Kevin’s sixth position in Q3 was the team’s best qualifying position since Bahrain (Jenson: also P6), and an encouraging sign that this weekend’s upgrades have made a small but measurable difference to the MP4-29’s performance.
Jenson’s afternoon was made trickier by his lack of running in P3. The team identified a brake system problem early in the morning, which meant he sat out the entire session. That lack of running meant he went into qualifying without experience of the set-up and tyre changes made by the engineers overnight.
Nonetheless, he felt he only lost out on a place in the top 10 after encountering traffic on his final lap in Q2. He qualified 12th, but will start 11th after a five-place pre-race penalty is applied to Sergio Perez.
“If everything had been perfect today, I think we could have been in the top five. I made a tiny mistake at the final corner on my final lap in Q3, but, even so, I’m happy enough with how things went today. And I think the whole team can feel satisfied, too: we’re definitely making progress, so we just need to keep it up now.
“It’s also nice to see a bit more of a mixed-up grid. It’s quite surprising that the gap to Mercedes has been closed so quickly, and it’s good to see a Williams on pole.
“Looking ahead to tomorrow, I don’t know if our race pace will be as strong as our qualifying pace was today. But we’ll do our best.”
* Jenson will start 11th owing to Sergio Perez’s five-place grid penalty
“You never really know how much you lose from missing FP3, but it meant we were a little in the dark on set-up going into qualifying.
“Having said that, I think I could’ve made it into the top 10 if my last run in Q2 had worked out: I was about seven seconds behind Romain’s [Grosjean] Lotus, which locked up and run wide at the first three corners. While he eventually pulled over and let me pass, it lost me a bit of time.
“You never know what overtaking will be like in the race. But, being outside the top 10, we can run new tyres at the start of the race, and we can play with the strategy. The DRS zones look interesting, too; not having one at the exit of Turn One looks like it’ll make racing more fun – now, you’ll have to make a move to overtake rather than just passing along the straights, which is what it should be about.”
Racing director, McLaren Mercedes
“Jenson missed out on getting through to Q3 by such a narrow margin – just 0.156s – that it’s pretty safe to say that he’d definitely have made it through had he not lost so much running owing to a brake system problem in FP3 this morning.
“Having said that, Kevin did an excellent job throughout today’s qualifying hour, ending up in P6 – just 0.049s, or less than a twentieth of a second, behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in P5.
“Okay, we don’t regard P6, or even P5, as good enough – McLaren exists to win and anything short of that will never truly satisfy us – but we’re encouraged by our performance today because it indicates that we’re on the right development path.