Fernando Alonso: “I am very happy with this position as it’s been too long since I qualified in the top three! Something I have usually managed to achieve in the race has been missing for quite a while: maybe the rain helped us a bit as we were not the quickest in the dry, but starting in the top three gives us a realistic chance of a podium finish and we can even dream about winning. In Q3, when we had seen the track was drying quickly, we had a moment’s hesitation, because in the dry, the intermediates only last one or two laps before beginning to degrade. But in the end, it seemed the most sensible choice and it worked out well. Of the past three years, this seems to be the moment when everything appears to be working for the best: performance, strategy, pit stops. Now we must see how tomorrow will turn out, because it’s always a lottery if it rains. Even if, in the current Formula 1, the start is not the most important thing, we will still try to make a good one in order to maintain position or even to try and get past Vettel at the first corner. Then we will see: our race pace in Australia and the long run here on Friday means we can be reasonably optimistic.”
Felipe Massa: “It was a great qualifying in which we managed to make the most of all the opportunities that came our way. In Q3, we decided to stop towards the end of the session to fit a new set of intermediates and this allowed me to do a lap good enough to take second place on the grid. I am very happy with this team result, which is down to the great job done over the winter months. The car has shown itself to be competitive in all conditions, both in the wet and dry, but we must continue to improve. Today, we were up against very strong opposition and maybe the rain helped us a bit, because in normal conditions it would have been harder to aim for this result. Now we can expect a long and difficult race in which anything can happen and in which strategy and tyre management will be the key, while the uncertainty over the weather won’t help anyone”.
Pat Fry: “Like all the other teams, we tackled today’s qualifying with the aim of using as few tyres as possible to save them for tomorrow’s race. It took just one run on the hard compound to get both drivers through to the second part, providing various options for the rest of the session. In Q2, we used just one set of Mediums and even without the rain, I think that we would have managed to get through to the final part without any trouble. From then on, as predicted, it started to rain, but not enough to complicate matters: even though the track was wet, it was clear that Intermediates were the right choice. Going for a pit stop change after the first few laps proved to be the right move: we had to evaluate a subtle balance between tyre temperature and the amount of water on track and while at the time that can seem stressful, given the conditions, thinking back, it was relatively straightforward. If the rain holds off tomorrow, it will be very interesting to see how everyone exploits the tyres. All the teams have a few more new sets, which will make for a fascinating race”.
|ALONSO – Chassis 299||MASSA – Chassis 300|
|Q1||P4||1:37.314||Hard – 5 laps||P12||1:37.712||Hard – 6 laps|
|Q2||P7||1:36.877||Medium – 3 laps||P6||1:36.874||Medium – 3 laps|
|Q3||P3||1:50.727||Inter – 3 laps
Inter – 3 laps
|P2||1:50.587||Inter – 3 laps
Inter – 3 laps
|Weather: air 32 °C, track 39/44 °C. Sunny at the beginning, rain|
Malaysian GP – Top 2 rows for Round 2
Sepang, 23 March – One can keep calm and not count one’s chickens, but one can also enjoy the moment and take satisfaction from a job well done. That was definitely the mood in the Scuderia Ferrari camp here in Sepang after Felipe Massa secured his first front row grid position since Bahrain in 2010 at the end of qualifying. The Brazilian was right to call it a team effort, for two reasons: firstly because the tricky conditions meant it involved keeping a cool head on the pit wall and in the garage and secondly, because Fernando Alonso is next on the time sheet, meaning he starts the Malaysian Grand Prix from third place right behind pole man Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull.
After the thrilling session, both Ferrari men suggested that the rain which affected the top ten shoot-out in Q3 might have helped their cause, but nevertheless, the F138 was good enough to be in the hunt throughout, with both Felipe and Fernando comfortably getting through the first two parts of qualifying, while using as few sets of tyre as possible. In the event of a dry race, then tyre degradation will again be the key factor and tyre management, as we saw seven days ago in Albert Park is the key that can unlock the door to the podium. Starting from third, Fernando has even suggested that one should not rule out being in the fight for outright victory, but as a three times winner here, the Spaniard knows as well as anyone how the weather can throw everything into confusion. However, from the second row of the grid, the Ferrari man can hope to have a reason to celebrate his 200th Grand Prix tomorrow.
When the rain came in time for the end of Q2 and stayed throughout Q3, it was the usual case of the times tumbling as a drying line appeared, even if everyone went for two sets of Intermediates in the final session. Fernando was quickest for a short time, but Sebastian Vettel asserted his and the Red Bull’s superiority over the single lap, to take his second pole in two races. Right at the end, Felipe’s well timed run was enough to put him in second place, while at the start of tomorrow’s 56 lap race, Fernando Alonso will have the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton outside him on the second row. Mark Webber for Red Bull and Nico Rosberg in the other Mercedes share the third row in fifth and sixth places respectively. If the weather is bad then starting from the front two rows also carries a visibility advantage and the current forecast is for thunderstorms at around 5 and 6 in the evening. When does the race start? 4pm!
Malaysian GP – Massa and Alonso in top three
Sepang, 23 March –Qualifying was affected by rain arriving at the mid-point, complicating matters for everyone, but come the end, Scuderia Ferrari had got Felipe Massa into second place and Fernando Alonso into third.
It was dry and very hot for the start of Q1 when both Ferrari men did just one run using the P Zero Orange hard tyres. A single run was also the strategy for Q2, this time using the Mediums. After 8 minutes of this part of qualifying, light rain began to fall, so that no one went out for the final moments. Tyre choice was now problematic for the final part.
As Q3 began the ten cars went out on Intermediates, the drivers testing the conditions during the ten minute session. Massa and Alonso did two runs each, the last one on new Intermediates.
It was very close in the final stages, with each successive car going quicker at the flag, so that Fernando was briefly on pole, before being overtaken by Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull, fastest at the end and Felipe. It was a good team effort for Scuderia Ferrari, following on from the positive showing in Melbourne and the first and second rows look promising for tomorrow.
Malaysian GP – Waiting for the qualifying verdict
Sepang, 23 March – The top of the time sheet, come the end of the final free practice session at Sepang, features the name of Sebastian Vettel, who was quickest in a time of 1.36.435. Finding the best set-up for qualifying was the main item on the menu for Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, who also did some practice starts, on their way to eighth and tenth places respectively. The Brazilian’s best was a 1.36.946, while the Spaniard did a 1.37.302. Behind the reigning World Champion in the Red Bull, Lewis Hamilton (1.36.568) was second for Mercedes and Adrian Sutil (1.36.588) was third in the Force India. The two Ferrari men ran both compounds, first the Hard, then the Medium, in a session which featured plenty of traffic. Next up this afternoon comes qualifying to decide the grid for the second race of the season.