The McLaren Mercedes duo of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen were evenly matched throughout qualifying for the United States Grand Prix, but due to a gearbox penalty, Button will drop to twelfth on the grid with Magnussen starting seventh at the Circuit of the Americas.
Button was able to qualify in seventh position but drops five places because his gearbox was changed after just two races of a six-race cycle. He is hopeful of making his strategy work so to climb back up the order during the race.
“That was a lot of effort for 12th on the grid,” reflected Button. “It was so close between Kevin and myself on every run this afternoon. My fastest lap wasn’t amazing – it’s quite difficult to string a lap together around here, because you struggle with the inconsistencies caused by moderate grip, high winds and low ambient temperatures.
“But we can be reasonably happy with where we are, particularly given the balance issues we faced this morning. In that respect, Hiroshi-san, our tyre guru, did a great job – we were a little bit lost this morning, but were in complete understanding by this afternoon. The engineers made the difference.
“It’s frustrating to have qualified on the clean side of the grid, but be forced onto the dirty side by a penalty. That makes things trickier, but this race looks like it’ll probably be at least a two-stopper, maybe even a three-stopper, which opens up more strategy options for us and gives us more of an opportunity to make up positions.”
Magnussen qualified eighth but will start seventh after his team-mates penalty, but felt dissatisfied with the outcome of qualifying. He felt that both he and Button got the best out of their McLaren’s as they were so evenly matched throughout the sessions in Austin.
“Qualifying seventh and eighth isn’t particularly satisfying for anyone, but it’s pretty much where we are with our car right now,” said Magnussen. “Jenson and I were pretty evenly matched all afternoon, so I think it’s pretty safe to say we got the maximum out of the car.
“I think tomorrow’s race will be a two- or even three-stopper for most people, so we should hopefully be able to mix things up a little with our strategy. That’s usually a good way to make forward progress, and I think scoring some useful points should certainly be possible.”