Today was a frustrating day for the McLaren-Honda team, track time having been limited by technical issues. Fernando Alonso made it through to Q2 but Jenson Button was unable to participate in qualifying at all, following an ERS-related problem at the end of FP3 that required more time than was available to remedy.
Fernando qualified P14 in a very congested midfield battle, despite his preparation having been complicated by an engine change earlier in the day. The team had elected to not break the Friday-night curfew and instead completed the task on Saturday morning. Fast work got Fernando out for the final 10 minutes of FP3.
Jenson ran strongly in FP3 until an ERS-related failure caused him to stop on track. The team could not rectify the situation in the time available and Jenson was consequently unable to participate in qualifying. Jenson will therefore start tomorrow's Canadian Grand Prix from the pit-lane.
Fernando Alonso: "I was happy with my lap and I think this is the best qualifying position we could have expected today. I expect to be starting 13th, owing to Max's [Verstappen] likely penalty, so, after a tough day for the team, with my engine change this morning, and me missing most of FP3, and then the disappointment of running only one car in qualifying, I think P13 is the best news of the day.
"Hopefully tomorrow we can have a much better day, with a smooth race and both cars finishing with no problems. Montreal always seems to provide good races with lots of action, a few Safety Cars, reliability issues for everybody, and so on, since it's a very demanding circuit on brakes, gearboxes and other components too. You have to stay focused until the very last lap, because anything can happen.
"Our top speed on the straights will be our main concern tomorrow, so we'll try to do something clever in terms of strategy and tyre management in order to compensate for that and try to get some points."
Jenson Button: "This morning we did a lot of set-up work in the car, and it felt much better than yesterday, so I was looking forward to qualifying. It was disappointing to miss it, therefore, but it happens - and we'll make the best of it tomorrow.
"The guys have worked so hard this weekend; they did a great job of getting Fernando's car back together for qualifying and they'll do the same fantastic job as they always do with my car, but weekends like this one are tough for the whole team. It'll be a long race, but I'm already looking forward to it."
Eric Boullier, Racing director: "It would be wrong of me not to admit that today has been both frustrating and disappointing.
"First, this morning, we were forced to replace Fernando's engine when a routine inspection revealed problems with it that we feared would prevent its completing the weekend's running. Then, towards the end of FP3, Jenson's car suffered an ERS-related failure; that, too, required an engine change, the result of which was that he was unable to take part in qualifying at all.
"Since the beginning of the year, we've consistently made clear that we were fully aware of the enormity of the task Honda and we were facing, but, despite that, we remain undaunted by it. Our friends at Sakura [Japan] are working around the clock in a superhuman effort to rectify the issues we're encountering, and we have total faith in their ability to do just that. We're working flat-out at Woking, too.
"Together, since the Australian Grand Prix, at which race the famous McLaren-Honda partnership was renewed after a gap of 23 years, we've made massive progress together. We always knew that that progress wouldn't always be linear, and so it has proved here today. But we're on a journey, we understand how to get to our destination - together - and get there we undoubtedly will."
Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer - chief officer of motorsport: "We've had a very tough day during both FP3 and qualifying. "A routine check after FP2 found an engine anomaly that we believed may have prevented Fernando from finishing the race tomorrow; we therefore decided to change the engine. That meant we lost precious time in FP3, during which we were unable to confirm the car's set-up before going into qualifying.
"Thanks to the team's great efforts, and Fernando's superb driving, we made it into Q2 and the session went well. It was a pity that we did not make it into Q3.
"As for Jenson's car, we encountered ERS problems towards the end of FP3, and after an investigation of the power unit discovered that the engine had unfortunately been damaged. We'll replace the engine for the race.
"Tomorrow will be a very challenging day for fuel, energy harvest and braking balance; therefore we'll gather as much data as we can from practice and qualifying to prepare."
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