It was a dominant display from the McLaren Mercedes team as Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen aced the front row for the European Grand Prix in Valencia. Behind there were the usual mixed fortunes with the championship leaders all qualifying in the top ten.
Grosjean ran reasonably well in his first qualifying session with Renault while Luca Badoer was painfully off the pace as expected on his Grand Prix return with Ferrari. Here’s what the drivers had to say.
1 . L. Hamilton - McLaren Mercedes MP4-24
“After winning in Hungary, we came here not knowing if the others would have closed the gap: clearly, we’re still competitive. We haven’t seen this level of performance for a long time. Last year, I was able to do only one run in easy qualifying session but, this year, we’ve had to use every second of the sessions to get through. I managed a couple of very good laps today, so we’ll start the race from a very competitive position – but a lot will depend on strategy and how the start goes. Congratulations to Heikki, he did a fantastic job – it’s been very close between us all weekend, so this is great to see. We’ve got the front row to ourselves – and that’s something we’ve all wanted for a very long time.”
2 . H. Kovalainen - McLaren Mercedes MP4-24
“Obviously, I’m pleased that I’ll be starting from the front row tomorrow, but I made a mistake at the end of my quickest lap and could have gone a little faster still. I knew qualifying would be very close, and I was sure our car would be competitive, so I decided to really go for it today. As a result, I pushed just a little too hard – but it was a calculated risk and I lost only one place – and, even better, I lost it to Lewis. So we nailed the front row anyway.
3 . R. Barrichello - Brawn Mercedes BGP 001
"A great qualifying today but it was tough out there and of course I'm a little bit disappointed not to be on pole. We started the weekend well with a thorough job on Friday to get the best out of the set-ups that the guys worked on back at the factory. They did a great job and the car is in good shape with the tyres working quite well here in the heat. I went for a slightly different strategy to Jenson with just one new tyre run over two laps in Q3. The second lap was perhaps a bit too much for the tyres which started overheating and unfortunately I lost the car on turn eight. I'm really pleased with third place though and it's great to have the car back to a competitive pace."
4 . S. Vettel - Red Bull Renault RB5
“I would like to be further forward on tomorrow’s grid, but I think that’s the most we could have hoped for, so I’m quite happy – especially after not doing many laps this morning. I’m quite confident about tomorrow, as we made a step forward for this morning and then another for qualifying. McLaren look strong and it’s hard for the other cars to get close to them. We will see how quick they are in the race tomorrow, but starting in first and second position they have a good chance to win the race. We want to win too though, so we will see. I like this track, it’s a bit more difficult for us to be at the top here – but it’s a long and hot race tomorrow, so let’s see.”
5 . J. Button - Brawn Mercedes BGP 001
"It was a pretty good qualifying session for the team today and the car felt strong throughout. Unfortunately I made a mistake at turn four on my quick lap which compromised my position as I had just the one flying lap on my final run in Q3. It's a shame as the potential was there for more but fifth on the grid is not bad at all. The car is feeling pretty good with fuel so we will see what the race will bring tomorrow. It's not a great circuit for overtaking but I'll be giving it everything for a good result."
6 . K. Raikkonen - Ferrari F60
“Honestly, this was one of the best qualifying sessions of the season, even if we are not as quick as those on the front row. Our final result will depend basically on how the start goes. It will be very important to make up a few places, because if we end up behind a slower car, then the race is compromised. I think we are reasonably competitive in race trim, as could be seen in Q3, while we are struggling a bit on light tanks. So far, it’s been a good weekend and I am happy with the performance of the F60.”
7 . N. Rosberg - Williams Toyota FW31
"Qualifying was generally okay. I’m in P7 with quite a lot of fuel, possibly more than anybody else around me, so I have a strong strategy for the race. There was no point in trying to out qualify the cars with KERS because they will overtake me off the line anyway. I’d prefer to qualify behind them, have more fuel on board and then beat them in the race. This track suits our car so we could have a points scoring race tomorrow."
8 . F. Alonso - Renault R29
“It was very hot today and a tough session. At the beginning it seemed that we could be third or fourth and then after Q1 we realised that we were not going to be as competitive as we thought. Of course, I’m not happy with eighth but since we had the same position in Q2 it seems that this was the limit of the car today. I’m disappointed for all the fans here for whom I would have liked a better grid position, but I’ll do my best tomorrow in the race.”
9 . M. Webber - Red Bull Renault RB5
“We expected to have a tough qualifying session today and it turned out to be the case. We thought we would be in the top six or top eight, so it’s not been the best day for us. It’s one of our worst qualifying sessions for a long time, but let’s see how we go from here. We’ll fight like hell as normal, Red Bull knows how to do that, I hope we can get some points.”
10 . R. Kubica - BMW Sauber F1.09
"If lately you have been starting from the rear of the grid, you cannot be disappointed with tenth in qualifying. We have to be realistic. I think today overall was a good day.
Unfortunately I had some traffic on my final run and I made a small mistake. This cost me a few tenths. Scoring points will be difficult tomorrow."
11 . N. Heidfeld - BMW Sauber F1.09
"It is the sixth time this year I have just missed the top ten qualifying and come 11th by fractions of tenths of a second. Of course I’m a little bit disappointed, but on the other side it means we have freedom regarding the fuel we carry and I hope for a good race. Everybody in the team is determined to put in a good performance and show what they can do for the future. Our car is generally somewhat better and I think from P11 points are possible."
12 . A. Sutil - Force India Mercedes VJM02
"We've been quick here all the weekend and everything is working very well. I'm really happy about the upgrades we've put on the car, the team is doing a great job. We've made a big step forward in the last couple of months and I'm really enjoying every session now. This morning was the best way to prepare for qualifying, but we knew it was not going to be possible to replicate this position. Conditions for qualifying were actually pretty tough with quite low grip and high temperatures but the lap times are very close - it seems to be a characteristic of this circuit. We were just a few hundredths from Q3 so we just missed out in the end. We are in a good position now though so it's a reasonable goal for us to say we want to score our first points here."
13 . T. Glock - Toyota TF109
"That wasn't a good result. We struggled a bit for pace this morning in the short third practice and in the end we were just a couple of tenths away from being in the top 10, which is a pity. I was having trouble in first qualifying but in the second session the car wasn't too bad until the final corners when the rear tyres dropped off quite a lot. I was pushing to the maximum but the tyres didn't really survive. So we have to start again from 13th as we did in Hungary and try to repeat what we did there by finding a way to get into the points. It will be a difficult task but I will do everything I can."
14 . R. Grosjean - Renault R29
"I am pleased to have made it into Q2 for my first qualifying session, especially as that was the objective I set myself yesterday. I want to thank the whole team who have been working with me and Fernando for all his helpful advice. To be fighting with the best drivers in the world is an incredible feeling and I’m really looking forward to starting my first Grand Prix tomorrow. I will give my maximum to get the best result possible from the race.”
15 . S. Buemi - Toro Rosso Ferrari STR4
“Even though I got into Q2, I’m a bit disappointed, because in Q1 I was sixth with a good lap time and then in Q2, we did not manage the tyre situation well, especially on my out lap and I ended up doing worse than in Q1. Now we must look at what happened, because I think I might even have had the possibility to get into Q3. We are making progress.”
16 . G. Fisichella - Force India Mercedes VJM02
"I am very disappointed with this result as I felt I could have easily got through to Q2 today. Unfortunately on the last run I got caught in traffic on my first lap and then lost about six or seven tenths in the last sector on my second lap, otherwise I really feel we could have got through after the weekend we've been having so far. It's going to be a tough race."
17 . K. Nakajima - Williams Toyota FW31
"We had a failure on my car which caused the engine to cut out during Q1 so I didn’t have a chance to show what we could do. It’s a shame because I think we were strong enough to have been in the top ten today. We have a good race pace, so I just need to use that to my advantage and do my best tomorrow."
18 . J. Trulli - Toyota TF109
"I was expecting qualifying to be a bit difficult but not as bad as that. This morning the car felt reasonable even if we were a little short of grip. But it was much worse in qualifying; I really had no grip and there was nothing I could do. I just kept pushing and took a few more risks than normal but it didn't work out. I don't know why we struggled so much; it is a mystery to me. For the race tomorrow I can just do my best and see what happens."
19 . J. Alguersuari - Toro Rosso Ferrari STR4
“I know what I am capable of and with this being only my second F1 qualifying session, I have to be patient. I am happy that even though this track is longer than at my first race in Hungary, the gap to the drivers ahead of me is getting smaller. I am feeling more confident in the car every time I drive it. It’s going to be tough tomorrow as it seems to be getting hotter and hotter. I think I can do a good job in the race, bring the car home and hopefully end up at least in the top 15.”
20 . L. Badoer - Ferrari F60
“Obviously, I’m a bit disappointed as it’s never nice to be last in any situation, but I always knew it would be tough. As I’ve said before, this weekend is a sort of test for me and the team and that is how we are tackling it. However, I do feel the situation is better than yesterday as the more laps I do, the more confidence I gain and the better it gets. Tomorrow it will be important to finish the race and that will be my target. I feel good physically and I have no problems on that score. For sure, if I’d had two days testing under my belt, it would have been a different story.”