Sebastian, a fascinating qualifying session: tricky and changeable conditions for you all and, for you, great timing to arrive at the line after Mark and Lewis and snatch another pole.
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, it was a difficult session, all in all, Q1 and Q2 with very tricky conditions. The circuit was surprisingly drying up very quickly but it is quite tricky on the inters, so the main target was to get through. I didn't feel very comfortable right at the beginning but then through Q2 we could make a big step forward. I rediscovered Spa in a way and found some better lines than all weekend, so that was an important step. Then, in Q3, we were quite sure it is dry tyres but again if it doesn't start to rain it will be all down to the last lap as the circuit would just improve. I was trying to make my way around in the first two, trying to get the temperature into the tyres, then the last two laps, the last one particular, I tried to push as hard as I can. Arrived at the last corner... I think Lewis was right in front of me, a couple of seconds, and I saw him locking up. The last thing you then want is to lock up as well but all was fine. It was a very good lap. I was very happy with the car towards the end, in the dry. It seemed to get quicker and quicker every lap, so, all in all, I am very happy. Not an easy session, as you said, with the conditions changing all the time, and right after we finished it started to rain again. Tomorrow they said it is dry but here, as you've seen today, anything is possible.
Lewis, drama for you, not just in the final part of qualifying, but in the final moments of the second session as well. Exactly what happened between yourself and Pastor Maldonado?
Lewis Hamilton: I will have to look at it afterwards. I was at the end of my Q2 lap and I got to the chicane as I was just finishing and there were two Williams just sitting there, going very, very slow. I think they were probably preparing for the start of another lap but it was already a red light. I had to try and get past, which I did. I lost quite a lot of time there but as I was coming through the exit of turn one I saw Maldonado approaching quite quickly. He came around me and I didn't move anywhere but he happened to swipe across me. I don't know whether it was intentional or not. I guess we will see shortly. I just said I am just going to sit here and wait for the stewards to call me up rather than go back down to the [McLaren] Brand Centre.
Was there any concern that you wouldn't be able to go out in the final part of qualifying after that collision? How severely damaged was the car?
LH: The front wing was quite badly damaged - my sidepod, and I thought my front suspension was damaged. I think the front toe-in is probably a little bit out, but fortunately the guys did a great job to put it back together. I just think once the flag is out and the red lights are on there is no need to be racing and there should never ever be an incident and unfortunately there was.
Mark, happy birthday. Very nearly the best birthday present you could have wished for today but nearly, sadly, not good enough for you today.
Mark Webber: Yeah, it was a close session. Probably went a bit too hard on the slicks initially, as I felt comfortable. You never know if the lap you are on is the lap that is going to be the lap around here, obviously with the sprinkling here and there. And as we finished quali it started raining again. Yeah, probably could have built up a little bit slower, to have a better condition, a slightly better run-in to the back part of the third and fourth lap but that's how it goes. We have had a very good, smooth weekend and it's very easy to end up like JB (Jenson Button) or whatever. In those sessions it is very easy for us to be out of position. We are in position. It would have been nice to be a sniff further up but the guys did a good job in front. We are in the hunt tomorrow for sure. Could be a good race.
Sebastian, Mark says it has been an easy, smooth weekend but none of you have had as much running as you would like. How confident can you be going into a race that we might have changeable conditions once again?
SV: Well, I think it is one of those races you don't know, anything can happen, from start to finish. We will see. The best forecast around here is to look up and see what is happening. It is likely to be dry. I think we had a very good balance in the end in the dry and I was quite happy as at the beginning of qualifying I didn't really feel comfortable but then later on, even when it was wet, I was starting to feel much better. I think we found direction and we should be ready for tomorrow. It's a long race so I am looking forward to it.
Sebastian, we heard from the team that this was meant to be one of the most difficult races for Red Bull Racing and here you are on pole. Perhaps you can explain that?
SV: The race is tomorrow as far as I know, so we will see. But going into this race we have a lot of corners that we seem to like but we have a lot of straights that we seem to dislike, so we will see. All weekend there wasn't much running but we have been quite happy and quite competitive in all conditions. Mark more than myself. I wasn't really happy yesterday, or this morning, but I think we did the right steps to come back, especially when it was drying up as I was feeling more and more comfortable. Tomorrow, I don't know what is the forecast. They say dry, but I don't know how much. What are the odds? I don't know if you would put your money on that around here. We got the timing right, especially in the last qualifying session where I was feeling good and we got it all together at the right time.
It sounds as though you are happier with the car in dry conditions. Have you actually set it up for the dry? Is it more for dry than it is for wet?
SV: Not really. To be totally frank these days there is not really a wet set-up anymore. It is difficult, as from Saturday to Sunday you are not allowed to change anything. There are a couple of things that yes, if you could guarantee 100 per cent wet running, you would go for it, but it is not a massive change anyway. As I said yesterday and this morning, I wasn't really happy but in qualifying, and then especially Q2, we seemed to pick up the pace, also in the wet. Yes, it was drying but also in those places where it was still damp I think for the first time this weekend we were very competitive. All in all, a bit last-minute. It is not easy when you don't run that much but we got it back.
Everyone seems to have been on intermediates for about three days! Have you got any left and are you going to put them on eBay to see what you can get for them?
SV: We should have, I think. It is the same for everyone. It is a shame these days to be honest, that on Fridays we only run only one set of inters, as that one is free. The rest of the tyres, we don't want to touch if the weather forecast is likely to rain, which it did today and maybe tomorrow again, so you try to save tyres, which is a shame for the people and for all of us, as it is boring when you sit in the garage waiting doing nothing instead of having practice. It is not that we don't like running here, even if it rains, it is just we want to save the tyres for the reasons we saw in qualifying. You might need any set and also for tomorrow. It is the same for everyone.
Lewis, great effort to get on the front row again. McLaren winners of the last two races, how confident are you for tomorrow?
LH: I think that clearly we're quite strong. We didn't really know where we expected to be today but the team has done a fantastic job to come here with some new components which has been fantastic to see and they seem to have worked quite well. I don't know what happened to Jenson but unfortunately he wasn't able to get through to Q3. But as he's shown in the past, anything really can happen from quite far back. It was very close. I was just saying to Sebastian, he obviously did a fantastic lap. I had it for a second and then I lost it. I think that's the longest I've had pole this year. I will continue to work on that.
Yesterday you talked about wing testing, is that what it's all about, is it a huge amount about how quick you can be up the hill?
LH: It's just about trying to find the correct balance. You can take off all your downforce and have good end-of-straight speed, but then you struggle in the middle sector. It's just about making the compromise. It was still wet - we don't know what the weather's going to do tomorrow even though it says it's dry, so we didn't fully go for the optimal downforce level for the dry but I think tomorrow will still be dry.
So it's still a bit of a compromise, neither one thing nor the other.
LH: Yeah, absolutely.
Mark, a major day, what with the birthday and the announcement of the extension of the contract. You didn't quite get the trifecta.
MW: Yeah, would have been special, obviously, to get the trio but we certainly put up a good fight. We were competitive for a big chunk of qualifying, not competitive enough in the last three sectors when it quite counted. Yeah, the guys ahead of me did a good job, that's why their stopwatch stopped before mine did. I'm still happy to be up here. It's easy with Q1 and Q2 sessions like we had, when you have a situation like us, to potentially be here, you can still make a mistake, so the team's done a good job today. Seb came back at the end of Q3 there but we're certainly in the hunt for a good Grand Prix tomorrow - I'm looking forward to it - and yeah, it was a tricky day for all of us, but that's Spa.
And on pole last year as well...
MW: Yeah, it's a beautiful track. We all love driving here, wish there was more of them. Obviously the tracks they design these days are obviously trying for more TV and set up for the grandstands, second and third gear stuff which is not really that exciting, but you could drive round here every day of the week. It's a beautiful track and one that, whether you're a journo, a photographer, a driver, whatever, fan, you love coming here.
Questions From The Floor
(Naoise Holohan - Manipe F1) Mark, by my count, it's four years in a row that you've signed a one-year extension at Red Bull. Is it the team or yourself that's reluctant to commit to a multi-year deal and as well, could you tell us when you put pen to paper for 2012?
MW: Signed not long ago, I think it was the last race, actually, on the Sunday. Little bit of both, I think [regarding team or self reluctant to commit]. The one-year extensions are not too bad for me, and also I think it suits them as well. Bit of 50-50.
(Mike Doodson - Honorary) Lewis, at the end of Q2, in one of the snatches we got of you on TV, your car was bouncing quite a lot and producing sparks. Is that something to worry about, is the car perhaps set up more for the wet than the dry?
LH: No, again, I think - just to repeat what Sebastian said - nowadays there's not really a big difference between dry and wet set-up. I think in the past and in other categories you softened the car a lot more. As you go into qualifying nowadays, you can't change between qualifying and the race and so you have to try and... the set-up is generally very, very similar from dry to wet. But I have no idea why it would be sparking. It's either just too low or something's hanging off, but I haven't seen that.
To describe it, the car was behaving a bit like it was under braking at the end of the straight in Turkey, the same sort of thing.
LH: Yeah, that's why Sebastian was saying on the last lap that I had a lock-up, because my car was jumping around quite a lot over the bumps into the last corner.
Is that something that you've been trying to cure over the last couple of days or is it the first time that it's actually manifested itself?
LH: It's something that we've been trying to cure for the last three or so years.
(Bob McKenzie - Daily Express) Lewis, from what we saw, Maldonado's move looked pretty brutal, he slammed in pretty hard. What did it feel like in the car? Were you taken by surprise?
LH: When you're in the car you have to really get out and have a look. I can't really recollect absolutely everything that went on but it did feel quite a hard thump. I thought that my tracking was broken so I thought the front wheel and suspension was broken. It went very, very light for the rest of the lap, and I felt a big shove in the side of the car from the wheel, and I think the front wing was gone. I think it was quite serious and quite fortunate that neither of us and particularly him was flipped or had a big big crash, so I think we were quite lucky there.
(Michael Schmidt - Auto, Motor und Sport) None of you were able to do much dry running during practice, so have you any idea how the degradation of the tyres is and with this uncertainty, how difficult is it to plan for the race?
SV: Yes, it will be very important tomorrow, unknown tyre degradation. Obviously you get an impression after a couple of laps. Yesterday, in my case, I didn't run the soft tyre, I ran a little bit longer on the hard compound. Today, I had a couple of laps on the soft compound. It's very hard to draw conclusions so I think we will find out tomorrow. It's not a secret, I think that's why most of the people were using the soft tyres in qualifying, because they are the faster tyre so we will try to use that as much as we can, similar to the last couple of races.
(Sven Haidinger - SportWoche) How difficult is it with these conditions here, the cool and rainy conditions, to get the tyres up to temperature?
LH: Well, we never struggle to get tyre temperature.
SV: To be honest, I think today was quite cool, similar, probably, to where we were at Nurburgring - maybe not that cold but similar. I think we struggled less, so I think we can be very happy with the step we have made. Obviously we have seen that we lost a little bit of performance or lost performance, especially compared to McLaren in these conditions and I think we wouldn't be there today if we were in a similar shape or same shape as Nurburgring, so hard to say. It's a different track but I think it affects us less today and here than in the last races.
(John Bannon - Australian Auto Action) Mark, your chances of a late birthday present tomorrow?
MW: I would say pretty good. We're right towards the front, we know this place can throw up anything on Sunday afternoon, as we saw last year. It's a very challenging Grand Prix for all of us. Lewis won the race but he arrived in parc ferme after a great drive with his car with plenty of gravel in it so he had an interesting day. That's what can happen around here. I've had a good feeling on the track all weekend. You need to get everything right - but in reasonable shape, mate, so looking forward to it.
To check out our Spa qualifying gallery, click here.