Jenson Button was happy to get so close to making it through to the final phase of qualifying on Saturday at the Sochi Autodrom, with the Briton qualifying twelfth, missing out on Q3 by less than a tenth of a second, although he feels the race on Sunday will be harder due to the demands of the Russian track.
The McLaren-Honda driver revealed the team have not quite found the right balance on his MP4-31 this weekend, so to get so close to the top ten shootout was impressive.
Button believes the race on Sunday could be interesting, and expects drivers to make a one-stop strategy work in their favour, which could favour those who look after their tyres towards the end of the Grand Prix.
“We were so close to getting into Q3 today – we had a good shot at it but ended up a tenth off,” said Button. “In fact, it was so close that we were just two tenths off eighth position in Q2 – and despite the balance not being quite there.
“I think both Fernando and I struggled with the handling – the car was understeering, which is difficult to resolve. There’s a tipping point at which, when you dial in more front-wing, the balance suddenly shifts from under- to oversteer – so we were being cautious in qualifying.
“Tomorrow won’t be the easiest race for us – the lap is 71 per cent full-throttle – but Turn Two is always tricky here, so my aim will be to stay out of trouble, pick up some places and then see what happens.
“I still think a one-stop strategy will prove tricky for most people tomorrow, so that should also make things interesting.”
Team-mate Fernando Alonso could not quite match Button, and ended the session fourteenth, and feels that McLaren still lack some time compared to his rivals that was the difference maker during qualifying on Saturday.
“The lap-times at the end of Q2 were very tight – the difference between 14th position and a place in Q3 was just two tenths,” said Alonso. “And, sadly, we’re at the back of that group.
“But that’s the way it is – I still feel that we’re missing the couple of tenths that would massively help us to overtake some of the other cars in this very competitive midfield group.
“While we weren’t in luck today, I definitely think we’ve shown ourselves to more competitive this weekend, and I hope we can recover tomorrow and fight for some points.”