The McLaren Mercedes team had a positive qualifying session at Monza ahead of the Italian Grand Prix, with Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button locking out the third row of the grid.
Magnussen was slower than Button all throughout the weekend until it really mattered in the final part of qualifying, and the young Dane will line up fifth on the grid just ahead of this team-mate. He believes the McLaren’s long run pace should be competitive, and feels ready to have a strong race.
“I’m happy – but it only really came together for me in qualifying,” insisted Magnussen. “Fifth and sixth is pretty solid for the team. In fact, I didn’t think our qualifying pace would be quite that strong.
“I’m really happy to have the power from the Mercedes engine behind me – and hopefully we can challenge the other Mercedes runners in front of us. The Williams cars look a bit stronger than ours, and the Mercs too obviously, but I still think we can give it a go and score some good points.
“The team has done a great job to deliver this Monza-specific package. I have a feeling that our race performance is quite good – perhaps not on raw pace, but it has good straight-line speed and feels strong under braking. We definitely have a car that we can race.”
Team-mate Button was 0.065s slower than Magnussen in the final part of qualifying, and will start sixth, but was happy the team were the third fastest team in the session. He is expecting a tough race on Sunday even if he believes they should be more competitive than in qualifying.
“We’ve looked pretty good all weekend, and we gradually tweaked the set-up and balance through every session,” said Button. “On my final flying lap in Q3, I didn’t get a clean middle sector – I lost a little bit of time through the Lesmos – but we probably qualified better than expected.
“I’m a little surprised at how quick the Williams cars have been – we didn’t expect them to be that far in front of us – but we’re the third-best team on single-lap pace, which is nice.
“I think things will be a bit more competitive in the race: our Friday long-runs proved somewhat tricky for us, so we’ll be aiming for a better race tomorrow. It’ll be hotter on Sunday, too, which could potentially help us, so we’ll see what happens in the race.”