McLaren's Jenson Button has warned people shouldn't expect too much from them in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix - although he does believe both cars have a 'chance' of scoring points.
Button just scraped into the final qualifying session on Saturday, but in the end elected not to set a time in the top-ten shootout, aborting his lap late on.
The Briton will thus line-up in tenth place, and while he was pretty jubilant at having made it through Q2, he conceded race day will be 'tough'.
“It's been a very difficult weekend so far,” Button remarked, “but tenth is a strong result for us today. The team is used to fighting at the front, but it's the little things – like getting through into Q3 – that can make a positive difference.
“Of course, it's going to be a tough race tomorrow, though. I'll race as quickly as I can, but I don't want people to expect too much from us.
“However, there are positives to be drawn from today: we out-qualified a Lotus, which was a surprise, and I'll be driving the first car starting on new tyres tomorrow. As in China, that brings a slight strategic advantage, so I'm hoping we can have another decent outing. I think we've both got a chance of scoring points – it would be great for both of us to finish in the top ten tomorrow.”
Sergio Perez meanwhile will start twelfth in the sister MP4-28 - his best lap in Q2 a 1m 33.914s, which was around two tenths off Button. Like his team-mate he is anticipating a hard Sunday, although he also believes a top-ten finish will be possible.
“Qualifying was very difficult, and it was disappointing to miss out on getting into Q3 by just a few tenths,” said the Mexican. “We didn't really have the pace to get any further up the grid, though; I think Jenson showed the maximum that was possible for us in Q2 today.
“Still, we're in a better position to fight for points tomorrow. I've set my car up to look after its rear tyres, so I think our race pace should be a bit more consistent. It's still going to be hard to get into the points tomorrow, but I hope we can have an okay race and make it into the top ten. But it's going to be a long, hard race.”
“Both Jenson and Checo did a very disciplined job out there today,” summarised McLaren boss, Martin Whitmarsh. “Going into this race weekend, we knew it was going to be difficult for us – this is a rear-limited circuit, a characteristic that accentuates the weaknesses we have with our car. Still, those circumstances required patience and hard work, and I think the drivers and the engineers got the best from a package that's more limited on a circuit like this.
“Jenson's lap in Q2 was a phenomenal effort and allowed him to get through to Q3. While that's not what anybody at McLaren is used to accepting, we acknowledge that these are currently difficult times, and that lap was a welcome fillip. Equally, Checo drove extremely well in Q2, and was just a couple of tenths shy of Jenson's top-ten effort. As in China last weekend, our efforts are primarily focused towards aiming for a decent result in the race tomorrow.”