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.