It was a case of promise only half-fulfilled for the team today – after a very disappointing result in China, the team came to Spain this weekend intent on better managing the balance of the MP4-29 – particularly through this circuit’s demanding high-speed corners. We largely succeeded, although Kevin Magnussen was unable to capitalise on the improvements after suffering a mid-qualifying power-unit issue that ended his running.
Jenson Button spent each session gradually refining the balance, carefully slicing lap-time off on each run. On his sole run in Q3 (his first having been aborted owing to the red flag), he found the car understeering and wasn’t able to benefit from the final changes that had been made.
Nonetheless, he’ll line up eighth for tomorrow’s race, and – weather permitting – will start the grand prix on Option tyres.
Kevin had a disappointing session. On the pace all weekend, he was affected by a power-unit issue that surfaced during his final run in Q1. Into Q2, his engineers attempted to cure the problem, but were unable to do so, retiring the car before Kevin was able to set a lap-time. He’ll therefore start 15th.
Jenson Button MP4-29-03: “It’s pretty tough for everyone out there – the track doesn’t have much grip, so we spent each session working away at the car’s balance to try and find something that works. We almost got there, but still had too much understeer for the final run.
“Still, it wasn’t too bad: we probably could’ve found a little more time within the set-up but it probably wasn’t going to be enough to make much of a difference.
“There’s going to be lots of sliding in the race tomorrow. We’ve done a pretty good job in that we’ve saved a set of Options for the race – I’m not yet sure what strategy we’ll adopt, but it’s good to have some leeway on strategy.
“We’ve definitely shown signs of improvement this weekend, although we’re still not yet where we want to be.”
Kevin Magnussen MP4-29-02: “We’ve definitely made improvements to the car – it’s just a shame I couldn’t prove it to the team this afternoon.
“I don’t exactly know what the problem was with my car. We had an issue with the power unit during Q1 that we tried to fix. But, in Q2, we decided to save the engine and retire the car.
“Tyres are going to play a big role in the race tomorrow, so let’s see how things pan out. I’ll be aiming to work cleanly through the first lap, but I think we might struggle a little bit – our qualifying pace looks a little stronger than our race pace.
“It’s a shame, but at least we have some tyres saved for the race, so I hope we can do something positive.”
Eric Boullier, racing director, McLaren Mercedes: “Although P8 is never satisfying, Jenson drove very well to achieve that grid slot here today.
“Kevin was extremely unlucky to have his qualifying run curtailed by a power unit issue, the cause of which we’re still investigating. Prior to that, both yesterday and today, he’d matched Jenson for pace, so I’m sure he’d have been able to go through into Q3 this afternoon, as Jenson did.
“Having said that, strategy will play a very important part in tomorrow’s race, and you can be certain that both Jenson and Kevin will race hard and fast in an effort to score as many world championship points as possible.”