Albert Park Circuit, Sunday March 26
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.
FERNANDO ALONSO, McLaren-Honda Driver, MCL32-03
|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)|
|Pitstops||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.”
STOFFEL VANDOORNE, McLaren-Honda Driver, MCL32-01
|Started||17th (due to Ricciardo starting from the pits)|
|Fastest lap||1m29.440s on lap 53 (+2.902s, 15th)|
|Pitstops||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!”
Gear up for the first race of the new season with the first in the series of our official race previews. It's your digital guide for every lap of every race in 2017.
Hear from McLaren-Honda drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne as they prepare for Round One.
“The start of a new season always gives us a range of feelings – great excitement to be racing again, and the sense of the unknown as we go into a formula with a brand-new set of regulations. We don’t yet know where everyone stands as testing was a proving ground for the teams more than ever before, and it’ll be interesting to see how quickly teams show their hand over the course of the weekend.
“I’m incredibly motivated for 2017 and I can’t wait to see what kind of racing this new shake-up of the sport will bring. We already know the sport is a lot more physical and the cars are more challenging to drive – from a driver’s point of view this is exactly what we were looking for in the new regulations, and I really hope this will translate to good battles on track.
“After a difficult two weeks of testing we’re prepared to face a difficult weekend in Melbourne. We’ll do our best with what we have and there’s a lot of hard work and collaboration happening within the team, but the lack of time before the first race means you have less options for big changes. The first step will be to work on reliability before we can make any assumptions or predictions about performance, and we will try to enjoy the weekend as much as we can.”
“Since my position as full-time racing driver for McLaren-Honda was confirmed back in September, it feels like the Australian Grand Prix weekend has been a long time coming. It’s a great feeling knowing that I’m about to start my full first season in Formula 1 and it’s a dream I’ve been working towards for my entire racing career.
“I’m looking forward to stepping into the MCL32 cockpit on Friday morning and I feel totally ready for the challenge ahead. I’ve prepared very well over the winter, worked a lot on my training and in particular my strength and endurance, and I’m incredibly motivated to work hard with the team to make improvements step by step. I’ll be pushing hard as always and I’m looking forward to getting back into the car.
“In terms of performance, I’m not setting myself any particular targets, other than to keep my head down, learn a lot from the team and from Fernando, and do my best. I know the guys and girls at McLaren and Honda very well, and I feel very much part of the family, so there’s no sense of nervousness about starting my first full season as a Formula 1 driver. It’s my first time in Australia so I’ll be soaking up the atmosphere, enjoying the buzz of the first race of the season, and we’ll see how the weekend unfolds from there.”
Circuit name: Albert Park
First race: 1996
The Australian Grand Prix has been a permanent fixture on the Formula One calendar since 1985. The race has had two homes during that time: Adelaide (1985-’95) and Melbourne (1996-present), where the race is staged at Albert Park.
What makes the race special?
It’s one of the sport’s more historic races. Only 10 of this year’s grands prix pre-date it on the world championship calendar and Albert Park has had a long association with F1, having staged the non-championship Australian GP in the ’50s – a race won twice by Stirling Moss.
Bet you never knew...
The 1991 Australian Grand Prix is the shortest grand prix on record. It was stopped after 14 laps (52.920km/32.886 miles) due to torrential rain, with Ayrton Senna coming home the winner.