Felipe Massa says he was sent out 'too late' by Williams during the first phase of qualifying for Spanish Grand Prix after he suffered a surprise early exit, but Pat Symonds contests he should have been quick enough to progress regardless.
Williams had hoped Massa would only need a single lap to make it through into Q2, but Massa says traffic on his sole lap lost him tenths and he was unable to get back to the pit lane in time to attempt another run.
Only able to watch as he slipped down the order to 18th – his worst starting position since the 2014 Russian Grand Prix -, Massa was frustrated to have been placed in that scenario by the team's 'timing plan'.
“I think if I say I'm happy something's wrong,” he said. “I had my first set of tyres and I had traffic on the lap, I had a slower car in front which I lost time which can happen especially in Q1. And I lost time in the third corner with [Daniil] Kvyat and especially the worst was in the seventh corner with [Fernando] Alonso and then it was a slow lap.
“We went out too late in the first session and most of the other teams went before us, and if you don't have a clean lap, I mean we are fighting for three-tenths. Between two and four tenths for four teams, so if you don't do a clean lap for whatever reason you need to go again which is what most of the other teams did. I had traffic on my first lap, I couldn't pass, and we had no time to go out again, we tried but it was wrong timing plan.
Pointing out that the increasingly competitive mid-pack is shortening margins for error in qualifying, Massa says Williams is wrong in its approach.
“You cannot risk yourself completely in Q1 because maybe you miss the chance to qualify in the top ten or in the top six or in the top five because you're just trying to be too relaxed for Q1. If something doesn't happen you qualify 17th or 18th which was the case today.
“We had some issues, before it was different cases, but today we didn't do the right job in our session. It's a track that's very difficult in overtaking and we know that tomorrow we will not have an easy race. We know that we've been quite consistent in scoring good points every race, and tomorrow is that when you start 18th you don't know what's going to happen.”
However, chief technical officer Symonds shifted the emphasis back onto Massa, saying the 'traffic' he experienced was simply a distraction and that it shouldn't have lost him so much time.
“I think that it would have been nice if he'd got a second run in … It would also have been nice if he hadn't need to have done a second run! He did have a couple of cars on that lap in front of him that put him off a little bit, but we didn't really plan to have to do a second run today. I guess we paid quite heavily for it, which is a shame really.”