McLaren Honda disappoints at 2nd home in Japan

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SUZUKA, Japan (AP) An underwhelming performance in the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday was a setback to a McLaren Honda team that was feeling upbeat after securing points in the previous race in Malaysia.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso put up a spirited battle at the Suzuka circuit to take the fight into the midfield, but was never in a position to challenge for points. He eventually finished 15th.

Jenson Button started 22nd on the grid after the team elected to change his power unit components before the race, incurring a penalty. Starting so far back meant expectations were limited. Despite pulling off a couple of satisfying passing moves, he finished 18th.

“It’s been a very tough weekend,” Button said. “It’s a shame that Suzuka is our bogey track because it’s our second home. Still, we have to take the rough with the smooth: we haven’t been quick here, but we hope to be quicker at the next race.”

McLaren Honda racing director Eric Boullier didn’t try to hide his disappointment with the latest setback.

“There’s no point denying that we’re thoroughly disappointed, because we are,” Boullier said after Sunday’s race. “Having scored points with both cars last weekend in Malaysia, to finish 16th and 18th here in Japan is hard to take, frankly.”

McLaren Honda was hoping for better things in Japan after last season when Alonso was heard over the team radio criticising the Japanese-built engine.

The lone Japanese F1 engine manufacturer had been bolstered by recent good results but Sunday’s performance felt like another setback.

“We’ll put this forgettable weekend behind us straight away and refocus our attentions and ambitions on the next race,” Boullier said.