Jenson Button backed up McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton by securing a place on the second row of the grid for Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix, despite continuing to complain about the handling of his MP4-27.
The Briton had been unable to match Hamilton's practice pace on Friday, but remained in touch with the eventual polesitter until Saturday's morning session, when he struggled to break into the top ten, a feat he only managed with his last lap in the one-hour session. Although Hamilton was 'only' second fastest, it was by fractions of a second and, come qualifying, no-one could touch the 2008 world champion as he dominated all three phases.
Button, meanwhile, appeared to be back in contention for the front few rows after making changes between session, posting the third-fastest time in Q1, before making it through to the pole position shoot-out with seventh place in Q2. The McLarens were amongst the few cars on track in the early part of Q3, with Hamilton initially swapping pole with Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen before posting a time that would prove out of everyone's reach. Button, meanwhile, slotted into third, behind Sebastian Vettel, and was only pushed back to fourth when Romain Grosjean produced a last-gasp effort good enough to secure a share of row one.
“I was much happier with the car in qualifying than I'd been in free practice, either this morning or yesterday," Button revealed, “I wasn't quite as happy as Lewis obviously – he did a great job today so well done to him for that – but I feel pretty good, all in all.
“As I said after free practice yesterday, being quick here is all about getting the perfect balance. I think today proved that. I didn't quite manage to get that perfect balance here this afternoon, but Lewis clearly did. In fact, I think Lewis's performance shows how real our car's pace is now.”
After taking a morale-boosting second place in last weekend's German Grand Prix, Button is clearly looking for another podium at a venue that has been good to him in the past - providing both his first-ever F1 win and another to mark his 200th grand prix - even if he needs to account for at least one of the drivers ahead of him on a circuit not known for producing overtaking opportunities.
“It's a pity that I just missed out on P3 at the end, because the odd-number side of the circuit is quite a bit cleaner than the even-number side," he reflected, "If I'd stayed in P3, it would have made it a bit easier to get a good start tomorrow - but P4 isn't too bad."
Having expressed his delight at seeing Button return as a contender in Germany, McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh was quick to include the Briton as a podium possibility.
“Jenson also did an excellent job to qualify in fourth spot, which makes him well positioned to mount a serious challenge for a major placing [in] tomorrow's grand prix," he noted, "He hadn't had as straightforward a time of things as Lewis had, either this morning or yesterday, but he showed real mettle, true grit and immense natural ability here this afternoon.
“Overtaking is usually tricky here, although its level of difficulty may be mitigated somewhat tomorrow by the pit-straight DRS zone. From our point of view, however, let's hope Lewis gets a good start – and that overtaking remains as much of a challenge as ever thereafter!"