SUZUKA, Japan, (Reuters) - McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button have taken a disappointing showing in qualifying for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix in their stride and are hoping to climb up the field in Sunday’s race.
Neither driver made it through to the final top-10 shootout on engine supplier Honda’s home turf.
Button did not even make it past the opening phase of qualifying, setting the 17th fastest time, while Alonso reached the middle section of the three-part session but could only manage to go 15th quickest.
“There are some races where we will be better and some races where we will be worse,” said double former champion Alonso who finished seventh in Malaysia last time out despite having started last.
“There’s nothing really wrong...it’s just the nature of the circuit that is not suiting our car,” added the Spaniard. “Hopefully we can recover some places tomorrow...points are the target even if it’s going to be very, very difficult.”
Last year’s Japanese race marked arguably the nadir of a bruising return to Formula One for Honda who had renewed a once-dominant partnership with Woking-based McLaren but struggled to adapt to the sport’s new turbo-hybrid rules.
The combination has made steady progress this year, however, and went into the weekend eager to put on a strong showing.
Unlike last year, though, it seemed to be McLaren’s chassis rather than the Honda power unit that stymied the team’s hopes of qualifying in the top-10.
“We’re in a much better position than we were last year,” said Button, a darling of the Japanese fans who could be making his final Formula One appearance in Suzuka.
“I got overtaken by two cars at one time into turn one last year in the race. Hopefully we’re going to be moving forward not looking behind,” added the 2009 world champion.
Editing by Tony Jimenez