An afternoon of mixed fortunes for our drivers.
Kevin has ridden a great wave of form all weekend – he established his pace in the morning session, finishing in sixth position. He improved further this afternoon, setting fifth-fastest times in Q1 and Q2. He went one better in the final session, qualifying an impressive fourth – equaling his best grid position of the season [in Australia].
Jenson failed to find the car’s sweet-spot during the morning’s free practice session, and his struggles continued into qualifying. He was blocked on his first run in Q2, and didn’t have a suitable balance for his final run. He sat balanced on the cusp of the top 10, but was ultimately knocked out by just three-hundredths of a second in the dying moments of the session. He will start 11th.
KEVIN MAGNUSSEN MP4-29-02
FP3 6th 1m18.756s (+0.977s) 16 laps
Qualifying Q1 5th 1m18.260s (on Options)
Q2 5th 1m17.788s (on Options)
Q3 4th overall 1m17.214s (on Options)
“This has been a good day for me.
“I think we got everything out of the car in terms of set-up, and our strategy throughout qualifying was perfect. Thanks to all the guys in the garage – they did a fantastic job. It was a great achievement to be able to hold off the Red Bulls, and I feel that we’re not too far away from some of the really strong guys.
“There’s no secret to our improvement: a lot of hard work has made the difference. We still don’t have the best car, but it’s well-balanced and raceable, and I think we’re able to get the best out of it on a regular basis.
“The car behaves quite differently with the new rear wing – again, thanks to all the men and women back at the factory who did such a fantastic job to get it to the track so quickly.
“Tomorrow could be a different story. The weather forecast says it’ll be cooler, and that there may be rain. We might struggle more in the race than we have today, but fourth place isn’t a bad position from which to start.”
JENSON BUTTON MP4-29-03
FP3 13th 1m19.489s (+1.710s) 15 laps
Qualifying Q1 8th 1m18.425s (on Options)
Q2 11th overall 1m18.193s (on Options)
“This hasn’t been an easy weekend for me, which is a shame because I really like it around here. I’ve been struggling with the car’s balance.
“In qualifying, I encountered traffic [Grosjean] on my first run in Q2, and that cost me the opportunity to get into Q3 – he wasn’t even on a new tyre when he was on that run, so it wasn’t going to be his quick lap.
“On my final Q2 run, I had a very different balance and a lot of oversteer. I wasn’t quick enough.
“Looking ahead to tomorrow: our long-run pace didn’t look too strong on Friday – we struggled in the hot conditions, but I think we’ll hopefully be better if the predicted cooler conditions roll in for Sunday afternoon.”
Racing director, McLaren Mercedes
“Kevin has driven brilliantly all weekend – and his was a particularly superb performance this afternoon. He’s really adapted well to the upgrade package that we brought to the track this weekend, and he’s grown in confidence and speed in each and every session.
“The luck wasn’t with Jenson today: he hit traffic when running his first set of tyres in Q2, then he had a little bit of oversteer on final run, which cost him a couple of tenths. Starting outside the top 10 means we can make the choice on tyres for tomorrow – so it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“It’s a great motivation to the whole team to see that the work we’re doing is starting to have an effect: we’ve said all along that we need to stay humble and keep focusing on bringing just a little bit more than our rivals to each and every race.
“By doing that, little by little, we can close the gap – it might only be a couple of tenths every race weekend, but there comes a point when those improvements start to become visible. I think we’re starting to break through into that territory now. I know it won’t be like this every weekend, but we’re definitely starting to turn the corner.
“We’ll be going into tomorrow’s grand prix looking to race hard and capitalise on our upturn in performance.”