McLaren drivers were both happy with their pace after the second free practice session of the Malaysia GP.
Both McLarens ended FP2 in the top ten, with Fernando Alonso running an updated Honda package and new parts which helped him to P5 in FP1.
Alonso said he tested some parts for 2017 on his car as well as the new engine which will be first raced in Suzuka, Honda’s home race, and he felt that they worked well.
“We managed to complete a good number of laps and do all the tests we had planned for today, including some parts already for next years car, so it was a very good day in that way. Now we’ll see how to approach the rest of the weekend, particularly in FP3, as we’ll be doing long runs to prepare for the race.”
“Today was a good day, because we did a lot of laps and the things we tried worked well.”
The Spaniard has ruled out qualifying as he will start last due to a grid penalty for taking on the new engine. He hopes this will keep his options open strategy-wise for the race.
“Qualifying will be very short for me – I’ll do just one timed lap, to get within 107 per cent of the pole time and then I’ll watch the rest of the action on TV! Then I’ll save as many new tyres as possible for the race to attack from start to finish.”
“We are expecting rain, I don’t know if it will come for qualifying or for the race, but whenever it comes it will help us” he added. “I think with Jenson the team can fight for Q3. Hopefully I can join him in the points at the end of the race.”
Jenson Button felt there was more in the car than P10. After missing some track time in the pit lane, the Briton was out of sequence with other programs and he said his lap was compromised when he was blocked by Kevin Magnussen who was on a high fuel run.
“Tenth place isn’t very good. We were out very late in FP2 because some of the changes we made to the car took longer than we thought. When I got out the others were running with high fuel loads, I caught up Kevin Magnussen in Turn 10 and he just didn’t move, drove around in the racing line and cost me quite a bit in terms of lap time.”
The 2009 world champion said he is still unsure of his car’s long run pace, but he was however happy with the one-lap pace and says his team will be on the offensive come qualifying.
“The pace of the car is not too bad over one lap and we can be further up the order. The long runs are a bit trickier but I think we know what we have to do with the balance of the car to make it better.”
“For qualifying we’ll all definitively go for the Soft tyres, but what’s the best race tyre I don’t know. All compounds seem to be working pretty well, the consistency is very good but it should be a bit cooler tomorrow.”
Button said the new asphalt was another aspect that was tricky for him on Friday as he described the fluctuations in grip levels “very strange”
“You get a false sense with the grip, you feel you have a lot of grip and suddenly it’s taken away from you. It’s very strange, very difficult to read. It feels a lot like Sochi, in a way, so it’s tricky. We are the best drivers in the world and we feel when oversteer is coming, but with this tarmac it’s quite an unknown – it’s very difficult.”
Image via McLaren Honda