Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso qualified 13th and 16th respectively for tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix. However, Fernando will be demoted to the back of the grid after incurring penalties for changing elements of the power unit this weekend.
Fernando Alonso: “In terms of power effect, this circuit was always going to be tricky for us. Whilst I’d always prefer to start up the front, I’m not really too disappointed with qualifying – with the penalties, I was always going to start last, so we tried to minimise the laps we needed to run today. And going out in Q1 means I haven’t put too many miles on the car. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow: this race will be important for us as we have some experimental parts we’re testing for next year’s car, and we want to get some information about them. I’ll go out to enjoy tomorrow’s race – and I’ll be aiming to recover some positions. Finally, I’m glad to hear that Carlos [Sainz] is okay after his accident – hopefully, we’ll see him back at the track tomorrow.”
Jenson Button: “This was probably my best qualifying performance of the year. Today, we got into Q2 due to our actual speed, rather than because of the others having any issues. Q1 was straightforward – I was only a tenth and a half off the top 10. In Q2, it cooled down a lot – my new-tyre run was three-tenths slower than my old-tyre run. That last lap was really low-grip, even though I’d done a couple of warm-up laps beforehand. I think a lot of people struggled to get the temperatures right. I’m encouraged, because it was always going to be a very tricky weekend for us. Nonetheless, the race will be tougher for us than qualifying was because our deployment isn’t as good as other people’s, so we’ll be affected along the long straights here. In turn, that will affect our fuel consumption – since we use more fuel because we don’t have as much deployment capability. Still, this is progress.”
Eric Boullier, racing director, McLaren-Honda: “The Sochi circuit is another one that doesn’t suit our car’s performance envelope, so, that being the case, we’re tentatively encouraged by Jenson’s plucky 13th-fastest quali-lap. In fact, both Jenson and Fernando drove good laps, and got everything available out of the car, although unfortunately Fernando will start from the back row as a result of a power unit penalty. They’re sure to drive their usual efficiently combative races tomorrow, so let’s see what happens.”
Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer – chief officer of motorsport: “It was another busy Saturday after Suzuka. First, I am relieved to hear that Carlos Sainz Jnr is okay after his big accident. Second, though it was a very short FP3 session, we were able to ready the power unit deployment towards qualifying and the race. As for today’s qualifying, it was disappointing that Fernando missed out on Q2 by such a tight margin. Though he did not make it into Q3, Jenson’s comments after his run were encouraging, as he had a good feel for the car. Albeit a disrupted and short running day, we will use the data gathered to prepare for the long run of tomorrow’s race.”