2016 Japanese Grand Prix – qualifying

“We’ve been struggling with high-speed and straight-line performance”

Suzuka International Racing Course, Saturday October 8
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Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button will start 15th and 17th after a tough and disappointing qualifying session at Suzuka.
Since the MP4-31 is less well-suited to the long straights and mid- to high-speed corners of the Japanese track, the team’s hopes for points tomorrow rest on wet or unpredictable weather during the race.

#14 Fernando Alonso
MP4-31-04
FP3 11th 1m33.714s (+1.622s) 12 laps
Q1 16th 1m32.819s (on Options)
Q2 15th overall 1m32.689s (on Options)
“After some strong weekends, where we made it into Q3 and were able to fight for points, qualifying 15th and 17th is not the best place to be starting Honda’s home grand prix.
“So far, we just haven’t been able to find the speed in the car this weekend. We’ve been struggling with high-speed and straight-line performance too, so it was difficult to know which way to go in terms of downforce and balance.
“It looks like our performance is changing from circuit to circuit, and we need to analyse exactly why we seem to be underperforming here.
“Unless it rains tomorrow, it’ll be difficult for us to recover enough positions in the race in order to score points. But I’ll be attacking tomorrow – I have nothing to lose.”

#22 Jenson Button
MP4-31-03
FP3 19th 1m34.548s (+2.456s) 11 laps
Q1 17th overall 1m32.851s (on Options)
“It’s been a tough weekend so far. I switched over to Fernando’s set-up this morning after failing to find a balance on Friday – my car just wasn’t working.
“To be that close to Fernando – just three-hundredths off his best time in Q1 – after the weekend we’ve had so far, really wasn’t too horrific. Our lap-time today is simply a fair reflection of how fast our car is around here – and that meant I went out in Q1.
“Our package works best in lower-speed corners and under heavy braking; Suzuka has lots of mid- to high-speed corners and long bends – plus long straights – which are all trickier for us.”

Eric Boullier
McLaren-Honda Racing Director
“Clearly, we’re disappointed to have qualified only 15th and 17th here at Suzuka, host circuit to Honda’s home race.
“Having said that, both Fernando and Jenson drove good laps, and ended up separated by just a few hundredths of a second. Sadly, today, that was the difference between progressing to Q2 and not doing so, which is why Jenson failed by the very narrowest of margins.
“Suzuka is a great racetrack – a dramatic and challenging one in fact – but the truth is that our car is ill-suited to its long straights and mid- to high-speed corners.
“As always, we’ll do our best tomorrow in an effort to score world championship points, but to be honest it’ll probably be an uphill struggle.”

Yusuke Hasegawa
Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“Today’s qualifying result was disappointing, with Fernando P15 and Jenson P17. Suzuka Circuit is a very difficult track to pull out a great lap unless both the chassis and power unit were perfectly well-balanced, so I think we were just lacking that as a team today to pull off a Q3 lap.
“However, it was a very tight session and we are not far off in lap-times to the Q3 runners, so we are looking forward to tomorrow’s race strategy and management, and continue to push for better results.”