McLaren gamble backfires for Button and Magnussen

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Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen left yesterday’s Hungarian Grand Prix asking themselves where it all went wrong after a mixed weekend for McLaren.

The British team showed good pace during practice and managed to get both of its drivers into the top ten qualifying shoot-out, only for Magnussen to crash heavily during the short rain shower in Q3. The damage to his car forced the team into a rebuild, and meant that he had to start from the pit lane.

More rain on Sunday meant that all of the drivers started the race on intermediate tires, and as the track began to dry, the forecasts were constantly changing. During the first safety car period, most of the drivers moved onto slicks, but McLaren rolled the dice and fitted more intermediates to Button and Magnussen’s cars in anticipation of more rain.

At first, it seemed to be a masterstroke. Button moved into the lead of the race with ease, passing Daniel Ricciardo once the safety car came in. However, it did not last long, and he soon dropped back before finishing the race in tenth place.

“I’m glad it was an exciting race for the fans, but it was a tough afternoon for us,” Button said. “We didn’t make the right decisions today.

“The opening laps in the rain were great. I got up into fifth, which wasn’t a bad position for us, but it went downhill from there.

“I feel like I did everything right, and in every track condition, which is why it’s tough, but we win as a team and we lose as a team, and we’ll quickly put this behind us and move on.”

Magnussen eventually finished the race in 12th position and out of the points for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix in May. However, after starting from the pits, he did not feel that the team had much to lose.

“We didn’t make the best of things today, but having started from the pit lane, I don’t think I really lost too much by choosing to stay on the inters when everybody pitted for dries,” he said.

“I know we took a risk to wait for more rain, but I think we had to take that risk. I don’t think things would’ve been much different if we’d made a different strategy call, but we now need to sit down with the engineers and strategists to discuss it.

“Once we switched to the prime, we didn’t have the pace to challenge for too many points. After a race like today’s, we just need to stay positive and look for areas where we can further improve.”

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.