It was a hard day on track for the McLaren Mercedes drivers at Interlagos with Kevin Magnussen finishing inside the top ten in both free practice sessions, while team-mate Jenson Button was forced to miss most of the first session before finishing fourteenth in the second.
Magnussen was baffled to why the team were struggling with their top speed compared with some of their rivals, while also admitting to issues with the tyres with the warmer than expected temperatures making degradation a little more severe.
“The car doesn’t feel too bad around here, but it’s been difficult to set competitive times because we’re lacking a bit of top speed compared with some of the others,” said Magnussen. “We need to look at why that’s happening.
“In today’s high temperatures, we struggled with the tyres a bit more than we’d expected, too. If we experience similar conditions on Sunday, we might see a bit of degradation across the field. But it’ll be the same for everyone, so won’t be too much of a problem, and it may possibly rain anyway.
“If it’s dry on Saturday, I think we can still improve the set-up and make some progress. We should be able to find some more pace, in fact, and hopefully get a decent result in qualifying tomorrow.”
Team-mate Button missed the majority of the first session with an Energy Recover System problem that kept him in the garage, and was disappointed to be only fourteenth in the afternoon, although he feels his McLaren is better than the pace it showed on Friday.
“This morning was a bit problematic – I only managed to get an install lap under my belt just before I had a problem with the ERS unit,” said Button. “But things were better this afternoon.
“The new asphalt changed the character of the circuit quite a lot, which is a shame. What’s also strange is that our maximum speed is quite a way off that of the front-runners – our downforce levels don’t look too dissimilar, but we wouldn’t have been able to match the best top speeds without taking the wing off. There’s a lot of work to do overnight, but I think we understand where the issues lie.
“Tomorrow looks like it’s going to be colder and wetter – which will mix it up for everyone – so it’s important for us to find the right set-up, because the forecast says Sunday will probably be dry. Even if qualifying is wet, we really need a dry FP3 to refine the set-up.
“The car is definitely better than we showed today.”