Team managers at McLaren have expressed their delight that both their Honda powered machines finished the Chinese Grand Prix relatively unscathed in the hands of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.
However, one problem which raised its head – that many others had in fairness – was a lack of rear grip when using the prime tyre. Both Alonso and Button had the issue, but thankfully the options were more suited to the car.
Indeed, it was the heavy usage of the options that saw Button have such a long fight with Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado. Lap after lap they tussled for position, with Button making an ill-judged lunge into turn one which sent him and Pastor off the track. The Venezuelan had to retire because of the damage and the Brit received a 5 second penalty after the race which relegated him to 14th.
He said after the race: “Today wasn’t too bad – we’re still fighting at the back of the field, which is a shame, but it’s positive to see that we’re progressing.
“My middle stint on the Option tyre wasn’t too bad – I don’t think our pace was too bad at all on the softer tyre – but the Prime was a bit trickier in those closing laps. A lot of that was due to all the blue flags and traffic I encountered – they meant the tyre temperatures dropped off quite a bit through the stint. It wasn’t easy.
“Regarding the collision with Pastor, I thought there was room on the inside – a collision is something you never want to see happen. It was just a misjudgment, I guess.
“Still, we go to Bahrain hoping for more progress, although the circuit configuration doesn’t suit us, so heading to Europe will hopefully work out a little bit better for the team.”
Alonso, exploiting his team mates gaffe, managed to finish a respectable 12th although he admitted in a press conference after the race that it was tough being lapped by the Ferraris. He also said: “This wasn’t the easiest race for us. We weren’t very competitive at the beginning, then we had a few issues with the aero behaviour of the car, which slowed me down in the middle stint, but I was able to push a bit harder on the soft tyre at the end of the race.
“We still need to learn a lot more about this car in order to extract its maximum, but an afternoon like today was extremely useful for us as it enabled us to better understand the car.”
McLaren Team Principal Eric Boullier was full of praise for his drivers and all the McLaren staff at HQ: “First, it’s a real positive for the entire team that we managed to get two cars to the finish with no issues whatsoever during the race. I think that’s a great reward for Honda, and we should congratulate them – today’s double-finish is the result of an enormous amount of hard work, much of which goes unappreciated, so I want to personally thank everybody working in Woking, Sakura and Milton Keynes for their efforts. It’s great that we’re starting to make solid progress.
“Second, our race pace showed further improvement: Jenson drove strongly in the middle stint, and Fernando was reasonably quick relative to the others in the final stint.
“Fighting towards the back of the pack still isn’t where we want to be. We know we’re not in a position to fight for points yet – but, little by little, we’re getting there. And we must keep pushing to ensure there are improvements coming for every race.”