Fourth and fifth places on the starting grid for the Japanese Grand Prix, for Scuderia Ferrari's pair of 150º Italias with Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso respectively. That was the outcome of the qualifying session which saw the top five drivers all lap within just over four tenths of one another. The two Ferrari men ran identical programmes during the session: one run on the Medium tyres in Q1, one on the Soft in Q2 and two on the Soft in Q3.
Stefano Domenicali: Before moving on to talk about our performance today, I would take this opportunity for a more general observation. Once again today, as has happened before during this season, we have seen cars - no less than four in Q3 - give up on doing a flying lap. Far be it for me to criticise those who made this choice, which is absolutely respectable from a technical point of view, I think it shows something is not right in the way qualifying is run and we should give it some careful thought for the future, because I don't think it's such a good thing for the spectators in the grandstand, who, I must say here are amazing in the way they make you feel their passion for Formula 1 and for those who are watching on television. Moving on to our result, I have to say it is more or less what we expected. We know where we stand at the moment technically and we have to try and make the most of every opportunity to fight for a podium finish. We will attempt that with our trademark level of determination.
Felipe Massa: It was a difficult qualifying session but at least we managed to keep one of the four best cars behind us. It's never easy here to put together the perfect lap and my last run was very good, even if I lost a little bit in the final sector. Tomorrow, it will be important to get a good start. Hamilton alongside me on the grid? It makes no difference to me if it's him or anyone else. The race looks like being a complicated one, with a lot of stops to change tyres that show significant degradation here, so it follows that strategy will play a key role. It will be vital to find the right pace, so as to be quick, but at the same time, save the tyres. Overtaking will not be easy, despite KERS and DRS: maybe tyre wear will count for more, given that you come onto the main straight off a very slow chicane. Our aim is the podium: we're starting one place off it, so it's a realistic expectation.
Fernando Alonso: I am not very surprised by this result: at the end of the day, McLaren and Red Bull have been quicker than us all weekend long and at least we have managed to get ahead of Webber. I seem to have a season ticket for fifth place this year and at least it means I start from the clean side of the track.Tomorrow I expect significant tyre degradation to be a key feature of the race, with the possibility of several pit stops, which means strategy will play a very important role. We hope we won't have the same problems as in Singapore two weeks ago. We will try and make the best choices and fight for a podium finish, which is a realistic target. The win is certainly less so: as we saw in qualifying, McLaren seem very close to Red Bull here. The start will also be an important moment: both myself and Felipe will try and put pressure on those closest to us and then, if we happen to make up some places we will try and have our say. My first run in Q3? I was pushing to the maximum but, after looking at the lap time analysis, I don't think I could have done much better than my second run.
Pat Fry: Overall, this is the result we could have expected. We felt that, if we put together the best possible package and squeezed the most out of it, then we could hope to reduce the gap to pole compared to recent races: that's how things turned out, even if it definitely does not affect the hierarchy down pit lane. Felipe had a great qualifying, especially in Q3, so we really hope that for once, he can have a normal race after all the problems he has encountered recently. Tomorrow's race will be very tough, especially for the tyres which, historically at this track are given a hard time. It therefore becomes crucial to select the right strategy, pinpointing the best moment to change tyres and, especially, not to make any mistakes. We have a duty to fight right to the very end to achieve the objectives that are still within our grasp this season and we will leave nothing to chance. At the same time, we have to use the remaining days we have on track this season to learn as much as possible about elements that could be useful for next year.
Check out our Suzuka qualifying gallery, here.