Despite showing flashes of pace throughout the weekend, both drivers able to push hard inside the top 10, we finished the Chinese Grand Prix just out of the points – in 12th (Fernando Alonso) and 13th (Jenson Button).
As the race progressed, it became apparent that the MP4-31 could not quite match the pace of the top 10 runners. Despite the team executing five flawless pit-stops, and running alternative strategies (Fernando did a two-stopper; Jenson a three-), the drivers crossed the finish line just a few seconds apart, strongly suggesting that they had delivered their respective maxima this afternoon.
Despite the immediate disappointment, there are positives to take away from the race weekend: both cars ran flawlessly throughout every session, Fernando completed his first race distance of the season, and the team has learned a great deal more about the strengths and weaknesses of MP4-31.
Fastest lap 1m42.226s on lap 36 (+2.402s, 19th)
Pit-stops Two: laps 16 (2.76s), and 32 (3.05s) [Pri/Back-Up/Back-Up]
“Today wasn’t easy. We didn’t quite have the pace to record a good result and finish in the points. We chose a two-stop strategy and tried to benefit from that, but the early Safety Car didn’t help us, and our race didn’t really work out as planned after that. That’s the way it is, but it’s a shame.
“We need to look in detail at the areas in which we need to improve – we ran among a lot of different cars this afternoon, so we should have some useful reference points from which to gauge our respective strengths and weaknesses.
“On a positive note, today’s race was the first proper long run I’ve completed in this year’s car – I didn’t ever finish a 50-lap stint during testing, and I retired early in Melbourne because of the accident.
“There’s a long way to go, but we’ll keep improving. I’m already looking forward to the next race.”
Fastest lap 1m40.298s on lap 46 (+0.474s, 3rd)
Pit-stops Three: laps 4 (2.58s), 27 (2.86s) and 44 (2.49s) [Opt/Back-Up/Back-Up/Opt]
“My start was good: I made up a lot of places and was able to take the battle to the other cars. Our pace on the Option tyre during the first stint was also pretty good – it was fun racing the quicker cars.
“When the Safety Car came out, there was mayhem in the pit-lane because Nico [Hulkenberg] was trying to slow everyone down to help his team-mate. After that stop, we seemed to be sitting in a strong position, but we were running the Medium compound, and we just seemed to stand still compared with the others.
“We tried to do a two-stopper – which didn’t work out – so then we decided to fit the Option for the final stint. Given our position just outside the points, we thought we might as well give it a go.
“Perhaps fitting the Option at the end was the wrong choice – I could have stayed out until the end on the Medium, but I decided to have some fun by fitting softer [ie, faster] rubber – but it just couldn’t make its performance last to the end. Still, as I say, it was worth having a crack at it.”
Racing director, McLaren-Honda
“Ultimately, we didn’t have quite enough race pace to score points today, especially with such scant attrition ahead of us.
“Having said that, both Fernando and Jenson maximised their race strategies, the fact that they finished more-or-less nose to tail after 56 hard-driven laps underlining that Fernando had efficiently mined the most out of a two-stop approach while Jenson had pugnaciously realised the maximum available out of his necessarily more dynamic three-stopper.
“Moreover, although we still need to find more straightline speed, the power units in both our cars performed with commendable reliability throughout all three days of today’s grand prix, yesterday’s qualifying hour, and all the practice sessions that preceded them. So our friends at Honda should be lauded for that achievement. Equally, we’re encouraged by the power unit developments they have in the pipeline, and as a result we’re confident that our overall performance will continue to improve apace.
“Operationally, we made no mistakes all weekend, and our pit-crew performed with their customary aplomb. Well done, guys.
“Last but not least, it’s encouraging to note that, when we fitted Options to Jenson’s car for his fourth and final stint, he immediately began to fly, clocking the then-fastest lap of the race on lap 46, a spirited circumnavigation of the Shanghai International Circuit that was thereafter eclipsed by just two other drivers.”
Honda R&D Co Ltd head of F1 project & executive chief engineer
“Throughout the eventful weekend of changing weather conditions and qualifying red flags, the drivers and the team have performed at their best, and it was a positive weekend to bring two cars home.
“We are obviously disappointed that we could not score points, but I think the race result is a good indication of where we currently are. The entire team did solid work today which will hopefully lead to better results in the future races.”