Formula One: Rock-bottom McLaren vow to 'climb mountain'

MELBOURNE - British Formula One giants McLaren face the indignity of both their cars starting from the back row of the race grid in the Australian Grand Prix after a horror qualifying session Saturday.

Three-time race winner Jenson Button finished 17th, one spot ahead of Danish team-mate Kevin Magnussen, in McLaren's lowest positions in qualifying since Malaysia 2010.

With the non-participation of the troubled new Manor team's two cars, McLaren will have the whole field starting ahead of them, reflecting their chaotic start to the new season after troubled pre-season testing.

For a proud team that has won 182 races, 12 drivers' championships and eight constructors' championships, it doesn't sit well with McLaren.

"McLaren exists to win," McLaren-Honda racing director Eric Boullier said. "I need hardly say that everyone at McLaren-Honda is enormously dissatisfied with today's qualifying result.

"We've got a mountain to climb, but all I can say is: climb that mountain we certainly will." Button, who won around the Albert Park street circuit in 2009, 2010, 2012, said the performance did not come as a surprise after a trouble-plagued winter testing.

"This level of performance wasn't a surprise for us. We knew from winter testing that the pace wasn't there, so we knew we weren't going to be competitive here," Button said.

"It's going to be a really difficult race for us - we haven't done a race distance yet, and my longest run is 12 laps - but we want to do the best we can because there's so much learning to be had.

"It'll be a tough day, but we'll be doing our absolute best." It has been a demoralising start to the new season for McLaren, who are without two-time world champion Fernando Alonso for the season-opener after he suffered concussion in a pre-season crash in Spain.

McLaren finished behind the field in terms of kilometres and laps covered in pre-season testing following the team's switch to Honda power units for this season.

Button, who joined McLaren in 2010, said they were a year behind in development of the complicated system compared to the Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault engines.