In hot conditions at the Valencia Street Circuit, Nick secured a position in the top 10 and will start from 9th. Vitaly Petrov just missed out on Q3, ending his session in P11. As Nick didn't set a time in Q3, he saved a crucial set of tyres for the race.
Nick Heidfeld, P9, R31-04, 1.38.781:
“In third practice we tried a few small set-up changes, and it went according to plan with no major incidents."
"When I reached Qualifying, my Q1 did not go as well as I would have liked because I’d planned to do just one lap in order to save the tyres. Unfortunately, I experienced a bit of traffic during my flying lap, which slowed me down somewhat and so I had to carry on and do more laps than I wanted to try and bring the time down. Q2 was ok, but we knew we needed to improve to get through, so we did another lap on new options which was successful as I managed to squeeze into the top 10 by finishing ninth fastest."
"Then, when I went out in Q3, we saw that Sutil was not going to do a lap time so we quite rightly came back in because the cars ahead had posted times that were considerably quicker. Of course, when you’re in the car and you are called back, you want to stay out and have a go! But, it was the right decision because we’ve saved tyres. We were targeting higher than P9 and P11 but realistically, on today’s pace, that’s where we were so we will now look forward to a strong race tomorrow.”
Vitaly Petrov, P11, R31-05, 1:39.068:
“The gap between me and P10 was very close, but that’s racing – sometimes other cars are faster than you and tomorrow is another day. We didn’t have any particular problems, just not quite enough speed so we will try our hardest in the race tomorrow. It’s a long race and it won’t be an easy one in this heat. We will analyse the data and hope we perform better on fresh tyres. I’m sure there will be a lot of overtaking and much will depend on who can look after the rear tyres the best. Here, the degradation is not as bad as we have seen and we will not see a race like Barcelona so I’m confident we can take a good stride forwards and get a good result.”
Alan Permane, Chief race engineer:
What is your verdict on today’s Qualifying? Today was a disappointing qualifying session. Our target is always to get both cars into Q3 so to miss out by three hundredths of a second with Vitaly was frustrating to say the least. I don’t think he had the cleanest of laps, but the real problem is that the car has not had enough pace at this track to assure ourselves of a comfortable top ten position.
How do you expect both cars to fare tomorrow? Well, we do have the slight benefit of being able to decide which tyres we will start the race with tomorrow, and we can make this call for both cars as we didn’t complete a timed run in Q3 with Nick. We could see that Adrian Sutil was not going to run and we did not have the pace to go faster than the cars in front, so by conserving tyres and not setting a timed lap we’ve opened up our race strategy options for Nick.
Is this going to be a race with a flurry of pit stops? I think we’re likely to see a mix of two and three pit stop strategies tomorrow, as it’s certainly not as severe on tyres as Barcelona or Turkey. Looking at the weather so far, I’d say it’s highly unlikely that will have the rain we saw in Canada.
What’s been your impression of the medium and soft tyre combination so far this weekend? The new medium has performed reasonable well, but it looks to be 1.5 to 2 seconds a lap slower than the soft, so minimising the use of this tyre will be the key, especially as the degradation of the soft is not that bad. We did a reasonably long run on Friday and we’re happy with how it (the soft) performs on our car.