Martin Whitmarsh has admitted that ' you can't always get it right' when dealing with mixed conditions on a race track, after both his drivers made early exits from Brazilian GP qualifying.
While critics would say that McLaren has got it wrong more often than right this season, the performance of both Sergio Perez and Jenson Button in the opening phase of qualifying suggested that both could be contenders for the pole position shoot-out, if not necessarily top spot itself.
However, as the rain, which had been absent for the start of the opening 20-minute segment, returned in Q2, the pair found themselves struggling to get heat into their Pirelli tyres, and slumped to 14th and 15th in the final order.
“Obviously, to qualify 14th and 15th for the last grand prix of the year is very disappointing, even if what caught us out were the very unpredictable weather conditions,” Whitmarsh sighed.
“In Q1, we were seventh and eleventh which, albeit not stellar, represented a more accurate reflection of our ambient pace relative to our opposition. In Q2, though, the timing of our runs wasn't quite perfect and, as a result, we struggled to switch the tyres on when we needed to. In wet-dry conditions such as those we faced today, the art is always in finding that sweet-spot moment in which to be on the track the optimal time, and you can't always get it right.”
McLaren is now banking on the weather relenting for raceday, with Whitmarsh confident that, should the rain abate for the first time all weekend, both drivers will be able to make progress through the field.
“Although the weather is forecast to be less rainy than it's been yesterday and today, it's unlikely to be dry and sunny all afternoon,” he countered, “That being the case, there's no doubt that both Jenson and 'Checo' can make good progress from their poor grid positions when the race begins.”
Button, already casting a despondent figure after the frustrations of Austin a week ago, admitted on television that he was looking forward to the final lap, but was a little more positive having had time to reflect – even if he regretted not getting more than a couple of laps under his belt in Saturday morning practice.
“We sat out most of FP3 in order to save tyres, which felt like the right thing to do at the time,” he explained, “In retrospect, maybe it wasn't the right call, [as] we hadn't run in wet conditions on the intermediate tyres before qualifying, so we weren't prepared for the problems we then encountered. But hindsight is a wonderful thing.
“We were running a low-downforce configuration, which probably didn't help either. We felt that set-up was working for us yesterday, when it wasn't as wet, but it probably hurt us in getting pressure into the tyre. We were good in Q1 – I ended up in P7 – but, when it rained harder in Q2, I couldn't get enough temperature into the tyres.
“Hopefully, we can still mix it up a bit tomorrow, although the weather on Sunday is supposed to be a bit drier. Hopefully, though, we'll have some good racing, and we won't spend too long behind the safety car!”