Fernando Alonso is hoping to simply finish tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix after McLaren endured another difficult qualifying session in Shanghai on Saturday.
After being sidelined in the final practice session by a problem with the ignition system on his car, Alonso could only qualify 18th for the team, marking his second consecutive Q1 exit.
His teammate, Jenson Button, fared little better though, and will start tomorrow’s race from 17th place on the grid.
McLaren has struggled so far this year after switching to Honda power units for the 2015 season, and Alonso thinks that simply finishing the race in China would be a major achievement.
“We were two tenths away from the mid-pack and close to getting into Q2 today,” Alonso said. “We’re getting there, and this is another step forward, but we’re still under-performing, so we need to keep improving.
“Our main priority now is to finish tomorrow’s race. That’ll allow us to learn more about the car and uncover any possible problems.
“Obviously, two DNFs in Malaysia wasn’t an ideal situation for us, so, regardless of the result, we need to make the finish here in China. This has been another positive weekend – everyone in the team is excited about the progress we’re making.”
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier admitted after the session that he was expecting a better result, but praised Alonso and Button for putting in maximum effort in spite of the difficulties.
“I’d hesitate to use the word ‘disappointing’ to describe this afternoon’s qualifying performance, but I think we’d all hoped for a little more, particularly after looking like we’d made a respectable improvement in all three of this weekend’s practice sessions,” Boullier said.
“Fernando’s afternoon was obviously affected by the car failure on his out-lap in FP3 this morning, but he responded magnificently.
“The parity between our drivers today demonstrated exactly why we hired them: because they can get absolutely everything from the car, and leave nothing out on track.”
The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1:30a ET on Sunday.