Jenson Button was left to wonder 'what if' as a late yellow flag cost him what he felt was almost certain progression into the final phase of qualifying at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Along with team-mate Fernando Alonso, the Briton had been knocking on the door of the top ten from early in the weekend but, when Alonso was sidelined by an engine issue at the start of Q2, it was left to Button to carry the McLaren flag further into the session.

Rising from beneath the trapdoor into the bottom five, Button was just a handful of tenths off a place in the final session as he started his final flying lap, but a yellow flag - covering Nico Rosberg's wayward Mercedes - forced the 2009 world champion to have to back off on the run to Ste Devote. That was enough to cost Button the potential gain he needed to progress and give McLaren its first Q3 appearance of the season

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"You never know [what would have been possible in Q3], but there's always ifs and buts and could'ves," the Briton sighed, "I obviously lost a lot of time at turn one on my last lap because of the yellow flags, but I gained most of it back and [the lap] would have put us easily through to Q3. It's one of those things..."

Button reported that improved belief in his MP4-30 had been at the heart of his performance so far this weekend, and he rued the missed opportunity to push further up the grid than his eventual twelfth spot.

"I've had a lot of confidence in the car under braking, which is very important around here," he noted, "There's still a few things that we can't quite improve and our overall pace isn't there, but the feel of the car is good. I enjoyed driving it and it was a real shame that we had the yellow flag at that point because, when you get into Q3, you never quite know what is going to happen - people make mistakes as there is a lot more pressure on everyone and you can make up more ground.

"I think seventh and eighth position is something we could have fought for but whether we would have got that or not, I don't know..."

With Carlos Sainz and Romain Grosjean both taking penalties, Button should move up to the outside of row five ahead of Sunday's race, and will retain the opportunity to start on whatever tyres suit his strategy.

"We're in competition so we don't normally share our strategy with the rest [of the field]," he smiled at journalists, "But the good thing for us is that we have new supersofts where perhaps others in front of us don't. We'll see how it goes - this place is quite difficult for overtaking, but it's still a nice position to be in."