October 1, 2016 / 4:55 PM / 3 years ago

Motor racing-Button back in top 10 for 300th race start

SEPANG, Malaysia, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Jenson Button put McLaren back in the top 10 on Saturday after qualifying for the 300th Formula One race of his career at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The 2009 world champion was ninth fastest, making it through to the final part of the hour-long session for only the fourth time this year with a lap that he rated as one of his best of the season.

“It was definitely up there. Spa was probably the best of the season,” said the Briton, whose Honda-powered former champions have made steady progress after a bruising 2015 season.

“To be fair my Q3 (third qualifying phase) lap was probably better than my Q2 lap,” added the 36-year-old, who took the first podium finish of his F1 career at the same circuit in 2004.

“I was wrestling the car a lot more and the balance wasn’t there so it was probably actually a better lap considering I didn’t have the balance I wanted.”

Button, who had ended the second phase of qualifying in eighth position, started last month’s Belgian Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in ninth place.

The Briton, who is making way for Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne at the end of the season, had celebrated his race milestone ‘down the pub’ on Friday.

McLaren decked out their hospitality unit to look like a traditional British pub complete with ‘Dog and Button’ sign, dart board, bar, stools and pictures of the driver’s career highlights on the walls.

Track rivals, including former team-mate and triple champion Lewis Hamilton, current McLaren partner Fernando Alonso and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, dropped by on Friday to congratulate him.

The drinks on offer included ‘Ol’ Brawny’ beer — a reference to Button’s championship with Brawn GP — ‘Somerset Scrumper’ or ‘300’ with traditional pub snacks like pork scratchings and salted peanuts.

“You don’t have parties in pubs, you just hang out,” Button told reporters on Saturday when jokingly asked how the party had gone. “But, no, fantastic.

“The guys did a good job of making this look absolutely disgusting, which is what a traditional English pub looks like. So, yeah, it’s good. Had a really nice time.” (Editing by Alan Baldwin)

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