Both McLaren-Hondas would have made Chinese Grand Prix Q3 but for the late-Q2 red flag, reckons a “massively frustrated” Fernando Alonso.
Q2 for the Shanghai Formula 1 race was halted with 1m17s remaining when Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India shed a front wheel. At the time, the McLarens were among a group of cars gearing up for final flying laps that they would have to abandon, leaving Alonso and team-mate Jenson Button 12th and 13th.
Both drivers expressed huge exasperation over team radio when informed of the stoppage and were adamant they would have made the top 10.
“I’m massively frustrated today because we have the potential [for Q3],” said Alonso. “We didn’t use the new tyres, we didn’t use the full potential of the engine either and we were waiting for that moment, that lap in Q2 and we didn’t manage to open the lap. We have the pace now in qualifying.”
Button had been fourth fastest in Q1.
“I know some people don’t give it the beans [in Q1], especially the quicker teams, but it wasn’t too bad,” he said.
Button admitted that McLaren’s long absence from Q3 – stretching back to his sixth place on the 2014 Abu Dhabi GP grid – made the team increasingly desperate to prove it had now turned its qualifying form around.
“McLaren hasn’t been in Q3 since 2014 so we wanted to get into Q3 but 12th and 13th where we can choose our tires, we can have a good race from there,” he said.
Alonso also remains confident McLaren will be in the points at the end of Sunday’s race.
“If we have the reliability, 100 percent tomorrow we aim for that, we have a chance,” he said. “Some fast cars are behind us, so we need to be careful of that as they will be a threat – like [Lewis] Hamilton etc. – as they will arrive in the race but I think tomorrow if everything goes OK, it should be first points for us.
“How high is impossible to know. Yesterday we were not completely happy with the race pace – we were not super-fast, so we made a lot of changes to the car, so let’s see if tomorrow we are more competitive and we can score more points than we think.
“I think the car felt better today than yesterday so we need to confirm this in the race pace. We were just passing Q1 a few races ago and now we are frustrated not to be in Q3 so it’s definitely a good direction that the car is going in.
“We have the choice of three tires, so maybe, hopefully that’s an advantage in the race.”