Whitmarsh full of praise for Perez following qualifying

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Martin Whitmarsh has heaped praise upon Sergio Perez after the Mexican driver led McLaren’s charge in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Perez qualified 9th, and he will start 8th after Felipe Massa’s grid penalty. Although this may not be the kind of result McLaren has been used to, it was a good effort after the team was unsure whether either of its drivers would make it through to Q3.

“Checo did a fantastic job in qualifying today,” Whitmarsh said in a team statement. “Especially in Q2 during which he drove a sensational lap to be seventh-quickest.

“In Q3 we considered taking the tactical option, in other words not running him at all in order to conserve an extra set of tyres. But, in the end, on the basis that he was driving so well, we decided to go for it in the hope that he might repeat his Q2 form relative to his principal opposition.”

Eventually, Perez could not match his escapades from the second session, finishing over 1.3 seconds behind pole-sitter Nico Rosberg. Regardless, Whitmarsh was delighted with his driver.

“As things panned out, he lost a little time in sector three on his best Q3 lap and ended up in P9. But, anyway, I want to say ‘Well done Checo’, because he was extremely impressive here this afternoon.”

Jenson Button failed to match the form of his younger teammate after he was eliminated in Q2. The British driver will line up 14th on the grid tomorrow, but he too was impressed by Perez’s performance.

“Congratulations to Checo – he did a great job, particularly in Q2,” Button said. “He did everything right this afternoon and showed that some of our recent upgrades are definitely working. It’s not yet enough, but it’s rewarding to see that we’re making some progress.”

The upgrades may not have provided miracles for McLaren, but their drivers certainly appear to be more comfortable with the car. Perez will be hoping to produce a similar result to his 6th placed finish in Bahrain, albeit without making contact with his teammate this time around.

Alonso would be ‘very happy’ to finish F1 career with McLaren

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Fernando Alonso says he would be “very happy” to see out his Formula 1 career with McLaren after signing a new multi-year contract with the British team, announced on Thursday.

Alonso, 36, ended speculation about his future by agreeing a new deal with McLaren, hopeful of returning to the front of the field next year when the team swaps Honda power for Renault engines.

Alonso admitted to considering options outside of F1 before agreeing to stay at McLaren, and was thought to only be chasing a one-year extension in order to be in a position to snap up a more attractive seat in the volatile 2019 market.

However, Alonso confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the deal with McLaren stretched beyond the end of next year, adding he would be content to see out his time in the sport with the team.

“I never talk about contracts, but one thing I can say is it is a long-term partnership,” Alonso said.

“I am very happy to finish my career at McLaren. So I don’t think it is going to be only one year.”

Alonso also revealed he had options with teams high up the field in F1 for 2018 just a couple of months ago, but was always leaning to staying at McLaren despite not scoring a podium with the team in almost three years.

“There were some other options in F1. In the summer there were still some options at the top teams, but my desire was to stay with McLaren,” Alonso said.

“But at that time they were in conversation with different engine suppliers, so I had to give them time to sort out their situation.

“Then McLaren opted for a Renault engine which delayed my decision, because I had to understand what Renault’s plans were for next years.

“But when I had everything on the table, everything was pretty clear.”