Jenson Button has praised his McLaren team after the way it bounced back during Saturday’s qualifying session for the Russian Grand Prix.

After an encouraging Friday in Formula 1’s first outing at the new Sochi Autodrom, the 2009 World Champion was eleventh-fastest in final practice on Saturday, reporting that his MP4-29 racer had an “awful” balance issue over the radio.

Meanwhile, rookie team-mate Kevin Magnussen had a gearbox issue which forced the Dane to change it after suffering a failure earlier in the same session.

Despite their FP3 dramas, the Woking team went on to finish fourth and sixth in qualifying, although the reigning Formula Renault 3.5 series champion Magnussen will drop to eleventh as a result of the grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.

“We were both strong on the softs and medium compounds on Friday, in both FP1 and FP2, but in FP3 we went backwards,” explained Button.

“With the setup we adopted, the car just wasn’t working for us, but we kept our heads after that, worked through the issues, and came into qualifying with a much improved car.”

Button says he is hoping to have a battle with Williams driver Valtteri Bottas for the final podium spot during the 53-lap race.

“Valtteri is obviously the guy we’ll be trying to pick off from the start of the race,” he added. “His pace looked very good in practice and in qualifying, but Fridays and Saturdays are very different from Sundays.”

Although he was frustrated with his impending grid penalty, Magnussen is confident that he can make up ground.

“It won’t be easy, as we’ll be starting quite far back, but as least overtaking is possible here,” the Dane said after qualifying.

“There’s a good DRS zone, quite a long straight down to Turn 2, and our long-run pace isn’t too bad.”

Image via McLaren Media

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Michael Terminello

Journalist at MotorsportM8