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Jenson Button Q&A: Our best qualifying so far

10 Oct 2015

McLaren's struggles in 2015 have been well documented, but there were reasons to be positive on Saturday in Sochi - particularly for Jenson Button, who out-qualified his team mate and booked 13th on the grid. According to the Briton, it is a clear sign of the progress McLaren are making as they concentrate all their efforts on ensuring they hit the ground running next year...

Q: Jenson, on the team radio you said that your qualifying position is something to build on. Wasn’t that glossing things over a bit?

Jenson Button: Well, I knew that this track is a challenge for us and I am sure that the race will be even tougher than qualifying. In the end I didn’t really believe that we would make it into Q3 although we did a pretty good job. We got everything out of the car, as conditions were very different between Q1 and Q2. It had cooled down significantly in Q2 and that wasn’t really what we wanted. In the end P13 is not too bad.

Q: Can you talk us through your qualifying? How was the grip level out there?

JB: It’s pretty low. Usually you start your lap with a bit of understeer and finish with a bit of oversteer but my last lap was really, really low grip. There were a lot of cars out there for my fastest lap so I tried to find a bit of space, and that was hard work. The good news is that I got into Q2 because of the speed that I had and not because others had issues, which is not too bad at all. It was P14 in Q1 and P13 in Q2 – that is basically where we are. Overall I think that we’ve planned our weekend well with the limited running that we had. But as I just said it will be a tough race for us tomorrow with the situation that we have. On top of everything it will also be a tough race on fuel so let’s see how we manage it and where it takes us in the standings.

Q: You point out the difficult race that you expect – what do you expect?

JB: This circuit is one of the more difficult for us in terms of the deployment that we have, especially in terms of fuel.

Q: Would you say that it was solid progress today?

JB: I think it was our best qualifying on a power circuit so far so yes it is progress! But we also have parts and developments on the car for next season so we are already massively data collecting, that’s why I said that the afternoon was promising. In the end if you don’t go for points you are more free to try different things, to go bolder in some ways. And that is what we are doing this weekend and will be doing for the rest of the year.

Q: When you saw the accident of Carlos Sainz, and the fact he went under the barriers, is that something of a concern for you?

You will always go under a barrier if you have a low nose on a racing car, and you never want a barrier sitting on top of the car. So I think there is always room for improvement for safety on the track and on the car and we have to make sure that each party involved does a proper job.

Q: When you look at the grid there are two Mercedes powered cars behind you: the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado and the Williams of Felipe Massa …

: …ha, yes, I didn’t expect that this weekend. Not on such a track. So I am happy as I can be with P13! (laughs)

Q: With that surprise could you even dream about points tomorrow?

That would be of course welcomed but also very hard to achieve. The big straights will hurt us a lot in the race.

Q: Is it somehow funny to get congratulations for making it into Q2?

Ha, that’s how it is. But when I look at the times I was only one and a half tenths off P10 so that is not bad. I have to confess that in Q2 I didn’t get it together as I wanted but as I finished both sessions around P13 I have to accept that this is the reality of where we are right now. As I said before it was probably my best qualifying of the year so the performance level clearly shows an upward trend.

Q: How much has the car today already improved from the car you started the season with?

It is hard to say, as I would need to see the data. But overall it is a promising situation with a new manufacturer in their first year in Formula One. I am very convinced that we will significantly catch-up over the winter and that 2016 will be much better news right from the start. Until then it is thinking positive and collecting data.