A long and hectic qualifying session in Hungary, and, despite heavy and unpredictable downpours which led to three red-flag interruptions and a premature finish to the first session, the combined experience of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso paid dividends in very difficult driving conditions.
Early on in Q1, Jenson struggled with front-end grip and it was discovered that he had incurred some damage to his front wing. This was quickly changed and, thanks to some quick thinking and well executed decisions by the team, both drivers transitioned to Q2.
In Q2 and on a rapidly drying track, both drivers took full advantage of their tyre allocation, running continually throughout the session apart from a single 'box' to change from Intermediate to Option tyres, and each driver comfortably progressed through to Q3.
In the final session, the track times got progressively quicker and each of our drivers set a representative time. On his final lap, Fernando outbraked himself and spun at Turn Nine, which brought out the yellow flags with just over a minute to go and meant both he and Jenson were not able to post quicker laps. Despite that, they will start P7 and P8 respectively - the best qualifying result for the team since the start of the renewed McLaren-Honda partnership.
Fernando Alonso: "Both McLarens are in the top 10 in qualifying for the first time in a long time, so it's definitely a step forward for us again this weekend and I'm happy with the direction and progression the team is heading in. I especially enjoyed the tricky conditions in Q2, when we were very fast. Today we were quick in dry conditions, quick in the wet and even quicker in mixed conditions. On the dry tyres in mixed conditions we took some risks and I really enjoyed it.
"It's looking good this weekend, this circuit suits our car a little bit better, and I've been P7 in every single session so far, so we're pretty competitive, and hopefully we can improve on that tomorrow.
"On my final lap I braked very late into Turn Six, cut the chicane and lost some time there, so I wanted to recover the lost time. I probably overdrove and at Turn Nine I spun. It's a bit frustrating because I think we could have gained a couple of tenths which I lost instead because of my mistake, but anyway P7 for tomorrow is okay, and I'll be starting on the clean side of the track.
"We now need to finish the job tomorrow, hopefully with some points."
Jenson Button: "The car was working well today in the mixed conditions. You always enjoy it when you've got to think on your feet and it's different every lap - I think Fernando and I are both very good at that. I was definitely up on my last lap by a few tenths but I don't know if it would've made any difference at the end anyway; obviously the yellow flags meant we couldn't complete it and sometimes that happens in these conditions.
"It's pretty good to have both cars in the top 10 but as soon as you do that, that's not enough and you want more. I'll be starting on the dirty side of the track tomorrow, which will be tough, but we'll make the best of it. There's new asphalt here though, and with the rain today it might actually make it a bit better than we think. We're in front of all the cars we should be racing which is good, but the others in front are too fast for us.
"In the wet it was really difficult to get the tyres working; I particularly struggled with fronts. We had a small front wing problem, where something came loose, but we fixed that and then it was fine. We still struggled with the front end in the wet conditions but we got there in the end, and in the drying conditions it was a lot of fun and we got the best out of it.
"We'll start P7 and P8, which isn't too bad. In these conditions we always do a good job, so I'm happy for the team. I really don't know what to expect tomorrow - but I'm looking forward to it anyway!"
Eric Boullier, Racing Director: "For the first time since the 2014 Brazilian Grand Prix we got both our cars through to Q3 - and, although that isn't the kind of result on which McLaren built its illustrious reputation, it's heartening nonetheless.
"Moreover, undeniably, it showcases the relentless progress we're making, race by race, week by week.
"Both our drivers handled the pressure of a topsy-turvy two-hour quali session with commendable aplomb, and they fully deserved the eventual starting positions they earned themselves: P7 and P8.
"From those grid slots, they're well placed to attack tomorrow's Hungarian Grand Prix with the disciplined determination on which they've built their reputations as two of the grittiest drivers in modern-day Formula 1.
"We tend to try not to over-promise ahead of any Grand Prix, but undoubtedly our ambition is to score points with both cars tomorrow."
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer: "It's fantastic to see both cars inside the top ten today, with Fernando finishing in P7 and Jenson in P8. The conditions throughout qualifying were extremely tricky, with torrential rain followed by sunshine, and both the drivers and the team managed the situation extremely well.
"This is also the first time McLaren-Honda has got both cars into Q3, so it's a positive result for us, especially in the drying conditions of Q3 where we would normally lose ground. However, we were able to bring together our chassis and power unit performance, while managing the changing strategy with ease. We now hope that we can have a strong race tomorrow and hopefully score some championship points."
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