Stoffel Vandoorne earned McLaren-Honda its first race finish of the season in today’s Australian Grand Prix, coming home in 13th position.
His team-mate Fernando Alonso 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.
After a difficult winter, there are plenty of positives to take away from the opening race weekend of the year, and the whole team will be pushing to make further improvements ahead of next month’s Chinese Grand Prix.
Started 12th (due to Ricciardo’s five-place gearbox penalty)
Finished DNF – bodywork damage (50 laps)
Fastest lap 1m30.077s on lap 48 (+3.539s, 17th)
Pit-stops One: lap 16 (3.46s) [Option/Prime]
“In terms of driving, I probably had one of my very best races today. I was able to drive the car at my maximum; 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.
“It’s disappointing to see we’re not ready to fight at the front – we need to quickly make some further improvements.
Started 17th (due to Ricciardo starting from pits)
Fastest lap 1m29.440s on lap 53 (+2.902s, 15th)
Pit-stops One: lap 9 (20.635s) [Option/Back-Up]
“I had a very tricky race.
“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.
“I think I probably deserve a slice of birthday cake this evening!”