high and our lap time was close to the cut off. We were forced to use the supersoft instead to be on the safe side getting into Q3. If we had qualified on the soft tyre we could have had a good fight with Ferrari but that will be a little harder now we are on the supersofts. We knew Williams would be quick around here but with DRS and being strong on the brakes we can still pull off some moves. I think we can have good race pace and it would be nice if we can find an edge overnight but either way we can have some fun and challenge for top five.”
Max Verstappen: “I’m actually pretty happy with qualifying today. I thought we would be more behind but actually everything was very tight. We lost radio communications in the end so I didn’t know where I was and when I came back and saw that I was seventh I thought that’s not too bad. We’re within three hundredths to P5 so I think we can’t complain, especially with the compromises we have to make with the downforce levels. You never know what will happen tomorrow, normally we’re a bit stronger in the race than in qualifying, so let’s hope for a good race. Of course you always want to be further ahead but we have to be realistic and this track is a challenge for us.”
Sergio Perez: “I think we can be satisfied about today’s result. We have been struggling all weekend, but we worked really hard last night to improve the car balance and made a step forward for qualifying. Some of our rivals seem to have very strong pace, but I think we maximised our qualifying effort with both cars in the top ten. In Q1, it was crucial to put together the perfect lap on my first run; that gave me a bit more freedom in Q2, with an extra set of new tyres available. All in all, it was an exciting session and I had a very intense battle with Nico. The strategy options for the race are quite limited and will depend on what happens during our first stint on the supersoft tyres, and how things go on lap one. Our long run pace looked better than our one lap speed, so hopefully we can match the cars ahead of us and get a good result.”
Nico Hulkenberg: “I’m as happy as I can be with ninth on the grid. For some reason we’ve struggled to find the harmony and balance with the car this weekend, so it’s a good result to see both cars through to Q3. We’ve tried a lot of things with the set-up and made some small improvements, but I’m still not entirely happy with the balance. Tomorrow is another day – tyres will play a big role and it’s going to be interesting to see how things play out. When the middle of the grid is so close we need to make sure we make the correct strategy calls because the final results will be decided by some very small gaps.”
Esteban Gutierrez: “First of all, I have to say thank you to the team. I’m very grateful and proud of them because everybody has done a great job in achieving the consistency that has allowed us to work on the details that make the difference. In qualifying, for the first time we broke the top-10 barrier by getting into Q3. It was an amazing effort from everyone involved in setting up the car throughout the weekend and having the communication and level of understanding to make it work. The laps were fantastic. I really enjoyed them and I loved pushing the car. Today we have extracted the maximum from our opportunities and we have to make sure we do the same tomorrow.”
Romain Grosjean: “It was obviously disappointing to go into qualifying knowing I had the five-place grid penalty. We paid the price there that we didn’t have any running time this morning. I’m not very happy with qualifying. It’s great for Esteban to be out there in Q3. It’s great for the team. For me, I really struggled in qualifying to get the best from the car. With the tire pressures so high, it means you cannot push very hard. It’s a bit of a shame. We’ll see what we can achieve tomorrow in the race, but starting 17th is not ideal.”