By Alan Baldwin
MONZA, Italy (Reuters) - McLaren's engine partners Honda faced a media battering on Saturday after the team showed no signs of improvement in Italian Grand Prix qualifying and internal strains rose to the surface.
Honda's chief officer of motorsport Yasuhisa Arai, who arrived at the track only on Saturday, was subjected to a barrage of questions at a post-qualifying media briefing in the McLaren hospitality.
Still smiling as reporters asked whether he had considered resigning, was embarrassed by Honda's poor performance and had apologized to the team's world champion drivers, the Japanese shook his head.
"We do many efforts to get more horsepower and good control for both drivers," he said. "This circuit is very difficult for our power unit.
"I always talk with both drivers," said Arai, adding: "I don't answer" when pressed again on whether he had apologized to them.
Spaniard Fernando Alonso qualified 17th, but will start 16th due to penalties to others, and made clear that the under-performing power unit was the main problem.
"It's a track with six corners...on the GPS we lose two or three tenths in those six corners," the Spaniard told television reporters.
"The rest of the three seconds (deficit) we lose on the straights. We are on full throttle with the steering wheel straight."
Team mate Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, qualified 16th but will start 15th.
Alonso said the grid position ultimately made little difference in the current circumstances to a team that ranks as the sport's second most successful in history but is currently languishing in ninth place out of 10 in the constructors' standings.
"If you overtake cars at the start, or you start in front of them because of penalties, they will pass you on lap one so it's even more frustrating," he said.
"Nothing has changed. We will try to do our race, to learn things on the car and finish as high up as possible. It's not the best situation, but unfortunately it is the way it is at the moment because we are not competitive at all."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)