MONACO (AP) — It shows how far McLaren’s confidence has fallen that Jenson Button’s eighth place finish at the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday was greeted almost like a win.
McLaren’s worst ever start to the season meant it had failed to score a point in the opening five races, despite boasting two former world champions in Button and Fernando Alonso.
“It’s been a positive day for us. We were hoping to score a point today, and we scored four. I certainly didn’t expect to finish eighth,” said Button, the 2009 F1 champion. “I’m really happy for the team. We’ve worked hard to get into this position.”
While those points will be a boost to flagging morale, the team is still struggling since making the transition back to Honda engines.
Two-time F1 champion Alonso failed to finish Sunday’s race because of an overheating issue, two weeks after also dropping out during the Spanish GP.
Alonso has not won a race since the Spanish GP two years ago — driving for Ferrari — while Button’s last win was also McLaren’s last, coming at the season-ending Brazilian GP in 2012.
“We need a win, but this is a great stepping stone,” Button said. “We’ve made progress every race but when you score points people notice. There are a few things we need to work on.”
Alonso has been a somewhat despondent figure this season. The Spaniard encountered some early problems in the race when he was handed a five-second penalty for nudging into the side of German driver Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India.
That penalty ended up being irrelevant as Alonso retired for the third time in five races this season, having missed the season-opening Australian GP in March as a precautionary measure as he recovered from a concussion in pre-season testing.
“It’s frustrating because we could have had both cars in the points for the first time this season,” Alonso said. “We need to keep improving the car to ensure these sorts of things don’t happen again.”
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