The first qualifying session for an Indian Grand Prix was very exciting and close right down to the wire, with the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in the thick of it, in both a good way and a bad. The Spaniard set the fourth fastest time of the day, but will start from third place on the grid, because of the penalty handed out to Hamilton yesterday. Felipe is sixth despite not completing the session, because he went off the track after his right front suspension broke on impact with the inside kerb at turn 8. Fernando used Hards in Q1, a set of Softs in Q2 and two in Q3; to be safe, Felipe went for a set of Softs in Q1 after his run on Hards, but then he paid the penalty for this choice in Q2 and in Q3 when he followed a similar programme to his team-mate.
Stefano Domenicali: “First of all, I wish to congratulate the organisers of this Grand Prix. Bringing Formula 1 to India is a great achievement and they and Bernie Ecclestone deserve the credit for it. This country is growing rapidly, even if there are sharp contrasts, but never before have we seen our sport welcomed with such enthusiasm and interest from the general public. As for qualifying, I have to say our car’s overall performance was good: being less than a tenth off the front row – Vettel was once again untouchable – means that we are not looking too bad at this track. We are obviously disappointed for Felipe, who has been very quick all weekend: accidents like this can happen, but the important thing is that the driver is fine. Usually, our race pace is better than our outright performance in qualifying: let’s hope that is also the case tomorrow and we can leave India with a good result under our belt.”
Fernando Alonso: “It was important to get onto the front two rows, as it’s easier to fight for a good result from here. I don’t think there’s much of a difference between the two vertical lines of the grid because the ideal line on the start-finish straight goes down the middle, so both sides are quite dirty. In fact the dirt off the racing line could be a problem for overtaking with whoever initiates the move having to give it everything without hesitating. So far, this weekend has gone as expected and now we will try and do a good job tomorrow. It would be very nice to bring home one of the trophies that will be handed out to those who make it to the podium on Formula 1’s debut in India. I came very close to the front row, which is a bit of a surprise. In recent qualifying sessions, we have not managed to get as close as this to our main rivals and already yesterday we looked reasonably competitive. Usually, on Sunday our performance level is better but that does not automatically mean that we will be fighting for the win. There are too many unknowns, even more than usual and then, we have seen how things can change from one track to another. In Suzuka, we came within a whisker of the win and in Singapore we were not competitive. We will be doing our best, that’s for sure.”
Felipe Massa: “What happened on my last timed lap was a real shame. Today, we had the potential to secure a good placing, as Fernando demonstrated and as can also be seen from the fact my sixth best time was set with a rather slow third sector. I came into Turn 8 and went over the kerb and the front right suspension gave way in the impact with the raised orange part, which in my opinion is too high at this point. It’s a very fast corner, taken at around 215 km/h and it could be arranged differently. These are details that need improving for next year. I repeat, I am disappointed, because the car has been going well all weekend long. Now I find myself with one less set of Softs and with a broken front wing. It was the new one, which we had here for the first time and it delivered a bit extra in terms of performance. Tomorrow, overtaking will be difficult because of the dirt on track, but I think we will still see a lot.”
Pat Fry: “I don’t know if our mechanics will take home happy memories of this race, because we’ve definitely given them a lot to do over the past two days. Yesterday, there was an unexpected engine change on Fernando’s car and today we have to repair Felipe’s car. As for the performance we saw in qualifying, the verdict is reasonably positive. The 150º Italia proved to be very competitive in the first two sectors of the track and given its characteristics, the performance in the second is encouraging. However, we struggled a bit more in the last one, especially when compared to Vettel’s Red Bull. The new front wing allows more room to manoeuvre when it comes to aerodynamic balance, which is always positive. The Soft tyres seem to be at their best on the second timed lap and degradation appears to be lower than expected and similar to what we saw in Korea, where the track was equally smooth. We need to find the best strategy and, in Felipe’s case, minimise the loss of one set of Softs which were damaged in the accident.”