The McLaren-Mercedes team had a mixed qualifying session in Montreal, with Briton Jenson Button qualifying ninth, while Kevin Magnussen will start the Canadian Grand Prix from twelfth.
2009 World Champion Button was positive that he made it through to the final part of qualifying, but still admits the car is not where it should be in terms of outright pace. He also is worried about how the Pirelli tyres will last during the hot conditions expected for race day.
“We’d been trying to adjust the balance all through the weekend, but we really struggled in free practice this morning,” said Button. “Still, it’s a positive that the changes we made for qualifying were a clear step forward. My fastest time in Q3 was almost good enough for eighth – I lost out by just two hundredths – but ninth is probably better in terms of starting position on the grid, because it’ll be on the clean side.
“Looking ahead to tomorrow, it’s going to be hard to read the tyres’ behaviour in these very hot conditions. They’re very easy to grain, so if you can look after them throughout a stint, it could make a big difference in the race. As a race team, we’re extremely good at thinking on our toes – so we’ll make sure we’re ready for every scenario tomorrow.”
His Danish Team-mate Magnussen was eliminated in the second part of qualifying by 0.055s and will start the race from twelfth. On his first visit to the circuit, the Dane admits the lack of downforce is causing issues with speed, and its not ideal for the 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 Series champion, but he goes into the race with optimism of claiming some points.
“Jenson probably got the maximum from the car today,” said Magnussen. “But Q2 was a bit tougher for me. The car actually feels good – there’s not much I’d do to change the set-up – but the car’s lack of downforce means that we’re not quick enough.
“Tomorrow, it’ll be important to look after the tyres – especially the Option, which will struggle in the hotter conditions. I really don’t know what to expect on Sunday: we’re starting just outside the top 10; with a good race, I hope we can score some points. All I know is that I’ll go into tomorrow absolutely fighting.”
McLaren-Mercedes Racing Director Eric Boullier feels that unlike other circuits, qualifying isn’t as important. He was happy to see Button qualify in the top ten but was disappointed for Magnussen who Boullier believed could have matched his team-mate had he not caught up with traffic on his out-lap that cooled his tyres down.
“Qualifying is not as important here as it is at some other places, so there’s still plenty to play for in what will almost certainly be an extremely tough, demanding and unpredictable race tomorrow,” said Boullier. “Kevin was very unfortunate in qualifying: he’d been really on it all weekend, and I think he could have joined Jenson in the top 10 had he not caught traffic on the out-lap of his final run in Q2. That caused his tyre temperatures to drop, and meant he lost a couple of tenths in the first sector.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s all part of the learning experience. He’s been doing a fantastic job, and has been working very well with his engineers. This is just a brief setback, and, as I say, qualifying is less important here than at other circuits, so he’ll be able to mount an attacking race tomorrow.
“Jenson has also done an extremely good job all weekend. As a team, we know that our car doesn’t have the downforce to challenge for the top six or seven, so ninth was a fair reflection of our car’s pace. Still, Jenson is doing a great job of getting the maximum out of the machinery he’s given.
“It’s going to be a long and eventful race tomorrow, with track temperatures looking set to be hotter than we’ve so far seen all weekend. There’s plenty of scope to make places tomorrow, so we’ll be doing our very best to manage the race on all fronts.”