Esteban Ocon and Stoffel Vandoorne got the better of their respective team-mates as Nico Hulkenberg secured another top 10 qualifying spot.
Esteban Ocon: “I’m very happy with our performance today. The car has been working really well since the start of practice and it’s clear that all the hard work we have done since Singapore has paid off. I think we found further performance today and all the small changes we made to the car really helped make the difference. So it’s a great team effort and we are in good shape for tomorrow. My laps today were strong – probably some of my best of the season, but there is still room to improve. You never know what can happen in the race, but it’s a good chance to score some big points.”
Sergio Perez: “It wasn’t an easy qualifying session for me. I’ve been unwell this week and this is possibly the worst place to not feel 100%. I made a mistake in turn 11 during my final lap in Q3 and lost my rhythm. It was a small lock-up on what had been a very good lap until then, but it cost me enough time to be only ninth. It’s still a good result, all things considered, and it puts us in a good position for the race. It’s going to be a challenging Sunday because Malaysia is a very physical race – probably the hardest of the year. The start will be a key moment and I hope to gain a few places. It’s a race in which anything can happen and the weather is always unpredictable. Yesterday’s interruptions mean nobody really has a clear understanding of the long run pace, but I think we can come away with a strong result.”
Stoffel Vandoorne: “We weren’t really expecting to be so high up the grid. We’d hoped to get into Q3, but fighting for seventh was a pleasant surprise. In fact, my whole qualifying session went really well. I didn’t make any mistakes and pulled every sector on every lap. To qualify seventh on a circuit like this is probably about as good as it gets for us, so I’m very happy with my performance. We generally tend to be better over a single lap than across a race stint, so I think tomorrow will be tougher for us, but at least we’re in a position to race. And nobody really has any race preparation runs under their belts [due to yesterday’s FP2 red flag], so hopefully we can go into the race a little bit more prepared than the others and benefit from that. Hopefully we can make a race of it tomorrow.”
Fernando Alonso: “I’m satisfied with this result, and with how the weekend has gone in general, but it’s going to be tough to maintain our qualifying position tomorrow. We know that our race pace is not as strong as our qualifying pace, so we’ll probably struggle a little bit more if conditions remain dry. However, maybe some rain will affect the race – some mixed conditions would improve things for us. I think performance was there for us this weekend, and getting both cars in Q3 on this circuit is a very good sign. The new parts we brought here worked well yesterday but maybe didn’t work as well today, so we will have a close look to that. It’s a very close field: it’s going to be tough to maintain our position tomorrow, but we’ll do our best, as always.”
Nico Hulkenberg: “I’m quite happy with today’s session. It’s been a struggle for us all weekend, we didn’t have the right balance and didn’t have the speed. We weren’t sure we were going to get into Q3 so I’m quite pleased with the results. We’ll push for a little bit more tomorrow and look to get ahead of Mc Laren and Force India.”
Jolyon Palmer: “I’m a bit disappointed not to finish in the top 10 because we had good pace but in the end, we just missed out. We will start twelfth tomorrow and I hope to move forward, we only have to gain two places to get in the points. Anything can happen in the first few corners here so we should make it.”