Yas Marina Circuit, Sunday November 29
As the curtain fell on the 2015 FIA Formula 1 World Championship in Abu Dhabi this evening, McLaren-Honda endured some dramatic moments en route to delivering perhaps its most convincing and confidence-building race performance of the season.
Fernando Alonso’s hopes of delivering a strong finale were dashed within moments of the start as three cars concertina-ed into the braking zone at Turn One, and he clattered into Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus. The contact broke Fernando’s front wing, prompted an emergency pit-stop, incurred a drive-through penalty, and dropped him to the very tail of the field.
From there, he had a lonely race, his sole highlight coming when he fitted a set of Supersofts and attempted to set the race’s fastest laps in the closing minutes.
Jenson Button’s race was more eventful yet. From 12th, he remained on the fringes of the top 10 until his first pit-stop, on lap eight. As he turned into his box, he was swiped by Valterri Bottas’s Williams, which had been released into his path. The contact damaged Jenson’s rear wing, and shook up his mechanics, who were sitting in the debris path of the accident at the time.
Despite losing the benefits of the DRS train that he’d been chasing, Jenson kept pushing, making the most of a car he declared “the best it’s been all season”. A firm overtake of Marcus Ericsson, and a robust defence against Bottas in the closing laps, underlined both Jenson’s and the car’s competitiveness, and, while he may not have graced the points-scoring positions, his was a race of grit, skill and determination, and bodes well for the future.
#14 Fernando Alonso
Fastest Lap 1m44.796s on lap 52 (+0.279s, 3rd)
Pit-stops Four: laps 1 (24.95s – nosebox change), 8 (drive-through), 17 (3.07s) and 47 (2.91s) [Opt-Pri-Pri-Opt]
“This has been a tough and unlucky weekend: I had the puncture in Q1 yesterday, then I had no control at the start today, which pushed me into Pastor.
“That was it for me: there were no battles in the race, and I was pretty much alone. The race became more of a test session for me – hopefully we got some useful information for the winter, but I still had to save tyres and fuel.
“During the race, I told my engineers, ‘Guys, let’s try to push’, as we wanted to test the Supersoft tyre on low fuel, and everything worked fine.
“My preparations for 2016 start almost immediately: I have a seat-fit and simulator tests at the MTC next week. I’m optimistic that we can make good progress.”
#22 Jenson Button
Fastest Lap 1m47.509s on lap 29 (+2.992s, 17th)
Pit-stops Two: laps 8 (4.89s) and 27 (3.16s) [Opt-Pri-Pri]
“That was probably my best race of the year.
“At my first pit-stop, I saw that Valtteri was going to get released – which his team shouldn’t really have done, as I was pulling into the pit-box – and I braced myself for the hit. It disrupted my stop and unsettled the boys quite a bit – the worst outcome for me was that I fell out of the DRS zone I’d been chasing to stay within all race. That has been our game-plan all year, and I lost time because of that.
“I’m happy with all we did today. I had to save fuel for the whole race, which hurt us and made things difficult, but I was still having fun out there. You wouldn’t think I’d have been able to keep a Williams-Mercedes behind for so long in the closing laps, because it was so much quicker in a straight line, but we could. That was a surprise, but a real positive to take away from today.
“I’m already looking forward to next year – we just need to keep pushing.”
Racing director, McLaren-Honda
“Today was a frustrating and exhausting race, fittingly bringing to an end an exhausting and frustrating season.
“Following yesterday’s qualifying performance, in which Jenson had bagged P12 and Fernando P17 [net P16], no progress was made this afternoon in terms of points-scoring potential, since our two drivers ended up 12th [Jenson] and 17th [Fernando].
“Neither man had a trouble-free run to his finishing position, Jenson suffering rear-wing endplate damage as a consequence of Valtteri’s unsafe release at the hands of the Williams pit-crew, and Fernando being lumbered with a drive-through penalty after having skirmished with Pastor [Maldonado] in a manner that we regarded as innocuous enough.
“Having said all that, there are reasons to be cheerful, if humble, not least because our corner speeds here have been more than respectable all weekend. Indeed, over the last five laps of today’s race, we switched Fernando’s settings to ‘full deployment’, not only so as to allow him to have a bit of on-track fun – to which enjoyment he’s been something of a stranger in recent weeks and months – but also so as to find out just how well our car would perform in that performance configuration.
“The results were more than somewhat encouraging. He carved his fastest lap on the race’s 52nd tour – 1m44.796s – and only two drivers bettered that: Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
“So we’re getting there; plainly, we are.
“To sum up, then, no, we haven’t had a great season. No, we can’t claim to have enjoyed every minute of it. No, we know it’s been tough for our drivers, our staff, our sponsor-partners and our fans. But, indubitably, yes, we have continued and we will continue to work as hard as is humanly possible to make up the performance deficit to our rivals.
“Finally, therefore, I want to pay tribute to those four discrete constituencies.
“Our drivers have been magnificent, both on track and off it, racing their hearts out while never complaining about the fact that their efforts could so rarely be rewarded with scorers-troubling finishing positions.
“Our staff have toiled tirelessly, exhibiting fantastic team spirit, at home and abroad; truly, guys, I salute you all.
“We’re immensely grateful to and proud of our sponsor-partners, who have continued to believe in us, which loyalty will pay high dividends before too long.
“And, last but very far from least, our fans have been supremely loyal, living and breathing the maxim #BelieveInMcLarenHonda against all odds and despite all disappointments. We salute you all, too. Merci et bravo!”
Honda R&D senior managing officer - chief officer of motorsport
“First and foremost, I would like to thank our two drivers for supporting the team with their motivation and endless hard work throughout the season.
“Also, thank you to the whole team, who have been through so many ups and downs over the last 19 races. To them, and everyone holding the fort in both Woking and Sakura, I would like to say a huge well done. We couldn’t have kept improving and fighting this season without every single one of you.
“This Abu Dhabi race result was difficult, with incidents during the first lap and in the pit-lane, but we were able to confirm our progress with our package through proper battles in the mid-field. We can now look forward to the winter development, including focusing on the reliability and rectifying the deployment of the power unit. Our aim is to come back stronger and better for next year.
“Last, but by no means least, a big thank-you to all of our fans for their warmth throughout the year. It means everything to us we when receive your good wishes and encouragement.”