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.”

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.