By Tatiana Ramil
SAO PAULO, Nov 23 (Reuters) - McLaren looked to the skies for help after Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying left them ever closer to ending the Formula One season on a historic low.
The chance of rain playing havoc with the form book in Sunday's race at Interlagos seemed the former world champions's best hope if they are not to slump to their worst showing over the course of a year since 1966.
They got little help from the fickle elements on Saturday, however.
Jenson Button, the 2009 champion who won in Brazil last year and will be starting his 247th race on Sunday, will start 15th while Mexican team mate Sergio Perez crashed heavily in a wet qualifying session but was 14th fastest.
Between them, neither has managed higher than fifth place on race day all season.
"I just tried to risk everything I could and it just ended up badly," said Perez, who is preparing for his last race with the team and has now outqualified Button 10-9 this season, of his afternoon.
The last time McLaren went a whole season without one of their drivers standing on the podium was 1980 but they have managed to take at least one top four placing every year since the team's debut in 1966.
"Normally we are here with a competitive car and the last thing you want is rain," team principal Martin Whitmarsh mused before qualifying where the final phase was delayed for 45 minutes because of rain and standing water.
"We've seen that so many times at championship-critical points where I really don't want the uncertainty of a wet race and you get it. Tomorrow, knowing our luck, it will be dry," added the Briton.
McLaren started the season with a changed line-up, with Perez drafted in to replace Lewis Hamilton, and every expectation of fighting for wins and championships after ending 2012 with the fastest car.
While rivals opted for evolution rather than revolution, McLaren were bolder with their 2013 car and paid the price when it soon became apparent that they had lost their way and were no longer competitive.
Hamilton, the 2008 champion who had joined Mercedes fully expecting a hard season ahead, won in Hungary in July for his new team while McLaren struggled to keep ahead of the likes of Force India.
Button was fifth in China in April, as was Perez in India in October.
"The last few races we were not in the same race as Red Bull, clearly, but we've been racing with Ferrari and Mercedes and Lotus," said Whitmarsh.
"So we're a little bit closer but we'd need some good fortune, some great driving to get up there on the podium but you don't give up...I think we need something unexpected to happen to really be in contention.
"Maybe something will go right this year. There's only one race to go but we'll keep fighting." (Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Tony Jimenez)
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- Jenson Button
- Sergio Perez