Jenson Button was both surprised and delighted to cross the line in fourth place at the end of the Canadian Grand Prix, but admitted that the result would have been unlikely had the race been less incident-packed.
Losing a place at the start, the Briton struggled to make his way back into the points for much of the race as midfield traffic became a hindrance for the two McLaren drivers, but several decisive turns of fate towards the end of the 70-lap event rapidly elevated Button up the order, before a double pass on Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg in the closing moments put him in prime position to benefit from the penultimate lap accident involving Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa.
“You never want to see an accident like Felipe and Checo's but, fortunately, they both got out of their cars okay, which was good,” he noted, “The opening stint on the option tyre was tough going, so I decided to jump off it quite early and move to the prime. But then I just kept coming up on traffic – there were cars everywhere..
“If you were racing against a single car, it was easier to get past, but, if you were in a bunch, it was tough because lots of drivers were able to use the DRS. Still, I fought my way through at the end. I had a little dice with Fernando and Nico [until] Fernando almost hit Nico at the hairpin, and had to dive down the inside. Then they both ran wide and I got down the inside of both of them….”
Despite admitting at the start of the weekend that McLaren's improvement was not going to take a dramatic step forward in Canada, Button was pleased to report that things were moving in the right direction.
“We come out of this weekend knowing that there's a better overall feel to our car, and it's encouraging that we're making progress,” he insisted, “In a straightforward race, I wouldn't have finished fourth, but we did a good job today and ought to be happy. These points are helpful, and they'll spur us on to do another good job in Austria.”
Like Button, team-mate Kevin Magnussen made two stops for fresh tyres but, having started twelfth on the grid, also struggled with traffic before spending the last 22 laps of the race attempting to find a way past Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso. Just as it looked like he may miss out on points, however, the Massa-Perez accident elevated him to ninth position.
“Before the race, I told myself that I'd be happy if I could score some points this afternoon,” the Dane confessed, “This was a bit of a challenging and frustrating race for me. It's tough when you have to focus on looking after the tyres and I was racing Vergne for a long time at the end of the race, but I just didn't have the pace to get past him.
“Still, I think we can be encouraged. Getting both cars home in the top ten was great for the team, but we know there's still work to do to catch up with the teams ahead of us in the championship. We have some positive steps in the pipeline, but it's still relatively tough going for us at the moment. We just need to be patient and things will start to come our way. Everyone is pushing so hard at the moment, so we just have to try and push that little bit harder.”
After praising first-time winner Daniel Ricciardo, and similarly commending the strength of the modern F1 car for appearing to save both Massa and Perez from harm, McLaren racing director Eric Boullier paid tribute to his own drivers.
“As Jenson said yesterday, eventful races like these really demonstrate the strength in depth of our trackside and strategy operations,” he commented, “We didn't have the raw pace to finish fourth, but a combination of good strategy calls, some excellent pits-to-driver communications, and aggressive drives from both drivers pushed both cars into the points.
“Jenson showed the never-give-up attitude that has served him so well at this circuit in the past - he started the penultimate lap in eighth position, and finished the race in fourth, making a brilliant move at the hairpin on lap 69 to overtake Nico and Fernando. Kevin's pace has been extremely strong all weekend, but his grid position, and the closeness of the cars around him, meant that much of his race was spent battling with traffic. After his pit-stops, he did well to push back strongly in the second half of the grand prix. We take 14 points home from this weekend – let's hope we can continue to rack them up once we return to Europe.”