The McLaren Mercedes team had a mediocre qualifying session at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, with Dane Kevin Magnussen qualifying sixth while a morning braking problem cost Briton Jenson Button crucial track time in practice as he was eliminated in the second qualifying session meaning he will start from eleventh. Both McLaren drivers feel the team are heading in the right direction with their car.
Magnussen took his best qualifying result since the opening round of the season in Australia with sixth but feels a tiny mistake at the final corner cost him a top five spot on the grid. He is unsure about the McLaren’s race pace but will do his best to secure points for a third consecutive race.
“If everything had been perfect today, I think we could have been in the top five,” said Magnussen. “I made a tiny mistake at the final corner on my final lap in Q3, but, even so, I’m happy enough with how things went today. And I think the whole team can feel satisfied, too: we’re definitely making progress, so we just need to keep it up now.
“It’s also nice to see a bit more of a mixed-up grid. It’s quite surprising that the gap to Mercedes has been closed so quickly, and it’s good to see a Williams on pole. Looking ahead to tomorrow, I don’t know if our race pace will be as strong as our qualifying pace was today. But we’ll do our best.”
Team-mate Button was on the back foot after missing the majority of free practice three in the morning with a braking issue. He just missed out on making the final part of qualifying in twelfth, having felt he was slightly delayed by the Lotus of Romain Grosjean ahead of him, but will start eleventh after Force India’s Sergio Perez takes his five-place grid-drop penalty. The Briton is hopeful of a good race and believes overtaking will be possible.
“You never really know how much you lose from missing FP3, but it meant we were a little in the dark on set-up going into qualifying,” said Button. “Having said that, I think I could’ve made it into the top 10 if my last run in Q2 had worked out: I was about seven seconds behind Romain’s Lotus, which locked up and run wide at the first three corners. While he eventually pulled over and let me pass, it lost me a bit of time.
“You never know what overtaking will be like in the race. But, being outside the top 10, we can run new tyres at the start of the race, and we can play with the strategy. The DRS zones look interesting, too; not having one at the exit of Turn One looks like it’ll make racing more fun – now, you’ll have to make a move to overtake rather than just passing along the straights, which is what it should be about.”
Racing Director Eric Boullier feels the team are heading in the right direction after a troubled start to the 2014 season. He praised Magnussen for his qualifying efforts and insisted Button would have made Q3 as well had it not been for his problems in the morning practice session.
“Jenson missed out on getting through to Q3 by such a narrow margin – just 0.156s – that it’s pretty safe to say that he’d definitely have made it through had he not lost so much running owing to a brake system problem in FP3 this morning,” said Boullier. “Having said that, Kevin did an excellent job throughout today’s qualifying hour, ending up in P6 – just 0.049s, or less than a twentieth of a second, behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in P5.
“Okay, we don’t regard P6, or even P5, as good enough – McLaren exists to win and anything short of that will never truly satisfy us – but we’re encouraged by our performance today because it indicates that we’re on the right development path. Rome wasn’t built in a day – Woking may take longer – but we’re getting there.”