For just the fourth time this season, both McLaren Hondas finished in the points to end the team’s United States Grand Prix on a high note.
Fernando Alonso delivered another typically bullish drive en route to finishing in fifth place – surviving a post-race Stewards’ hearing for his pass on Felipe Massa that gave the Williams driver a puncture – while teammate Jenson Button finished in ninth to claim two points after starting a lowly 19th.
Speaking to the media before the officials had ruled on his contact with Massa, Alonso described the contact on his former teammate as a ‘racing incident’.
“I went on the inside and we were already side-by-side when we touched,” he recalled. “It wasn’t like I went over the limit, he wasn’t three quarters of a car in front or anything like that, so for me it was a racing incident.”
Reflecting on his race which saw him equal the season’s best fifth place he achieved at Monaco, the Spaniard said: “I’m happy with the race, but we still lack grip so we have to work to recover the feeling we had in the car two races ago, in Malaysia, where we were the fastest of the intermediate group.
Alonso’s chief rival in the race was his compatriot Carlos Sainz Jr, with whom he had an entertaining scrap in the final laps of the race before eventually coming out on top against the youngster.
“When we put the Medium tyres on we lost a bit of time to Carlos, so we had to work hard on the third stint to cut that gap again. After the VSC [Virtual Safety Car] we were surprised Toro Rosso put him on the Soft tyres, because we knew they were going to have very high degradation, so we tried to attack at the end, with Felipe and Carlos.
“It was a bit more difficult with Felipe, because the Williams goes very fast down the straights, so you have to pass him in strange places, but easier with Carlos because his car is very slow down the straights, so it was just a case of opening the DRS and do it.”
Button’s run to the lower reaches of the points came thanks to several incidents ahead of him, including the first-lap clash between Nico Hülkenberg and Valtteri Bottas, as well as the mid-race retirement of Max Verstappen.
“Starting from 19th makes your race a bit more difficult, but it was good fun and I had a good first couple of laps. That was it really and the second half wasn’t very exciting, I was just looking after the tyres, making sure I could save the tyres for the end of the race to try and catch Checo [Pérez], but I think in the end I was still three seconds off him,” he said after the race.
“The start was a mess, the first lap was crazy and there was so much action, which was good, because I made a few places up and fought my way into the top ten. I fluffed my second stop a bit and that cost me the place to Checo, but I think he would have got past me anyway. [To finish] P9 from P19 is not bad and with Fernando getting fifth place we got good points today, so it was good for the team.”
The result comfortably consolidates McLaren’s sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship standings, putting it 21 points clear of Scuderia Toro Rosso with three races to run over the remainder of the season.
Image via McLaren Honda