This afternoon’s Chinese Grand Prix Q1 session was red-flagged following an accident that befell Pascal Wehrlein on one of the damp patches underneath the two start-line bridges, resulting in the session being delayed in order to dry the track.
At the restart, both Fernando Alonso’s and Jenson Button’s first runs were fast enough to see them through into Q2, but both drivers also began second runs in order safely to make the Q2 ‘cut’. Jenson completed his second run, setting the fourth fastest time; Fernando, who left the garage behind Jenson, was able to abort his flying lap and save his tyres for Q2.
Another red-flag stoppage in the closing minutes of Q2 left both drivers unable to set representative times. Both had set a Q2 banker lap on used Supersoft rubber, but were then unable to finish their flying laps on fresh rubber owing to the red flag.
They qualified 12th (Fernando) and 13th (Jenson), but gain a place each due to a three-place grid penalty for Nico Hulkenberg.
Jenson Button #22
#14 Fernando Alonso
FP3: No time 3 laps
Q1: 15th 1m38.451s (on Options)
Q2: 12th overall 1m38.826s (on Options)
“I think both Jenson and I could have got through to Q3 today: we had the pace, and we had been saving tyres and engine ready to go for it… until the red flag ended the session.
“It was massively frustrating not to be able to complete my final lap in Q2 – there really was a lot of potential in the car today.
“Let’s put it into further perspective: not too many races ago, we were just making it into Q2, now we’re frustrated not to be in Q3. That’s definitely a good direction in which to be heading.
“Finally, I slept like a baby last night: 10 hours without waking up once. Today I was full of energy. When I’m in the car, I still feel a small something through the corners and over the bumps, but I didn’t take any pain-killers today.”
Fernando Alonso #14
#22 Jenson Button
FP3: 15th No time 3 laps
Q1: 4th 1m37.593s (on Options)
Q2: 13th overall 1m39.093s (on Options)
“Ironically, although it was neither successful nor popular, the qualifying system we used in the first two races of the year would probably have been better for us today!
“However, it’s just one of those things: we ran used Options [tyres] for our first Q2 run, then we waited until the circuit was at its best before fitting new tyres. Like a few others, we were caught out by the Q2 red flag, which was frustrating.
“Being just outside the top 10 has its positive side though: we can choose our starting tyre, and there are plenty of options with the three different compounds.
“The damp patch in Q1 was a little bit scary on slick tyres – I think a lot of people therefore kept their DRS closed, which is what we did. You don’t have any control of the car in those situations, but I still don’t think we needed the red flag.
“And, by the way, in the next few races, we will get through to Q3!”
McLaren-Honda racing director
“It’s a telling testament to our hearteningly inexorable advancement that, after qualifying today, we find ourselves disappointed not to have made it through to Q3 with either car.
“Undoubtedly, but for the red flag triggered by Nico’s [Hulkenberg] mishap, both Fernando and Jenson would have been comfortably inside the top 10.
“So, although we’re always wary of over-promising, it’s undeniable that we’re a team very much on the move.
“Working hard, together with Honda, we’re getting there; and, what’s more, we’re enjoying the journey.”
Honda R&D Co Ltd head of F1 project & executive chief engineer
“Though FP3 was a mixed session due to the changing weather conditions, the team was able to setup the car nicely for this afternoon’s qualifying.
“Throughout both Q1 and Q2 sessions, we were able show the potential of the car, and both Fernando and Jenson were looking strong contenders for Q3.
“Therefore, it was massively disappointing to see both cars having to abort their final flying laps through no fault of their own. Tomorrow’s weather looks to be stable and dry, so hopefully we can show our race pace and finish in the points.”