After a qualifying session where niggly mistakes cost the team a shot at Q2, McLaren-Honda team bosses have targeted finishing the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix as their main objective.
Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso will start 17th and 18th on the grid for tomorrow’s race, but it could have been so much more after both drivers showed flashes of speed in the practice sessions.
Button said: “I guess we hoped we might be just a bit closer than we were today; in practice, we’d looked a bit more competitive, certainly.
“We’d found a reasonably good balance with the car, in fact, but the lap-time isn’t quite there yet. In addition, the cars in front of us seemed to make a big leap forward this afternoon – whereas we didn’t – so we’ll need to find out why that was.
“So, overall, we’ve made some improvements this weekend, but qualifying just didn’t go our way. Hopefully, things will be better tomorrow, and we’ll be able to race some of the cars that will start in front of us on the grid.”
For Fernando, the positive to take out of his qualifying is that a repeat of the FP3 ignition issue in his McLaren was seemingly resolved.
“We were two tenths away from the mid-pack – and close to getting into Q2 – today. We’re getting there, and this is another step forward, but we’re still under-performing, so we need to keep improving,” Alonso explained.
“Our main priority now is to finish tomorrow’s race; that’ll allow us to learn more about the car and uncover any possible problems. Obviously, two DNFs in Malaysia wasn’t an ideal situation for us, so, regardless of the result, we need to make the finish here in China.
“This has been another positive weekend – everyone in the team is excited about the progress we’re making.”
Indeed one man very excited is Team Principal Eric Boullier who is praising the small steps the team is making: “I’d hesitate to use the word ‘disappointing’ to describe this afternoon’s qualifying performance, but I think we’d all hoped for a little more, particularly after looking like we’d made a respectable improvement in all three of this weekend’s practice sessions.
“Fernando’s afternoon was obviously affected by the car failure on his out-lap in FP3 this morning, but he responded magnificently, and the parity between our drivers today demonstrated exactly why we hired them: because they can get absolutely everything from the car, and leave nothing out on track. Superbe!
“Additionally, both Fernando and Jenson know how important it will be to finish tomorrow’s race. Hopefully, it will give us another opportunity to narrow the gap to the cars in front. In fact, while today’s grid positions of 17th and 18th don’t necessarily reflect it, this weekend does indeed mark another step forward: in Australia we were 2.836s off the best Q1 time; in Malaysia the gap was 2.367s, and here it was 1.774s. That gives everyone in the team reason to feel encouraged.”