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.
"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."