“We have a better race car than a qualifying car”
Albert Park Circuit, Saturday March 19
Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button will start tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix from 12th and 13th respectively after demonstrating the pace and potential of the MP4-31 package in qualifying this afternoon.
The track was dry for the quali session, for the first time this weekend, and the team maintained the promise it first showed yesterday. Both drivers comfortably graduated through Q1; in the second session, they set solid initial times, but, without any fresh sets of Supersofts remaining, they were unable to challenge thereafter, choosing not to run again.
After an inconclusive winter test, both Jenson and Fernando declared that the MP4-31 had made a significant step forwards in terms of pace, giving them both the confidence and belief comfortably to push it to the limit. Benefitting from much improved deployment, we go into tomorrow’s race hopeful of showing further promise and potential.
#14 Fernando Alonso
FP3: 11th 1m27.263s (+1.639s) 20 laps
Q1: 3rd 1m26.537s (on Options)
Q2: 12th overall 1m26.125s (on Options)
“The car was fantastic today. “I felt very comfortable and very happy with the performance of the car all weekend. We didn’t expect to be too fast here because our car is still limited in performance in certain areas. But we were more competitive than we anticipated, have some new things coming for in the next few races, and we’re looking to be stronger in the future.
“Perhaps we need to give the new qualifying system a bit more time. However, I believe it favours the strongest teams and is a bit unfair towards the less competitive teams.
“Because we’d used two sets of Supersofts in Q1 – where I finished third – we only had one chance to run in Q2. On my first run I felt competitive, I was 10th, running under the same conditions and on the same rubber as everyone else; I was only 1.2s off the Mercedes, which was a nice surprise, but then I had to sit in the garage and watch how quali developed, which was a bit sad.
“Of course, the top teams don’t need to use both sets of Supersoft tyres in Q1, so the onus is on us to get back to being a top team again, and only use up one set of Options in Q1. But maybe we should do what Moto GP did in qualifying last year – where the less competitive teams could use softer tyres in qualifying. In Formula 1, we’ve chosen to do the opposite.
“Tomorrow will be interesting – hopefully we can get both cars into the points.”
#22 Jenson Button
FP3: 12th 1m27.341s (+1.717s) 20 laps
Q1: 7th 1m26.740s (on Options)
Q2: 13th overall 1m26.304s (on Options)
“Twelfth and 13th on the grid is slightly better than we expected before we came here.
“The car didn’t feel too bad, although I think people struggled with the drop in temperature between FP3 and qualifying. I enjoyed driving the car, although, at the end of Q2, we didn’t have any Supersoft tyres left, and weren’t quite quick enough.
“The only problem we encountered with the new qualifying regulations was in the pit-lane: the four cars behind us were being wheeled backwards into the garage at the same time as we were trying to stop in the box, change tyres and run again. It’s quite a narrow pit-lane here, so it turned into a bit of a mess.
“Winter testing was positive in terms of mileage, but less so in terms of pace, so we’re all positively surprised with how close we were to Williams and Force India. I actually believe we have a better race car than a qualifying car – which is a turnaround from last year – and our deployment is almost as good as anybody else’s, which will benefit us more in the races.
“Today isn’t too bad a starting point – much better than where we were this time last year.”
McLaren-Honda Racing Director
“Today’s qualifying hour was exciting for the first few minutes of Q1, but it then petered out very disappointingly.
“Like many of my opposite-numbers within other teams, on behalf of our sport, I have to say I’m saddened that the new qualifying format produced such a lacklustre spectacle.
“As regards our own form, well, 12th and 13th isn’t much to write home about, but, having qualified in the middle of Q2, we have freedom of choice re tyres for tomorrow, so we’ll now move on from a day that did our sport no favours and crunch data in an effort to optimise our race strategy.
“Encouragingly, both our drivers reported that our car felt very nice, and that its balance allowed them to push it in the way that all racing drivers hope for of a good racing car. So MP4-31 is clearly well conceived, and its development will continue apace.
“In the meantime, as I say, let’s see what tomorrow brings.”
Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“Today's performance shows great progress from our results in the Barcelona test, and we had a good, solid run from this afternoon's FP3 through to qualifying. The new qualifying format and the tyre allocation made it tricky for us to strategise, and, although we may have had the potential to move on to Q3, we finished the session in P12 and P13.
“Both drivers are satisfied with the car, which is a positive for the team, and hopefully we can be in a position to score some points at the end of the race.”