McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were both left frustrated following qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix as a red flag at the end of Q2 denied them a possible top 10 starting position.
McLaren and engine supplier Honda have made significant progress over the winter, giving Button and the returning Alonso plenty of confidence heading to China this weekend.
Both showed good pace throughout practice and the early part of qualifying, but a red flag caused by Nico Hulkenberg at the end of Q2 meant they were unable to improve their lap times late on.
As a result, Alonso qualified 12th ahead of Button in 13th, leaving both frustrated to have missed out on a place in Q3.
“I think both Jenson and I could have got through to Q3 today,” Alonso said.
“We had the pace, and we had been saving tires and engine ready to go for it… until the red flag ended the session. It was massively frustrating not to be able to complete my final lap in Q2. There really was a lot of potential in the car today.
“Let’s put it into further perspective: not too many races ago, we were just making it into Q2, now we’re frustrated not to be in Q3. That’s definitely a good direction in which to be heading.”
Button joked that the much-criticized elimination qualifying that was dropped ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend might have actually worked in McLaren’s favor had it remained.
“Ironically, although it was neither successful nor popular, the qualifying system we used in the first two races of the year would probably have been better for us today,” Button said.
“However, it’s just one of those things: we ran used options for our first Q2 run, then we waited until the circuit was at its best before fitting new tires. Like a few others, we were caught out by the Q2 red flag, which was frustrating.
“Being just outside the top 10 has its positive side though: we can choose our starting tire, and there are plenty of options with the three different compounds.
“And, by the way, in the next few races, we will get through to Q3!”
The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1:30am ET on Sunday.