Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Saturday August 22
Given the double power unit change taken by both our drivers (which resulted in a 55-place grid penalty for Fernando Alonso and a 50-place penalty for Jenson Button), this afternoon’s qualifying session was always going to be something of a foregone conclusion.
Even so, Jenson was proud of his qualifying lap, despite the fact that his grid position was not fully representative of his efforts. His lap-time of 1m50.978s was 17th-fastest, but his penalties will relegate him to 19th.
After sitting out the morning’s FP3 session with an exhaust problem, Fernando faced a steep learning curve to fettle his car for qualifying. Like Jenson, he ran single timed laps on the Prime and the Option, setting a best of 1m51.420s. He qualified 18th but will start 20th owing to penalties.
#14 Fernando Alonso
FP3 20th No time
Q1 18th overall 1m51.420s (on Options)
will start 20th following PU penalties
“We knew this would be a difficult weekend. Spa is the longest circuit on the calendar, with very long straights, and we know we have a lack of straight-line speed, so we strategically decided to take some penalties this weekend.
“We missed the long run in yesterday’s practice due to the red flags and some telemetry issues, and we sat out FP3 this morning because of an exhaust issue, so we’re short on laps this weekend. So hopefully we can finish the race tomorrow and learn a little bit more about the car.
“In order to really enjoy the race, we’ll need something exciting to happen – like some rain. A dry race will make life difficult for us.”
#22 Jenson Button
FP3 18th 1m51.981s (+2.997s) 12 laps
Q1 17th overall 1m50.978s (on Options)
will start 19th following PU penalties
“I felt my lap today was equal to the pole position lap I did here three years ago – I really enjoyed driving the car this afternoon.
“This morning I’d been struggling with the rear end at the corner entries, but we transformed the car for qualifying. Nevertheless, when you cross the line at the end of the lap and think you’ve done enough to be a bit higher up, it’s difficult to hear that you’re still a second off the guy ahead. There’s a lot of work needed to close that gap.
“We always knew this circuit was going to be a tough one for us. It won’t be easy to make up any ground in the race tomorrow, and we’ve got a long way to go before we’re competitive, but at least the feeling in the car is good.”
Racing director, McLaren-Honda
“Jenson and Fernando, world champions both, carved millimetre-perfect qualifying laps here at Spa-Francorchamps today.
“Even so, despite that, so skeletal were their chances of recording good lap-times on a circuit so ill-suited to our car’s characteristics, that they could bag only 17th and 18th grid positions respectively.
“McLaren has won the Belgian Grand Prix 14 times in its illustrious history, most recently three years ago, courtesy of Jenson, who triumphed imperiously from pole position on that balmy September day. So, okay, I grant you, it’s hard for us to have to compare our performance here today with our rather more glorious past achievements, but our attitude is always to try to turn negatives into positives. So the historical contrast merely drives us on to work ever harder, with Honda, to bridge the performance gap between us and our competitors.
“Nonetheless, despite the fact that starting from the back of the grid can sometimes trigger hairy entanglements with neighbouring backmarkers, both Jenson and Fernando will be doing their utmost to make good progress through the field if at all possible.
“Having said that, that will be a tall order for them if the track remains dry. So, if it starts to rain at around lunchtime tomorrow, you won’t hear any complaints from us!”
Honda R&D senior managing officer - chief officer of motorsport
“Another disappointing day, during which the updates have not been reflected in the results.
“In FP3, the team had planned to reduce the downforce of the car to resolve the issues of yesterday. Unfortunately, we encountered an exhaust issue on Fernando’s car, which consequently stalled the set-up changes to both cars. As usual, I’m thankful for the great teamwork in the garage to get Fernando’s car ready and back out on track for qualifying.
“We’ll start the race from the back of the grid, and we’ll hope to gain some positives by the end of the day.”