Jenson Button happy with McLaren’s new direction

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Jenson Button may be facing a lot of questions about his future with McLaren and within Formula 1, but at the moment the British driver is enjoying his racing and particularly the new direction which the team is heading in.

After its worst season since 1983, a raft of changes took place at McLaren over the winter. Sergio Perez was sacked and replaced by in-house driver Kevin Magnussen, whilst team boss Martin Whitmarsh was removed. McLaren chairman Ron Dennis returned as CEO after five years away from running the F1 team, and former Lotus team principal Eric Boullier has joined as racing director.

The team certainly has undergone a lot of changes, many of which Button is pleased to have seen take place.

“The positives that I can say with the way that the team is now… Personally I like seeing Ron at the circuit, that’s a positive thing to act on the team working here, but obviously it’s more based at the factory for Ron,” he explained. “Before every session and after every session, Eric is pushing the team very very hard, and talking to us guys a lot more than I’m used to which is great because I can feed back and understanding what we have from the can and what we need from the car.

“Things at McLaren have been the same for many, many years, and now they’re starting to change. I think it’s time. It’s definitely the right direction.

“I’m sure this guy here [Boullier] feels like he’s got a lot of pressure on his shoulders. It’s gonna be a tough few months now, but an exciting few months for everyone involved with McLaren as we make our back to the front. When we do, it’s going to be enjoyable for all of us.”

Button finished third at the opening round of the season in Australia, but has since failed to hassle the front-runners. In today’s qualifying session for the Canadian Grand Prix, the 2009 world champion finished ninth, and although it is not where the team will want to be, the Briton will still be pleased to be inside the top ten and have a shot at scoring some points.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III