Gearbox spoils the good performance of McLaren on qualifying for the Russian GP

Eric Boullier: "Okay, P4 and P6 amount to our best cumulative qualifying performance of the year."

Today was a day of mixed fortunes. The team made some imperfect decisions in FP3 this morning, eventuating in suboptimised car-development ahead of qualifying, but a reasonably successful recovery was achieved. The result was P4 for Jenson Button and P6 for Kevin Magnussen, which will unfortunately become P11 following a five-place grid penalty imposed in respect of a gearbox failure in FP3.

Jenson Button (Q3: 4th overall, 1m39.121s):  “We were strong on both Options and Primes [tyres] yesterday, in both FP1 and FP2, but this morning in FP3 we went backwards, even though we weren’t running a lot of fuel. With the set-up we’d adopted, the car just wasn’t working for us, but, importantly, we kept our heads after that, worked through the issues, and came to qualifying with a much improved car.

“Tomorrow, I really don’t know what to expect. Our long runs have been pretty good, but it isn’t obvious how many pit-stops most drivers will be making; if you lock up here, however, you’ll completely flat-spot a tyre, and, if you do that, a one-stopper will become untenable, so as I say it won’t be straightforward at all.

“Valtteri [Bottas] is obviously the guy we’ll be trying to pick off from the start of tomorrow’s race. His pace looked good yesterday and today, but Fridays and Saturdays are very different from Sundays.”

Kevin Magnussen (Q3: 6th overall*, 1m39.629s *will become 11th after five-place grid penalty (change of gearbox): “Today hasn’t been a good day.

“We didn’t get anything out of FP3 – as Jenson says we went the wrong way on set-up – but, even so, this afternoon things felt pretty good for me in Q1 and Q2.

“In Q3, however, the car felt very different. As a result I wasn’t able to get near the time I’d set in Q2, so we’ll need to look into what happened there.

“Overall, though, our pace has been a bit better than usual here, so it’s obviously a shame for us to have been hit with a five-place grid penalty [imposed in respect of a gearbox failure in FP3].

“Even so, I hope we’ll be able to make good progress in the race. It won’t be easy, because we’ll be starting quite far back [P11], but at least overtaking is possible here: moreover, there’s a good DRS zone, and quite a long straight down to Turn Two, and our long-run pace hasn’t been too bad, so all in all I’m fairly positive we’ll be able to make up some positions.”

Eric Boullier - Racing director, McLaren Mercedes: “After an encouraging day yesterday, during which Kevin had posted the second-fastest lap-time and Jenson had posted the sixth-fastest lap-time, unfortunately we took our cars’ set-up in a negative direction in this morning’s FP3 session.

“This afternoon, in qualifying, we therefore reverted to the set-up we’d used to great effect yesterday, and the result was successful: P4 for Jenson and P6 for Kevin [which will become P11 as a result of a five-place grid penalty imposed in respect of a gearbox failure in FP3].

“Okay, P4 and P6 amount to our best cumulative qualifying performance of the year, which of course represents a welcome recovery after this morning’s wrong turn, but we’re nonetheless left feeling somewhat frustrated. In all probability, had we been able to optimise the utility of FP3, and had we thereby been able to capitalise on the extra car-development time that that optimisation would have created, we may well have been quicker still in quali this afternoon.

“Now, though, we’re looking forwards, not backwards, and it’s clear that both Jenson and Kevin have pace sufficient to perform well in tomorrow’s race. Kevin will be handicapped by being relegated to a P11 grid slot, through no fault of his own, but, even so, there’s no reason why, like Jenson, he shouldn’t also bag a decent haul of world championship points for the team.”

McLaren Mercedes

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Russian GP
Sub-event Saturday qualifying
Track Sochi Autodrom
Drivers Jenson Button , Kevin Magnussen
Teams Mercedes , McLaren
Article type Qualifying report
Tags mclaren