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Button on P3 start: “I’m just going to enjoy this moment”

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After starting between 12th and 14th in each of the first seven races this year, and then starting 19th in Baku, a third place start for Jenson Button and McLaren Honda in tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix (7:30 a.m. ET, CNBC) is both a stunning surprise and a welcome result.

Button, the most experienced driver on the grid, parlayed the track conditions to his advantage to make his first Q3 since the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2014, the last race for McLaren Mercedes before Honda’s return at the start of 2015.

Button was still a couple seconds behind the Mercedes up front but it didn’t matter, and while fifth on the road he’ll move up two spots to third on Sunday with Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel’s grid penalties.

“We start from P3 tomorrow, which is mega!” Button exhaled in the team’s post-qualifying media release.

“It was an enjoyable session – I thought it was all over in Q2 after I locked up into Turn Three. It was spitting with rain at Turns One and Two, so I didn’t think it would affect me into Turn Three, but I ran wide and just stayed on.”

Button has scored five points this season, with two ninth-places and a 10th. He may not be on the podium tomorrow but he’ll be in search of good points.

“It’s going to be a tough day tomorrow: nobody really understands how the tires are going to deliver, but starting from third means we’ll be in a good position,” he admitted.

“I always love those conditions and I was just trying to save it for the last lap. Luckily there was no yellow flags – I took a lot of risks but it all worked out today.

“For now, I’m just going to enjoy this moment…”

Eric Boullier, McLaren Honda racing director, also hailed Button’s performance.

“First, Jenson and the team did an absolutely fantastic job throughout an extremely tough and tricky qualifying session. In Q3, on both the intermediate and the option tire, Jenson looked utterly assured,” he said. “He set the second-fastest lap-time on the wet-weather rubber, then locked down fifth overall as the field collectively switched to Options as the track rapidly dried.

“While Jenson drove superbly, I also want to pay tribute to our engineers and mechanics, who all worked together in extremely testing circumstances to ensure the car was in the right place at the right time to take full advantage of the changeable conditions.”

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.”