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Alonso, Button upbeat after reaching Q2 in Australia

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McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button both felt upbeat after reaching the second stage of qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

McLaren enters the new season looking to bounce back from a disastrous 2015 campaign that saw it score just 27 points across the course of the year.

Many of the British team’s stemmed from issues with the Honda power unit, but problems such as deployment and the level of power output appear to have been remedied ahead of the new season.

Alonso and Button qualified 12th and 13th for Sunday’s season-opener in Melbourne, and both were pleased with the performance of the MP4-31 car in the dry conditions.

“The car was fantastic today. I felt very comfortable and very happy with the performance of the car all weekend,” Alonso said.

“We didn’t expect to be too fast here because our car is still limited in performance in certain areas, but we were more competitive than we anticipated, have some new things coming for in the next few races, and we’re looking to be stronger in the future.”

Button was surprised by how well McLaren performed in qualifying, believing that the team will be stronger in race trim on Sunday.

“Twelfth and 13th on the grid is slightly better than we expected before we came here,” Button said.

“The car didn’t feel too bad, although I think people struggled with the drop in temperature between FP3 and qualifying. I enjoyed driving the car, although, at the end of Q2, we didn’t have any supersoft tires left, and weren’t quite quick enough.

“Winter testing was positive in terms of mileage, but less so in terms of pace, so we’re all positively surprised with how close we were to Williams and Force India.

“I actually believe we have a better race car than a qualifying car – which is a turnaround from last year – and our deployment is almost as good as anybody else’s, which will benefit us more in the races.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN from 12am ET on Sunday.

Andretti United team names drivers for inaugural Extreme E season

Extreme E drivers Andretti
Extreme E
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The Extreme E team formed by Andretti Autosport and United Autosports named Catie Munnings and Timmy Hansen as its drivers Monday for the series’ inaugural 2021 season.

Munnings is a successful veteran of rally series. Hansen is a past winner and champion in the World Rallycross Championship.

They both will race in the environmentally conscious electric SUV series that will hold events in five areas around the world that are threatened by climate change. Chip Ganassi Racing and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton also are fielding cars in Extreme E, which will feature male and female co-drivers on every team.

Catie Munnings

“I’m so excited to join Andretti United Extreme E,” Munnings said in a release. ““I was really intrigued when I first heard about Extreme E, I just knew I had to be involved. The male / female racing partnership is a fantastic and exciting new concept. The season has incredible locations and the racing will be very exciting. It will be a new challenge for the teams and drivers, and I’m so thrilled to be working with such a strong team.

“The championship is a really innovative concept, it’s combining motorsport and science and will produce an important legacy in each race location. Bringing the platform that motorsport has in line with the awareness that the planet needs right now is awesome and a really important message.”

Timmy Hansen

Said Hansen: “Going into the Extreme E will be a new chapter in my career, one that I am extremely excited about. It is something brand new, not only for me, but the whole of motorsport. The format is something

we’ve never seen before. I’m also delighted to be able to carry the message of something bigger – talking about the environment and doing something good for the world – that’s something that really drives me. It’s going to be a big adventure in life to see these locations and I’m going to do my best in carrying this responsibility and hopefully making people aware of the challenges we have in the world, together with our passion for racing.”