Jenson Button’s remarkable one-off comeback to Formula 1 in Monaco took a bittersweet turn through Saturday as he qualified ninth, only for the result to become academic thanks to a grid penalty.
While regular McLaren driver Fernando Alonso prepares for his debut in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, Button has been keeping the Spaniard’s Honda-powered MCL32 warm this weekend, seven months on from his last run-out in an F1 car.
Button impressed throughout practice, but was then able to make another step forward in qualifying to lead McLaren to its first double-Q3 finish of the year.
Button ended qualifying ninth ahead of teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, but will drop all the way to the back of the grid by virtue of a 15-place penalty following an engine issue.
“It was a lot of fun out there. Practice was fine, but in qualifying you reach a point where you really need to fine-tune the car’s performance, and that’s still a bit of a learning curve for me,” Button said.
“This year’s tires are completely different to last year’s in terms of how they work, how they fade away, how they last. It’s been tricky trying to find those last few per cent.
“But I’m happy. In my one and only race this year I qualify ninth, and start 20th! I never expected to have this opportunity, so this is a great memory for me, driving around Monaco in these monsters, such great machines.
“I’m very lucky. I’ll take that ninth position home with me at the end of the weekend – I should be chuffed to bits with that.”
The Monaco Grand Prix is live on NBC from 7:30am ET on Sunday, with F1 Countdown starting on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET.