The McLaren Mercedes duo of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen continued to struggle as the qualifying session in Spain left them down in 8th and 15th respectively. Magnussen was unlucky to suffer a power unit problem during the second part of qualifying, but Button seemed to get the maximum out of the car that would only see him qualify in the lower end of the top ten. Sebastian Vettel’s penalty sees Magnussen promoted to 14th, but both drivers will be hoping to be challenging for points during the race.
Button qualified eighth in Spain after almost missing out on getting through the first part of qualifying. The 2009 World Champion feels the car has improved somewhat since the last race but it still doesn’t feel as good as it should be, especially with the gap to the front teams being so big.
“It’s pretty tough for everyone out there – the track doesn’t have much grip, so we spent each session working away at the car’s balance to try and find something that works,” said Button. “We almost got there, but still had too much understeer for the final run. It wasn’t too bad: we probably could’ve found a little more time within the set-up but it probably wasn’t going to be enough to make much of a difference.
“There’s going to be lots of sliding in the race tomorrow. We’ve done a pretty good job in that we’ve saved a set of Options for the race – I’m not yet sure what strategy we’ll adopt, but it’s good to have some leeway on strategy. We’ve definitely shown signs of improvement this weekend, although we’re still not yet where we want to be.”
Magnussen was forced to sit out the second part of qualifying when a problem with his power unit was discovered. He had managed to get through Q1 with the problem, but the team decided to stop running in Q2 to save the engine for the race. The Danish driver, who took his maiden podium finish in the first race of the season in Australia, felt the team had improved the car since the Chinese Grand Prix however.
“We’ve definitely made improvements to the car – it’s just a shame I couldn’t prove it to the team this afternoon,” said Magnussen. “I don’t exactly know what the problem was with my car. We had an issue with the power unit during Q1 that we tried to fix. But, in Q2, we decided to save the engine and retire the car.
“Tyres are going to play a big role in the race tomorrow, so let’s see how things pan out. I’ll be aiming to work cleanly through the first lap, but I think we might struggle a little bit – our qualifying pace looks a little stronger than our race pace. It’s a shame, but at least we have some tyres saved for the race, so I hope we can do something positive.”
McLaren Mercedes Racing Director Eric Boullier admitted that the qualifying positions for Button and Magnussen were far from satisfying, but praised the drivers for doing the best they could under the circumstances. The team will hope to leave Spain with a good haul of points having missed out on the top ten in China last time out.
“Although P8 is never satisfying, Jenson drove very well to achieve that grid slot here today,” said Boullier. “Kevin was extremely unlucky to have his qualifying run curtailed by a power unit issue, the cause of which we’re still investigating. Prior to that, both yesterday and today, he’d matched Jenson for pace, so I’m sure he’d have been able to go through into Q3 this afternoon, as Jenson did.
“Having said that, strategy will play a very important part in tomorrow’s race, and you can be certain that both Jenson and Kevin will race hard and fast in an effort to score as many world championship points as possible.”