"There’s still a long way to go, but this is a good step"
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Saturday May 14
Fernando Alonso will start his home grand prix in Spain from 10th position on the grid. Jenson Button will start 12th.
Fernando’s position is the team’s best qualifying result since the reformation of the McLaren-Honda partnership at the beginning of last year, and, while P10 is hardly cause for celebration, it underlines the measured progress both organisations are making together as they push closer to the front of the grid.
The team’s aim for tomorrow is to get both cars home in the points.
FERNANDO ALONSO, MP4-31-04
|FP3||10th||1m24.555s (+1.477s)||13 laps|
|Q1||11th||1m24.578s (on Options)|
|Q2||10th||1m24.192s (on Options)|
|Q3||10th overall||1m23.981s (on Options)|
“Today is the first time in a long while that I haven’t watched Q3 on television!
“And it’s nice to be part of the show. This is new-shape McLaren-Honda’s first time in Q3 – but, in truth, we probably deserved this result a couple of races ago.
“But never mind that now: let’s just enjoy it before we turn our attention to tomorrow and look at how we can convert it into world championship points. That’ll require some thought because, for the first time this year, we’ll be starting on used Q2 tyres – we don’t have a free choice, which is a slight handicap that we’ll look to recover somehow.
“Nonetheless, we should be thinking about moving forwards tomorrow – and doing that here is usually all about the start and the pit-stops. Put it this way: I don’t think we’ll see too much overtaking tomorrow. That means we really need to focus on the start, and then look after our tyres because degradation is likely to be a factor.
“There’s still a long way to go, but this is a good step.”
JENSON BUTTON, MP4-31-03
|FP3||15th||1m25.051s (+1.973s)||13 laps|
|Q1||12th||1m24.583s (on Options)|
|Q2||12th overall||1m24.348s (on Options)|
“This result has been a long time coming for the McLaren-Honda team. Fair play to Fernando – he’s been very quick all weekend, and this afternoon’s Q3 success is great for the team.
“Having said that, merely getting into Q3 isn’t where we want to be as a team, but we did a good job today. And I hope it’s put a smile on everyone’s faces.
“However, it’s been a tough weekend for me. My car has been suffering from a loose-feeling rear end, which isn’t how I like it to feel because it means I can’t fully commit into corners. I tried my best, but driving around that handling characteristic has never been my strong point.
“Still, I adapted reasonably well to it this weekend, and, to end up just-one-and-a-half tenths off Fernando’s time is the best it’s been all weekend.
“I’ll start tomorrow’s race on new tyres too, so I’m not too upset.”
ERIC BOULLIER - Racing director, McLaren-Honda
“Today’s qualifying session was the 24th we’ve entered since we renewed our partnership with Honda – and the result, our first appearance in Q3, is a welcome relief even though it’s taken a long time coming.
“In truth, however, although Fernando’s having bagged a top-10 grid slot for his home Grand Prix will cheer the local fans, and rightly so, the reason it pleases us is that it’s firm evidence of our slow but sure progress from past lows to future highs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we’re on a journey, a difficult journey, but it’s clear that we’re going in the right direction.
“Moreover, although Jenson narrowly failed to get through to Q3, he too is very well positioned to launch an aggressive yet canny offensive towards a points-scoring position tomorrow afternoon.
“We got both cars into the points in Sochi two weeks ago, and a repeat performance has to be our goal here in Barcelona tomorrow.”
YUSUKE HASEGAWA - Honda R&D head of F1 project & executive chief engineer
"It was a great feeling to reach our first Q3 session as McLaren-Honda with Fernando’s P10 finish today. Jenson also finished a good P12, with only a 0.2 second difference to Fernando, and he has the benefit of selecting his starting tyre.
"Though still not fully up to their satisfaction, both drivers saw an improvement to the feeling of the car, thanks to the team’s hard work last night. We know that the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a difficult circuit to overtake, so hopefully we can use this good starting position to finish with both car in the points."