Button ecstatic and realistic after third place slot

Sat Jul 2, 2016 2:24pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

SPIELBERG, Austria (Reuters) - Jenson Button declared himself ecstatic after making an unexpected return to the giddy heights of the Formula One starting grid in Austria on Saturday, but he was also realistic.

The 2009 world champion recognized his third place in qualifying for what it really was -- a nice bonus but, with rain a big factor, not an accurate reflection of McLaren's pace.

His comment to a reporter, who enquired whether a podium finish might be possible on Sunday, was straight and to the point: "Have you watched any of the other races this year? Probably not."

Former champions McLaren have not won a race since 2012, when Button also made his last appearance on the front row.

Sunday's qualifying was the Briton's best since 2014 and more recently he has languished mid-grid with the hope of scrabbling for a few meager points.

That may still be the case at the Red Bull Ring. As Button pointed out, he has the championship-leading Mercedes, two Ferraris and both Red Bulls behind him at a track that rewards engine power.

"When I crossed the line and the guys said I was P5 (fifth) I was obviously ecstatic," he said, referring to his position before penalties applied to Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel moved him up.

"Fair enough, we got lucky to be P3. But sometimes you've got to have luck on your side, which I don't feel I have had in qualifying this year.   Continued...

Formula One - Grand Prix of Austria - Spielberg, Austria - 2/7/16 -  McLaren Honda Formula One driver Jenson Button of Britain drives during the qualifying session. REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler