Mat Coch writes:
McLaren is more used to celebrating pole positions than simply making it through to the final phase of qualifying, but that's precisely the position the team found itself in today in Bahrain.
After an improved showing in China last weekend the Woking squad has once again struggled, Jenson Button qualifying just tenth while Sergio Perez could do no better than twelfth.
Button's whooping in celebration of reaching the final phase of qualifying can be seen as a commentary on just where the team currently views itself, and how its targets have been adjusted in view of the difficult MP4-28.
"The little things and little achievements at the moment and getting in to Q3 is positive," admitted Button after qualifying. "McLaren's used to fighting at the front and so am I, so it's tough."
Teammate Perez's expectations were equally muted. "I want to get over tomorrow and go home with some points," he admitted. "If we do a perfect race tomorrow, perfect in strategy, and we have everything completely perfect, we can bring some points home.
"I put the set up fully to the race and it made qualifying very difficult but I think we're in a good position for tomorrow."
Button starts tomorrow's race as the first driver on fresh tyres, having opted not to set a time in the final phase of qualifying. All those ahead of him, with the exception of Felipe Massa, have opted for the faster but more fragile medium compound Pirelli.
A large upgrade package is expected for the start of the European season in Spain, which is increasingly shaping up to be a make or break moment for McLaren's 2013 season.