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McLaren pair raring to go as new Honda era bears fruit

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McLaren Formula One drivers Fernando Alonso of Spain and Jenson Button (L) of Britain shake hands as they attend a monument unveiling event in Suzuka, Japan, September 24, 2015, ahead of Sunday's Japanese F1 Grand Prix. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/Files
McLaren Formula One drivers Fernando Alonso of Spain and Jenson Button (L) of Britain shake hands as they attend a monument unveiling event in Suzuka, Japan, September 24, 2015, ahead of Sunday's Japanese F1 Grand Prix. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/Files

By Abhishek Takle

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button are looking forward to having a race on their hands in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, after their best qualifying result since the team renewed its engine partnership with Honda last year.

Alonso and Button, who both had their first Formula One wins in Hungary, qualified seventh and eighth in changing conditions on Saturday - the first time both McLaren drivers had made the top 10 shootout since the 2014 season-ending Abu Dhabi race.

“We seem a little bit more competitive in wet conditions but I think this weekend also we are competitive in dry conditions,” Spanish double world champion Alonso told reporters.

“Tomorrow, whatever the conditions are, I think we should be confident that we can score points and, hopefully, as last year, we can have both cars in the points and help the team in that respect.”

McLaren have not won a race since the 2012 season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix and have struggled for speed and reliability since joining forces with the Japanese engine manufacturer at the start of 2015.

But Honda, who supplied McLaren with engines in a dominant partnership in the late 1980s and early '90s, has made significant progress with its 1.6 litre turbo-hybrid power unit this season which has allowed the team to move up the grid.

Sunday’s race at the tight, twisting Hungaroring, which masks their engine’s weaknesses, offers the former world champions one of their best chances of the season to get a strong result, even if a win or podium is still out of reach.

“I think the top five cars are going to disappear, wet or dry,” said Britain's 2009 world champion Button.

“If it’s wet it always makes it really exciting and you’ve got to really think on your feet...

“But I think in the dry, as Fernando said, our pace has been reasonably good over the long runs as well, so it’s going to be a good fight I think where we are on the grid.”

(Editing by Ken Ferris)


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