McLaren's Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen were evenly-matched throughout all three of this afternoon’s qualifying sessions, qualifying 7th and 8th for the US GP. However, Jenson has been given a five-place grid penalty (for a premature gearbox change) and will therefore drop to 12th.
Since multiple tyre stops are predicted for tomorrow, there ought to be ample opportunity for strategy to play a role in mixing up the competitive order.
Jenson Button, MP4-29-04, 7th (to start from 12th due to a five-place gearbox penalty): “That was a lot of effort for 12th on the grid. It was so close between Kevin and myself on every run this afternoon. My fastest lap wasn’t amazing – it’s quite difficult to string a lap together around here, because you struggle with the inconsistencies caused by moderate grip, high winds and low ambient temperatures.
“But we can be reasonably happy with where we are, particularly given the balance issues we faced this morning. In that respect, Hiroshi-san, our tyre guru, did a great job – we were a little bit lost this morning, but were in complete understanding by this afternoon. The engineers made the difference.
“It’s frustrating to have qualified on the clean side of the grid, but be forced onto the dirty side by a penalty. That makes things trickier, but this race looks like it’ll probably be at least a two-stopper, maybe even a three-stopper, which opens up more strategy options for us and gives us more of an opportunity to make up positions.”
Kevin Magnussen, MP4-29-01, 8th (to start 7th due to Jenson's grid penalty): “Qualifying seventh and eighth isn’t particularly satisfying for anyone, but it’s pretty much where we are with our car right now. Jenson and I were pretty evenly matched all afternoon, so I think it’s pretty safe to say we got the maximum out of the car.
“I think tomorrow’s race will be a two- or even three-stopper for most people, so we should hopefully be able to mix things up a little with our strategy. That’s usually a good way to make forward progress, and I think scoring some useful points should certainly be possible.”
Eric Boullier, Racing director, McLaren Mercedes: “We found ourselves struggling for grip in FP3 this morning, but our engineers responded to that setback with commendable efficiency, and the result was improved competitiveness for this afternoon’s qualifying session.
“Both Jenson and Kevin then mined the absolute maximum from their cars, recording Q3 lap-times separated by a mere one-twentieth of a second [0.051s]. They had been even more closely matched in Q1 and Q2, as it happens, in which sessions their lap-times had differed by just 0.017s and 0.023s. Their Q3 lap-times placed them seventh and eighth on the final qualifying time sheets; however, as a result of Jenson’s five-place grid penalty, unfortunately he’ll start tomorrow’s race from P12.
“Even so, steadfast and intrepid competitor that he is, he certainly won’t forsake the ambition to score points; wily yet combative, he’ll push as hard as ever, mark my words.
“Kevin, too, is well placed to score points tomorrow, and as a result we’re hopeful of further closing the gap between ourselves and Ferrari in the constructors’ world championship points standings.”