April 20th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - The McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez will start 10th and 12th on the grid in tomorrow's Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Sakhir circuit brings out the worst in this year's McLaren, as the low-speed traction zones require a stable rear-end to deliver good lap times and preserve the tyres. McLaren are therefore not expecting to be particularly strong in the race, and were pleased with their current package to have one car in the top 10.
Jenson Button just managed to progress to Q3 with the tenth fastest time in Q2. He elected not to set a lap time in Q3, preferring to start the race on a new set of tyres from 10th on the grid. Sergio Perez was just a couple of tenths back in 12th place, and will therefore also be able to choose his tyres for the start of the race. If the McLaren drivers can manage their tyres well enough tomorrow, they could be looking at finishing with both cars in the points, but it will be a tough race in a car that is still not performing as the team would like.
This is what the team had to say after qualifying:
Jenson Button: “It’s been a very difficult weekend so far, but 10th is a strong result for us today. The team is used to fighting at the front, so it’s the little things – like getting through into Q3 – that can make a positive difference. Of course, it’s going to be a tough race tomorrow, though. I’ll race as quickly as I can, but I don’t want people to expect too much from us. However, there are positives to be drawn from today: we out-qualified a Lotus, which was a surprise, and I’ll be driving the first car starting on new tyres tomorrow. As in China, that brings a slight strategic advantage, so I’m hoping we can have another decent outing. I think we’ve both got a chance of scoring points – it would be great for both Checo and me to finish in the top 10 tomorrow.”
Sergio Perez: “Qualifying was very difficult, and it was disappointing to miss out on getting into Q3 by just a few tenths. We didn’t really have the pace to get any further up the grid, though; I think Jenson showed the maximum that was possible for us in Q2 today. Still, we’re in a better position to fight for points tomorrow. I’ve set my car up to look after its rear tyres, so I think our race pace should be a bit more consistent. “It’s still going to be hard to get into the points tomorrow, but I hope we can have an okay race and make it into the top 10. But it’s going to be a long, hard race.”
Martin Whitmarsh: “Both Jenson and Checo did a very disciplined job out there today. Going into this race weekend, we knew it was going to be difficult for us – this is a rear-limited circuit, a characteristic that accentuates the weaknesses we have with our car. Still, those circumstances required patience and hard work, and I think the drivers and the engineers got the best from a package that’s more limited on a circuit like this. Jenson’s lap in Q2 was a phenomenal effort and allowed him to get through to Q3. While that’s not what anybody at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is used to accepting, we acknowledge that these are currently difficult times, and that lap was a welcome fillip. Equally, Checo drove extremely well in Q2, and was just a couple of tenths shy of Jenson’s top-10 effort. As in China last weekend, our efforts are primarily focused towards aiming for a decent result in the race tomorrow. Both our drivers are great racers, and I’m sure they’ll go out there and do a fantastic job for us.”