McLaren still hopeful of podium finish after Kevin Magnussen impresses again

Jenson Button an early-exit casualty of Kimi Raikkonen's crash

By Pete Gill.   Last Updated: 15/03/14 11:51am

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McLaren believe they can still finish on the podium in the season-opening Australian GP after Kevin Magnussen compensated for Jenson Button's qualifying misfortune with an assured debut display.

The young Dane will line up fourth on the grid for Sunday's race - the best qualifying result delivered by a debutant since Lewis Hamilton also claimed fourth on his first appearance for McLaren at Albert Park seven years ago.

"The weather can change everything but the pace is good enough for a podium," newly-appointed team boss Eric Boullier told Sky Sports F1.

Yet Magnussen is likely to have to go it alone in McLaren's quest for a top-three finish after Jenson Button's progress towards a Q3 spot was thwarted by the yellow flags triggered by Kimi Raikkonen crash into the barriers, although he will actually start tenth courtesy of Valtteri Bottas's grid penalty.

"I think the positive thing today was that nobody's really got experience of these cars in the wet and I just tried not to make a mistake," said the rookie.

"I'll do the best I can, a podium would be amazing. But it's not easy and if it is dry we don't have the pace for that, but in the wet anything can happen.

"In tricky conditions, you have to be careful with expecting too much."

But while the unsettled Melbourne weather is making Magnussen cautious, the forecast rain is likely to offer Button's best route back to the front after being left frustrated by both the bad timing and bad positioning of Raikkonen's stricken F14 T.

"I was very happy with the quick lap I did, and I was fastest when I did it, but then it was just bad luck at the end," the Englishman lamented.

"The yellow flag was in Turn Three so I backed out and couldn't make up enough time around the rest of the lap. I can't even think about the race right now I'm so disappointed.

"I think one of the most frustrating things today was that the car was working really well, especially in the intermediate conditions in Q2."

Although some drivers were heard to complain about tyre degradation in third practice earlier on Saturday, Button suspects there will be no problems if the race is held in dry conditions.

"Tomorrow, if it's dry, I think it's a pretty straightforward race for most people with tyres," he added. "If it's wet, it makes it a little bit tricky with mileage on tyres and what you can actually do.

"I think it's going to be tricky if it's wet; dry, I don't think there are going to be too many different strategies."

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