Eric Boullier felt Stoffel Vandoorne maximised the potential of the MCL32 during the Singapore Grand Prix, with the Belgian only losing sixth place thanks to a slow pit stop caused by a front jack issue.
The Racing Director of the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team was full of praise for the Belgian, who has found his feet within the team in recent races after a tough start to his first full season, with Vandoorne able to make the most of his race regardless of what compound of tyre he was on.
“When the heavens opened shortly before the start, we knew this was going to be an exciting and unpredictable Singapore Grand Prix – and so it proved to be,” said Boullier.
“Through it all, Stoffel finished a magnificent seventh, battling throughout and really maximising the potential of our car whether he was running Full Wets, Intermediates or Option tyres.
“We think sixth was within our reach had he not been delayed at his second pit-stop. The front jack failed to engage properly, which meant the left-front wheel wasn’t lifted off the floor properly, which resulted in a slow removal. That delay meant he wasn’t able to close on [Jolyon] Palmer despite a spirited chase.”
Whereas Vandoorne was securing a much needed points finish, team-mate Fernando Alonso was an early retirement from the race, having been caught up in the aftermath of the first lap crash between Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen, and although he was able to keep going initially behind the safety car, when the race restarted it was obviously early on that it was impossible for him to continue.
“It was a phenomenally disappointing day for Fernando,” said Boullier. “He’d made a brilliant start in the wet conditions but was harpooned by Verstappen’s car at Turn One. It was a significant impact, one which tore open the bodywork, damaged the floor and, ultimately, holed an exhaust.
“We were able to assess the initial damage as he passed through the pits behind the Safety Car, but, at racing speeds, it became immediately apparent that he couldn’t continue. We had to retire the car shortly afterwards.”
Boullier feels there the positives from Singapore has reminded them that when circumstances allow, they can fight at the sharp end of the grid, and although the Malaysian Grand Prix will likely be a more challenging race weekend, confidence has risen thanks to the performance at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
“Despite failing to get one car to the finish through no fault of our own, this was a positive day for the whole team,” said Boullier.
“We may not be as competitive around the fast sweeps of Malaysia, but this result will serve to remind us all that we can race hard at the front whenever the slightest opportunity presents itself.”