For the first time in McLaren’s history, they have failed to get the cars out of the first qualifying session for two consecutive races, yet both drivers remain positive.
Ron Dennis was shown staring at the timing screen in the garage following the end of Q3, whilst smiling to himself for some unknown reason.
Fernando Alonso said after the session, “It was expected, obviously; It’s not good for us at the moment, going out in Q1, but if we see the facts and numbers it’s much better than it was in Australia in terms of pace, so we are making very big progress.
“If we can improve 1.5s every two weeks, in three or four races we will be on pole, so we’ll see,” joked the Spaniard. “It’s very challenging for us at the moment, the development rate is very steep, we are far behind.
“Every race we will improve, we will learn things, and tomorrow is the first time I’ll do a formation lap, a start, a pitstop.”
Fernando will start p18 in tomorrow’s race with Jenson Button just one grid slot ahead. The Brit was philosophical: “When you get out of the car and you’re 17th on the grid, obviously you’re disappointed, it’s always the way. But you’ve got to look at what we’ve done in terms of progress,“ mused Button.
”It is a lot of progress, tomorrow I think we’ll show that a lot more with the higher fuel runs, I think we’re a lot more competitive with higher fuel.
“We’ve made a massive step with the engine here, I think you’ll probably see that tomorrow in the race in terms of efficiency and fuel usage as well.
“We were saving crazy amounts of fuel at the first race, up to 20 percent at one point. It’s going to be a lot easier for us, and I think our pace will show that tomorrow. It’s still going to be tough, but we’re making progress.”
Jenson’s target is to improve on his final position in Australia. “At the last race I was 38s behind the second to last guy, so if we can get a lot closer than that, we should be happy with progress. It’s only two weeks, there’s no testing in F1, so this is good progress. I hope we continue like this.”
Alonso has created a media storm here in Malaysia by contradicting the team’s version of events that surrounded his testing crash. Yet the Spaniard is positive about their future together.
“When I saw a Mercedes win by half a minute in Australia, I was clear that to beat them you need to do something different. You need to risk, somehow, because if you copy you will always be behind.
“This team is so talented, it’s a very exciting challenge. We will grow up together, so that when we score points or arrive on the podium, we will look at each other and say this has been an exciting trip.”
Following FP3, McLaren had looked as though they would be capable of challenging Force India in qualifying, though the gap in the end between Button and Perez in P15 was a sizeable 0.6s.
More importantly, McLaren were 4.5 seconds behind the pole time n Australia and whilst wet running in Malaysia Q3 makes that comparison impossible, Jenson Button was just 2.3 seconds slower than Nico Rosberg who set the fastest dry time of the qualifying session.