Button laments yellow flags, wrong engine mode after Q1 knockout

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Jenson Button made no secret of his frustration after being knocked out in the first stage of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on Saturday.

Button was left lamenting a late yellow flag period caused by Max Verstappen that forced him to back off on his final flying lap, which looked poised to secure him a place in Q2.

The Briton was also running in the wrong engine mode after the McLaren pitwall failed to tell him which setting to use for his flying laps as it normally does.

“The Q1 yellow flag in the middle sector meant I had to lift,” Button said. “Without that, I probably would have got through to Q2.

“However, I wasn’t told in which engine mode to put the car. Every time before we start a timed lap, we’re instructed over the radio to adopt a particular setting, but I didn’t get told, and I went to the wrong setting.”

Button is anticipating another tough race on Sunday as McLaren’s difficulties with new engine supplier Honda continue to blight its hopes of points.

“The car didn’t feel too bad to drive, but we needed to get everything out of it today, and we didn’t,” Button said. “You can’t make a single mistake here – even going half-a-turn out on the front wing makes a big difference.

“The race will be tough for everyone tomorrow. But as usual we’ll try our best.”

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier apologized to Button for the team’s error, admitting that it did not follow the regular procedures that are usually in place for qualifying.

“I must apologize to Jenson on behalf of the team,” Boullier said. “We have a set of procedures ahead of a qualifying lap, and we didn’t follow all of those today.

“He must feel frustrated to have lost out on his first run, and then not to have got a decent shot at it on his second. The yellow flags are a factor in motor racing, but we should have been a bit tighter with our procedures.”

Button will start tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix from 15th position, gaining one place by virtue of Verstappen’s grid penalty.

The Japanese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 12:30am ET on Sunday.

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 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


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