“We start from P3 tomorrow, which is mega!”
Zeltweg, Saturday July 2
Jenson Button will start tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix from third position after he and the team brilliantly judged drying conditions to nail a competitive time in the dying seconds of Q3.
As the rains fell during qualifying, Jenson was the last driver to switch from Intermediates to Options and, subsequently, the last to cross the line as the track dried. He set the fifth-fastest time, but was elevated to third by virtue of the five-place penalties given to Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel. It was a perfectly managed session from the driver, engineers, strategists and mechanics.
Fernando Alonso was extremely unlucky in Q2. He set his first timed lap on used Options, then, after fitting fresh rubber for the second run, encountered yellow flags at Turn Three after Jenson locked up, went wide and ran into the gravel. Without an opportunity to better his earlier time, he will line up 14th.
FERNANDO ALONSO, MP4-31-02
|FP3||10th||1m08.327s (+1.229s)||17 laps|
|Q1||16th||1m07.671s (on Options)|
|Q2||14th overall||1m08.154s (on Options)|
“Certainly, this wasn’t a smooth qualifying session for us. In Q2, with the threat of rain hanging over us, we tried to leave the garage as early in the session as possible. Unfortunately, for some reason, my car was fitted with used Option tyres from Q1, rather than fresh rubber.
“Then, when we fitted new tyres for the second run, I came across a yellow flag and had to abort the lap. That’s disappointing because we really needed to capitalise on the mistakes of others today.
“For tomorrow’s race, we’ll need mixed conditions if we want to recover from 14th on the grid. The forecast tomorrow is for rain, so let’s wait and see…”
JENSON BUTTON, MP4-31-03
|FP3||9th||1m08.354s (+1.602s)||19 laps|
|Q1||12th||1m07.653s (on Options)|
|Q2||10th||1m07.572 (on Options)|
|Q3||5th overall||1m09.900 (on Options) * will start third due to ROS & VET penalties|
“We start from P3 tomorrow, which is mega!
“It was an enjoyable session – I thought it was all over in Q2 after I locked up into Turn Three. It was spitting with rain at Turns One and Two, so I didn’t think it would affect me into Turn Three, but I ran wide and just stayed on.
“It’s going to be a tough day tomorrow: nobody really understands how the tyres are going to deliver, but starting from third means we’ll be in a good position.
“I always love those conditions and I was just trying to save it for the last lap. Luckily there was no yellow flags – I took a lot of risks but it all worked out today.
“For now, I’m just going to enjoy this moment…”
ERIC BOULLIER - Racing director, McLaren-Honda
“First, Jenson and the team did an absolutely fantastic job throughout an extremely tough and tricky qualifying session. In Q3, on both the Intermediate and the Option tyre, Jenson looked utterly assured. He set the second-fastest lap-time on the wet-weather rubber, then locked down fifth overall as the field collectively switched to Options as the track rapidly dried.
“While Jenson drove superbly, I also want to pay tribute to our engineers and mechanics, who all worked together in extremely testing circumstances to ensure the car was in the right place at the right time to take full advantage of the changeable conditions.
“Second, while there was a small oversight with tyre-sets for Fernando on his first lap in Q2, it was the waved yellow flags he encountered on his second run, at the exit of Turn Three after Jenson ran wide into the gravel, that effectively ended his chances of getting into Q3. With the weather worsening, he would not get another roll of the dice.
“We’ve experienced both sides of the coin this afternoon; our aim for tomorrow must be to minimise the occurrence of any mistakes, and to ensure that we’re always in a position to make the most of any opportunity in what could be an extremely unpredictable and eventful race.”
YUSUKE HASEGAWA - Honda R&D head of F1 project & executive chief engineer
“It was a happy ending to come away with the best qualifying result so far for the McLaren-Honda team, especially after a chaotic qualifying session with the rain coming in between Q2 and Q3.
“As the track changed from wet to dry in Q3, the team made a good decision at the right time to go to dry tyres, and Jenson drove brilliantly to put his last lap up into P5. On the other hand, Fernando was unlucky to be caught up in the yellow flags and could not put in a clean lap in Q2.
“Tomorrow the weather again is forecast to be unstable, so our hope is to make the most of our qualifying position to bring home some points for the team.”