“The car feels the best it has all year”
Yas Marina Circuit, Saturday November 28
Today was a day of mixed fortunes for our drivers in Abu Dhabi.
It’s a mark of the progress we’ve made this weekend that Jenson Button’s 12th position in qualifying felt like something of a disappointment – particularly after he’d posted an extremely impressive ninth-fastest time in Q1.
Fernando Alonso, too, looked set to vault into Q2, having set a strong Q1 banker lap. However, on his final flying lap, he suffered a left-rear puncture, bringing his ambitions to a halt. Pirelli’s technicians have examined the tyre, and their analysis clearly shows that the cut in the sidewall was caused by an external agent.
We’ll start the final grand prix of the season in 12th and 17th positions.
#14 Fernando Alonso
FP3 16th 1m44.014s (+2.158s) 13 laps
Q1 17th overall 1m43.187s (on Options)
“Our car has performed better in every session than we initially anticipated. So it was cruel luck to get a puncture at possibly the most critical point of the whole weekend; the final run of Q1.
“That was unfortunate, because we’d been looking very competitive, and our car seems to be performing quite well around here.
“The race will be difficult owing to our straight-line speed deficit, but I’ll be aiming to make a good start, run a good strategy, and make up some positions. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
#22 Jenson Button
FP3 11th 1m43.508s (+1.652s) 15 laps
Q1 9th 1m42.570s (on Options)
Q2 12th overall 1m42.668s (on Options)
“We changed the set-up overnight and everything really worked well. In fact, the car feels the best it has all year, which is always promising at the end of a long season.
“My lap in Q1 was good; it was good in Q2 too, but I think the others got their laps together and put us in our place, which was 12th. So it’s disappointing to end up outside the top 10, particularly as we felt we had a fighting chance of getting through to Q3 for the first time this year.
“However, I didn’t leave anything on the table and definitely maximised everything I had; I just couldn’t find the grip on that final run in Q2.
“The race will be more difficult than qualifying, but we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
Racing director, McLaren-Honda
“It’s a mark of our good progress this weekend that we’re comparatively disappointed with Jenson’s P12 in Q2 this evening. His ninth position in Q1 was a real fillip for the guys in the garage, and it would’ve been a supreme validation of all our hard work had we made it through to Q3 for the first time this season.
“To have been denied by a scant 0.186s was a smidgen dispiriting, but 12th on the grid equals our best qualifying performance of the year [achieved by Jenson, in Monaco, where he started 10th following grid penalties for two drivers who had qualified ahead of him] and shows that we’re making real progress with the car.
“Tomorrow’s race, which will be run on a track that we don’t expect fully to suit our package, is likely to be gruelling. However, hard and embattled racers that they are, Jenson and Fernando will surely push hard and make the very most of the racier-than-usual position in which we find ourselves.”
Honda R&D senior managing officer – chief officer of motorsport
“Abu Dhabi FP3 was a very good session, during which we analysed yesterday’s running data to fine-tune the balance of the car and tweak the final deployment data for the power unit.
“The car’s balance and performance had improved greatly during FP3, and both drivers had a good feel going into the evening qualifying session. Unfortunately, Fernando suffered a rear puncture on his second timed lap and was knocked out of Q1.
“Jenson, who had struggled more with the balance during yesterday’s practice sessions, had a much improved day today and went into Q1 with a nice, clean lap, which pushed him safely into Q2. It was a shame that he missed out on Q3 by a very close margin.
“Tomorrow will be the final race of 2015, so the team will give it our best and hope that we can finish the season with a positive result.”