The McLaren team has so far struggled to match their front running position of last year and Button’s warning has firmly cemented the teams struggles, as he expects a tough race at the Bahrain International Circuit.
The Brit was clearly delighted to get through to the top 10 shoot out and radioed his team to congratulate them on the achievement. He narrowly made it and it is that celebration that really shows how desperate the situation at McLaren really is, they were happy just getting through to fight for eighth, ninth or tenth in the final session.
Button eventually qualified in 10th place after going out for a run in qualifying three but failing to cross the line, giving him free choice of tyres for the race.
Discussing the session in a team statement he reflected on a difficult Friday and Saturday at the track, “It’s been a very difficult weekend so far, but 10th is a strong result for us today.
He admitted that due to the team being used to fighting at the front, the little things are now what the team are celebrating. “The team is used to fighting at the front, so it’s the little things – like getting through into Q3 – that can make a positive difference. Of course, it’s going to be a tough race tomorrow, though. I’ll race as quickly as I can, but I don’t want people to expect too much from us.
Despite the stark warning, he shared the positive signs of the qualifying session “However, there are positives to be drawn from today: we out-qualified a Lotus, which was a surprise, and I’ll be driving the first car starting on new tyres tomorrow. As in China, that brings a slight strategic advantage, so I’m hoping we can have another decent outing.
“I think we’ve both got a chance of scoring points – it would be great for both Checo and me to finish in the top 10 tomorrow.”
“Checo” had another difficult day for McLaren and ended up qualifying 12th. He missed out on the top 10 shoot out again and by the tightest of margins. However the grid slot does give him free choice of tyres for the race.
Discussing his day at the office he said “Qualifying was very difficult, and it was disappointing to miss out on getting into Q3 by just a few tenths. We didn’t really have the pace to get any further up the grid, though; I think Jenson showed the maximum that was possible for us in Q2 today.”
The world “difficult” has been used so many times by Perez despite his short career at McLaren so far, however he says the team are in the position to fight for points. “Still, we’re in a better position to fight for points tomorrow. I’ve set my car up to look after its rear tyres, so I think our race pace should be a bit more consistent.
“It’s still going to be hard to get into the points tomorrow, but I hope we can have an okay race and make it into the top 10. But it’s going to be a long, hard race.”
Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh branded Button’s effort in the second session as “phenomenal”, saying “Jenson’s lap in Q2 was a phenomenal effort and allowed him to get through to Q3. While that’s not what anybody at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is used to accepting, we acknowledge that these are currently difficult times.
“Equally, Checo drove extremely well in Q2, and was just a couple of tenths shy of Jenson’s top-10 effort.”
Image courtesy of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes