Fernando Alonso: Being able to keep the car in the top 10...

Fernando Alonso: Being able to keep the car in the top 10 was a little surprising

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso / Source: McLaren

Stoffel Vandoorne earned McLaren-Honda its first race finish of the season in the Australian Grand Prix. The Belgian finished 13th, while his teammate Fernando Alonso could not reach the chequered flag. The Spanish driver looked set for an unexpected points finish, running strongly in 10th position before bodywork damage dropped him out of the top 10 and caused him to retire the car in the pits.

McLaren stated there were a lot of positives from the opening race of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship

“In terms of driving, I probably had one of my very best races today. I was able to drive the car at my maximum”, Fernando Alonso commented. “I felt confident, and I enjoyed driving the car throughout the race – I was able to push. With such little degradation from this year’s tyres, it’s enjoyable to be in the cockpit again. However, that enjoyment is less for us, because we are not fighting at the front.”

“Our car is obviously not very competitive at the moment, so being able to keep the car in the points was a little surprising. At the end of the race, I had a problem that prevented me from finishing the race.”

Stoffel Vandoorne
Stoffel Vandoorne

“I had a very tricky race”, Vandoorne admitted. “At my pit-stop, I had to perform a full power-cycle of the car to reset it, which cost me time and position, and I also lost the dashboard readout for a while. Throughout the race, I was very busy on the steering wheel, making a lot of changes to the car’s settings while trying to bring the car home.”

“Nevertheless, after the tests in Barcelona, we didn’t really expect to finish the race, so this is a little bit of a milestone today. We definitely don’t have enough pace to compete with the cars ahead of us, so we need an extra big push for China, in a fortnight’s time. We’ve had decent mileage all weekend; Fernando showed well in qualifying; and we finished the race, so there are positives to take away from this first weekend of the season.”

Eric Boullier
Eric Boullier
Racing Director Eric Boullier added:

“The 2017 Australian Grand Prix won’t be remembered as one of McLaren-Honda’s finest hours, and indeed there are precious few reasons for us to be cheerful. However, I want to pay tribute to our drivers, both of whom performed superbly, albeit in very different ways.”

“The car of Fernando Alonso suffered a damaged left-front brake duct early on, but he nonetheless drove a prodigiously impressive race, wringing every last tenth-of-a-second from a compromised car on every lap, and at one stage a points finish looked to be a possibility for him.”

“Tantalisingly close to the end of the race, however, the damage on his car developed into a terminal problem, the floor having become irreparably broken, forcing him to drive back to the garage and retire. That was a bitterly disappointing end to a wonderfully spirited drive, but I guess that’s racing.”

“Stoffel had a dreadfully frustrating race, losing his dashboard function early – causing him to have to count his gearchanges both up and down in the absence of the usual on-dash digital readout – which problem we were able to address by bringing him in for an unscheduled system reboot.”

“He soldiered on to the finish – and, although his race was a difficult and unsatisfying one, the fact that he went the distance was a consolation of sorts. Indeed, bearing in mind that he’s now driven the grand total of just two grands prix, I’d describe his performance as dogged and diligent: a very difficult job very well done.”

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Head of F1 project and Executive Chief Engineer:

“We knew coming into the weekend that this race wouldn’t be an easy one. But, despite a number of issues, I’m still happy with the progress we’ve made over the last weeks.Still, we take away some encouragement. Both of our drivers performed well in what was a challenging season-opening race, with retirements up and down the grid.”