POOR START IN MELBOURNE: Jenson Button will start the 2015 Australian GP in 17th place. Image: AP / Ross Land
MELBOURNE, Australia - McLaren's worst fears were realised on Saturday (March 13) when it suffered a humiliating start to the Formula 1 season with a woeful 2015 Australian GP qualifying session that left both cars at the back of the grid.
The sport's second most successful team in terms of race wins, McLaren endured one of its worst qualifying performances in decades and at the start of a new partnership with Honda.
Former champion Jenson Button, a three-time winner in Australia, will start 17th with team mate Kevin Magnussen alongside.
'WE'RE NOT FIGHTING FOR POINTS'
Magnussen, a stand-in for Fernando Alonso, qualified last in a field of 18 after Manor Marussia failed to get its cars running.
Button said: "It's going to be a really difficult race for us. We haven't done a race distance yet. We want to do the best we can.
"We're not going to be fighting for points."
McLaren always knew 2015 would be difficult as it begin rebuilding for the future but few expected them to be the slowest team on the grid.
The return of Honda, who powered the team in some of its greatest years with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, may take McLaren back to the summit but that still looks a long way off.
POOR FORM TO CONTINUE?
Even with the dominant Mercedes engine in 2014, McLaren still failed to win a race.
Button said: "It was never going to be super-competitive here, it wasn't even going to be competitive but there's a good feeling about the car, even though we are so far off.
"The basic car is there and we've just got to build on it now...obviously there's a lot more to come."
The team suffered an unexpected setback in testing when Alonso, the double world champion signed from Ferrari, was told to miss Australia after a heavy crash.
He was replaced by Magnussen, who raced for McLaren in 2014 and finished second in Australia after local hero Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified for Red Bull.
'TRY TO FINISH THE RACE'
Magnussen was not expecting any repeat this time, with McLaren struggling in testing to get laps under their belt due to persistent troubles with the new V6 turbo hybrid power unit.
Magnussen said: "I don't think we expected anything else. It's tough. It's very new. The main priority is to finish the race and try and learn from the race.
"It's a learning process right now, we've just got to be patient."
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2015 Australian GP weekend!