Qualifying - Russian GP report: McLaren Honda
Twelfth and 14th positions respectively for Jenson and Fernando don’t quite tell the story of the progress achieved relative to our principal competitors at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.
In Q2, Jenson was a scant 0.095s away from a place in the top 10 shootout – despite both he and his team-mate complaining of understeer on their final, flying laps.
With tyre strategy not as clear-cut this year as in previous editions of the race, there is still plenty to play for tomorrow.
“The lap-times at the end of Q2 were very tight – the difference between 14th position and a place in Q3 was just two tenths. And, sadly, we’re at the back of that group.
“But that’s the way it is – I still feel that we’re missing the couple of tenths that would massively help us to overtake some of the other cars in this very competitive midfield group.
“While we weren’t in luck today, I definitely think we’ve shown ourselves to more competitive this weekend, and I hope we can recover tomorrow and fight for some points.”
“We were so close to getting into Q3 today – we had a good shot at it but ended up a tenth off.
“In fact, it was so close that we were just two tenths off eighth position in Q2 – and despite the balance not being quite there. I think both Fernando and I struggled with the handling – the car was understeering, which is difficult to resolve. There’s a tipping point at which, when you dial in more front-wing, the balance suddenly shifts from under- to oversteer – so we were being cautious in qualifying.
“Tomorrow won’t be the easiest race for us – the lap is 71 per cent full-throttle – but Turn Two is always tricky here, so my aim will be to stay out of trouble, pick up some places and then see what happens.
“I still think a one-stop strategy will prove tricky for most people tomorrow, so that should also make things interesting.”
“On paper, it feels frustrating to be lining up 12th and 14th for tomorrow’s race; we’ve definitely made some useful progress since the last race in China – as evidenced by the narrow gap of just 0.095s that separated Jenson from a spot in Q3. That’s the closest we’ve been all season.
“However, we’re pragmatic about where we stand right now: we don’t quite have the pace to be consistent top 10 runners, and we also know that tomorrow’s race is likely to be a tough one for us, because the track layout doesn’t quite play to our strengths.
“But the fact that we’re making steady ongoing progress relative to our principal competitors is a primary motivating factor for the race. And, as such, we’ll be pushing hard to get into the points tomorrow.”
“The difference between Q2 and Q3 for us today was just 0.1 seconds, but that tiny gap is still very disappointing. It is representative of where we are now, but we will push even harder to move ahead of the “middle of the pack”.
“As we saw yesterday, we had decent pace in our longer stints, and you never know what will happen within the full length of a race, so hopefully we can fight for points tomorrow.”