Stoffel Vandoorne has revealed that his first United States Grand Prix weekend has been far from comfortable, with the Belgian being eliminated from Qualifying on Saturday in Q2, while a five-place grid penalty means he will start fourteenth on the grid on Sunday.
The McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team racer tested with a new front wing on Friday but handed it over to team-mate Fernando Alonso for the rest of the weekend due to the knowledge that he would be starting down the field thanks to his penalty, and since losing the wing he has felt on the back foot on track.
“The result is probably as much as we could have expected today, as I’ve been struggling a bit this weekend,” said Vandoorne. “From FP2 I haven’t really felt comfortable in the car and it was quite difficult today.
“FP1 was good – I had a busy aero programme with a new front wing and I finished fifth in that session. We then swapped it to the other car after that, and ever since we returned to the previous spec we’ve been on the back foot a bit and struggling with the car balance, which has continued up to qualifying.
“I haven’t really found the right balance across the corners or been able to get the car together as I’ve wanted it, but as I have a five-place penalty it made sense to give the front wing to Fernando as he has a better chance to finish in the points.”
Vandoorne felt reassured that giving the front wing to his team-mate saw Alonso qualify inside the top ten, but from fourteenth on the grid, the Belgian is looking to make progress, although he knows this will be tricky particularly with the straight-line speed deficit McLaren has compared to their rivals around them.
“With the penalty we’re not really in an ideal position, but that’s the way it is, and hopefully we can have a better day tomorrow,” said Vandoorne. “It’s a challenging track and a long race, and hopefully with the degradation there are some opportunities to get back some positions.
“It’s reassuring to see Fernando through to Q3 with the new front wing and it looks like it’s performing very well. For tomorrow, we need to analyse carefully how things are developing, but I think our long-run pace is probably a bit better than our short-run pace.
“If you look back at the whole season it’s been pretty difficult for us to overtake, but we’ll have to wait and see. The start has always been quite tricky here with the wide first corner and steep uphill section, but if we have a good start we can wrestle ourselves into a better position.“