Fernando Alonso's retirement as the Monaco Grand Prix was quickly forgotten when Jenson Button finished the race in 8th, scoring the first points for the renewed partnership between McLaren and Honda.
Starting from 10th, Jenson Button drove a typically unruffled race to eighth, earning the team four points. In fact, Jenson was never out of the top 10 all afternoon; he moved past Pastor Maldonado when the Lotus driver encountered brake issues, then jumped Max Verstappen when the Dutchman was delayed in the pits.
The late-race Safety Car offered the opportunity to catch Sergio Perez, but he was unable to generate enough temperature in the tyres to mount a sustained challenge to the flag.
Fernando Alonso’s race started well – he made a strong start to jump from 13th to 11th, but was given a five-second penalty (which he took at his pit-stop) for clashing with Nico Hulkenberg as the pair turned into Mirabeau on lap one. Fernando was the first driver to start on Primes, and his pace looked strong at the start of the race; however, his afternoon came to an end after 41 laps with an as-yet-unspecified overheating issue.
Jenson Button underlined the progress marked by the points scoring finish, having questioned the team's ability to score after a very dismal Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona, a fortnight ago.
“It’s been a positive day for us. We were hoping to score a point today, and we scored four. I certainly didn’t expect to finish eighth. At the start I lost a position to Nico [Hulkenberg], but got it back by going around the outside of him at Turn Three on the first lap, which was good fun. Once I got past Pastor [Maldonado], my race was basically about turning quali lap after quali lap: it was flat-out.
“I’m really happy for the team – we’ve worked hard to get into this position, and they deserve this. We have work to do, but this is a hugely positive step for us.”
Fernando Alonso on the other hand retired from the race with a mechanical issue, also at a moment when he was running in the points.
“At the start, I don't think I deserved the penalty [for the incident with Hulkenberg]. At that particular moment, I don't know what else I could have done.
“Most significantly, it’s a pity we couldn’t finish the race today. The car started to upshift in a really strange way on the lap before I stopped; then, on the first corner, I had no braking. The car stayed in neutral and I couldn’t put it in gear.
“That’s frustrating because we could have had both cars in the point for the first time this season. We need to keep improving the car to ensure these sorts of things don’t happen again. Still, having these problems this year is good, because it means we won’t repeat them next year.”
While racing director Eric Boullier insisted the team will not rest on its laurels, Honda's Yasuhisa Arai thinks the team has now finally started its season.
"hanks to Jenson's steady run, and the team's effort to improve the power unit’s driveability for Monaco, we earned our first points of the season today. It feels like we’ve now finally arrived at the start-line of the race calendar.
“As for Fernando, he left the garage feeling confident that he could finish in the points. He was running well in the race – and I also felt confident that we could see both cars in the top 10 for the first time this season – but, unfortunately, a drive-fail warning popped up and ended his race prematurely.
“As always, McLaren-Honda will keep pushing as a team and work towards better results at the next race.”