Sergio Perez pulled an out-of-nowhere flying lap in Q2 that shot him into the final round of qualifying, but no one was pretending that this disguised the deep problems McLaren are conspicuously going through this weekend in Barcelona.

The team had worked through the night at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday to try and get their jinxed MP4-28 upgraded with a raft of new aero parts, even sacrificing Jenson Button's track time in Friday Free Practice 1. In the end, the team couldn't get the new front wing installed and sufficiently tested in the remaining time to make it a justifiable risk for Saturday's qualifying session, putting Button and Perez on the back foot before a single wheel turned.

"We had a lot of parts on the car on Friday and frankly it was a disappointing day," admitted team principal Martin Whitmarsh. "Clearly we couldn't get the data we wanted because of the weather - the sensors would be filled with water.

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"Today, although we have some new front wings here, without being able to check on their legality at the FIA facility at the end, which we were unable to do this morning, it's too big a risk to run them," he added.

That left Button floundering in Q2 in Spain, finishing down in 14th place on the grid after failing to progress to the third and final round of qualifying much to his disappointment.

"The car felt okay in Q1, but in Q2 I couldn't find the grip for my final run. It felt as though the tyre pressures may have been too high, but to be honest we're not yet quite sure exactly what happened," he admitted afterwards. "So tomorrow - from 14th on the grid - whatever we do will be difficult. It'll be a tricky afternoon, but we'll definitely do our best to make the best of it."

"Jenson had a difficult qualifying - and, although we haven't yet had a chance to examine his data thoroughly, it would appear that perhaps his tyre pressures may have been set a little too high," confirmed Whitmarsh.

"Whatever the problem turns out to have been, I'm certain that - had he felt comfortable in his car - he'd have been able to go through to Q3 as Checo did," Whitmarsh added, referring to the cause for cause for cautious optimism coming from the other side of the McLaren garage after Sergio Perez did manage to crack the top ten in the final seconds of Q2.

"I'm very pleased because I got absolutely everything out of the car," said the young Mexican after beating his senior team mate for the first time in qualifying since joining McLaren at the start of the year. "We'll go into the race tomorrow looking to maximise our potential. If we can manage that, I think we should be satisfied."

"Congratulations to Checo, he did a great job - particularly in Q2," said Button, displaying no trace of the acrimony that had built up between the two after tangling on-track in the previous Grand Prix. "He did everything right this afternoon and showed that some of our recent upgrades are definitely working.

"It's not yet enough, but it's rewarding to see that we're making some progress," Button added.

"Checo did a fantastic job in qualifying today, especially in Q2 during which he drove a sensational lap to be seventh-quickest," agreed Whitmarsh. "I want to say 'Well done Checo', because he was extremely impressive here this afternoon."

Perez ended up in ninth place on the grid after leaving his qualifying lap late, and Whitmarsh confirmed that the team had considered keeping him in the garage and playing the strategy card instead.

"In Q3 we considered taking the tactical option, in other words not running him at all in order to conserve an extra set of tyres," Whitmarsh admitted. "But, in the end, on the basis that he was driving so well, we decided to go for it in the hope that he might repeat his Q2 form relative to his principal opposition."

Even so, Whitmarsh agreed that there was something unseemly about the mighty McLaren team scrambling around narrowly succeeding - or failing - to make Q3 at a Grand Prix event.

"Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' ambitions extend to a great deal more than merely going through to Q3, and it's clear that our MP4-28 still requires a lot of development before it becomes as competitive as we need it to be," he conceded.

"In the meantime, both Checo and Jenson will give 100 per cent tomorrow in their efforts to score as many world championship points as possible - for themselves, for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, and last but not least for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' many fans all over the world," he added.