x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

European Grand Prix qualifying notebook

Sebastian Vettel explains why he was looking in the Ferrari cockpit, while Nick Heidfeld defends not setting a time.

Button bemused

Changing track conditions left Jenson Button flummoxed as he had to be content with sixth place on the grid for today's European Grand Prix.

Button had been challenging at the top of the time sheets in the first two parts of qualifying, but was six-10ths off Sebastian Vettel's pole-setting time when it mattered.

"Sixth position is a bit frustrating because the car felt pretty good in Q2, and I didn't have to push it too much," the McLaren-Mercedes driver said.

"So I don't know why that changed for Q3. I had quite a bit of oversteer and I couldn't get enough rear grip or traction, particularly in the first two sectors. And that was something I wasn't expecting.

"The car felt really good this morning in practice, though. Maybe in this heat, the balance didn't work quite as well as it did this morning due to the higher track temperatures."

Vettel checks out rivals

He took pole position comfortably, but the Red Bull Racing driver still took time in Parc Ferme to look in the cockpit of Fernando Alonso's parked Ferrari.

The German denied he was looking for anything specific in the Ferrari, but said he was always looking to learn how other teams did things.

"You obviously can't see much," the world champion said. "I was having a look at the steering wheels of the other cars. There are no secrets but maybe there is something you can learn, so that's why I had a look."

Heidfeld backs strategy

Nick Heidfeld defended Renault's decision not to send him out to do a competitive lap time in the final part of qualifying, saying it was good for strategy.

The German said that ninth place was the best he could hope for, and with Adrian Sutil's Force India-Mercedes also not setting a time, he was guaranteed that place even if he did not leave the pit lane.

"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," Heidfeld said.

"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."

Maldonado frustrated

Pastor Maldonado was left frustrated after a problem with his Williams-Cosworth car forced him to stop on track and left him in 15th place.

The Venezuelan had hoped to challenge for a top-10 spot, and he said: "We obviously had a problem with the car but we don't know what it is; the engineers are looking into it. It's quite strange because we haven't had any other issues over the weekend. The car feels strong at the moment so I think we could have made it into Q3 today if it weren't for that."

Things were not much better for teammate Rubens Barrichello, who qualified only 13th. The Brazilian though is optimistic for the race, and said: "We are only just outside the points and there are opportunities to overtake around this track so we will see what we can do."

Kobayashi targets points

Despite being in 14th place on the grid, Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi is confident of a better showing in today's race.

"Generally our car improved and, again, I am very confident for the race," the Japanese driver said.

"We have shown we are much better in race conditions. Again I had warm-up issues with the tyres, and once I find some grip the front tyres overheat. For the future we will try to find a solution for this, but for tomorrow I will be aiming for points as in the previous races."

* With agencies