Fernando Alonso believes McLaren has broken through a significant barrier after making Q3 for the first time since rejoining Honda for the 2015 Formula 1 season.
The Spaniard qualified 10th on home soil at Barcelona on Saturday, making it into Q3 by 0.011s ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg at the end of Q2.
When asked if the result felt like a breakthrough, Alonso said: “I think so. It’s something that we probably deserved. I’ve been watching Q3 on TV for too long now and it’s good to be part of the show. It’s a fantastic feeling, the first time in Q3 and with no big incidents happening [to other cars] it’s good news for us.
“It’s a barrier that you need to go through one day. It’s the normality that we’re trying to find. It’s something that we probably deserved a couple of races ago but we didn’t maximize the potential there or we didn’t capitalize in the moment.”
Alonso urged caution though, pointing out that McLaren still had to become a regular top-10 contender and close the significant gap to the front that remains.
“Let’s enjoy this first step but I’m immediately wanting to think about how to score points,” he said. “We are progressing well and moving in the right direction, and all the updates on the car keep making us more competitive.
“We need to be realistic, there is a long way to go for us and we’re far from pole position. It’s only one step. We need to keep our feet on the ground, but we are definitely very happy because this shows how we are progressing.”
Teammate Jenson Button, who qualified 12th, echoed Alonso’s thoughts.
“It’s good for the team,” he said. “All in all it’s not exactly where we want to be [10th], but good job. It’s quite sad that we’re excited by Q3 but we are. It’s been a long time coming. I don’t think this is a great circuit for us so hopefully this is every race now that we’re fighting for Q3.
“It’s been a tough weekend for me, but in the end to be 1.5 tenths off Fernando is the best it’s been all weekend so it’s not too bad.”