"Hugely encouraged by our improvement"
Zeltweg, Sunday July 3
Jenson Button claimed sixth position in today’s Austrian Grand Prix with perhaps the most convincing display yet of the burgeoning pace of the McLaren-Honda partnership.
Starting from third, Jenson vaulted into second place and ran strongly during the opening stint, before stopping on lap nine to switch from Option to Back-Up tyres. During his middle stint, he picked off cars in front of him, taking sudden advantage of a Safety Car period (to remove Sebastian Vettel’s puncture-damaged Ferrari) to pit again and fit a Back-Up to take him to the finish.
In the closing laps, Jenson ran as high as fifth before settling for sixth after being overtaken by Daniel Ricciardo, who had fitted a fresh set of Prime tyres.
Starting from 14th, Fernando Alonso also raced competitively through the first two stints, running inside the top 10 as the strategy ebbed and flowed. He pitted for his second stop immediately behind Jenson to take advantage of the Safety Car. Unfortunately, however, he suffered an ES battery pack system failure in the closing laps, and was forced to retire.
FERNANDO ALONSO, MP4-31-02
|Finished:||DNF – ES battery pack system failure|
|Fastest Lap:||1m11.020s on lap 20 (+2.609s, 20th)|
|Pitstops:||Two: lap 8 (2.80s) and 26 (3.86s) [Prime/Back-Up/Back-Up]|
"We had bad luck this weekend.
"It was a tough race for me today – the engine wasn’t running well from about lap three or four, I was losing power due to an issue with the battery, so we were on the verge of retiring the car for the whole race.
"But, since we were running on the fringe of the top 10, we knew there was a point on the table, and kept going in a bid to finish. In the end, it just wasn’t possible.
"We need to learn from the problems we had this weekend, but we also go away with some positives: our car was competitive in variable conditions yesterday, and Jenson scoring some good points for the team today."
JENSON BUTTON, MP4-31-03
|Fastest Lap:||1m10.001s on lap 70 (+1.590s, 9th)|
|Pitstops:||Two: lap 9 (3.67s) and 26 (3.79s) [Option/Back-Up/Back-Up]|
"I knew the race was going to be difficult – starting near the front definitely helps because you can race in clear air and do your own thing a little bit more, but, with two DRS zones around this place, we couldn’t keep the other cars behind. While our pace was okay, once a car came past, they could overtake in places we never knew were possible.
"Nonetheless, we beat the Williams cars on sheer pace, and I think we did a great job today with our race strategy. We really got the maximum from everything. Through every session, we’ve been improving; every run we’ve done, we made the car better and better.
"We did a great job all weekend, but we know that we head to Silverstone not expecting to be in this position next week."
ERIC BOULLIER - Racing director, McLaren-Honda
"Jenson drove brilliantly this afternoon to finish sixth – and at a circuit where we wouldn’t have expected such a strong result. In fact, the whole weekend has shown just what we can achieve when we’re able to take full advantage of the strengths, resources and determination of this organisation. This result is a landmark for the team, because it clearly shows in which direction we are headed: towards the front of the grid.
"Fernando gave his all this afternoon but sadly came home unrewarded. He was able to push hard at the start of the race, but became increasingly hampered by a systems issue with the battery pack, which meant he couldn’t make any progress. The issue worsened, and we were forced to retire his car before the end of the race.
"We head to our home race under no illusions that the fast sweeps and long straights of Silverstone will play to the strengths of our car, but, equally, we go there feeling hugely encouraged by the ongoing improvements we continue to show."
YUSUKE HASEGAWA - Honda R&D head of F1 project & executive chief engineer
"Jenson capitalised on his starting grid position and showed enough pace to score more points for the team with a well-deserved sixth position.
"On the other hand, Fernando unfortunately suffered an ES pack system failure, therefore we elected to retire the car for safety reasons, which was disappointing as he was also within reach of the points today.
"On a positive note, I think we were able to show our strength in both the car and the team this weekend, which is very encouraging for the next race at Silverstone, McLaren-Honda’s home race."