Stoffel Vandoorne knew he was going to a big hit of grid penalties for the Mexican Grand Prix before Qualifying on Saturday, but he managed to advance through to Q2 despite not focusing on outright speed during the session.
The McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team racer has a thirty-five place grid penalty for unscheduled engine changes this weekend, but despite a tricky start to the weekend at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, he continues to feel more comfortable behind the wheel of his MCL32.
With the Belgian having spent time fine-tuning his race craft and with McLaren looking competitive in Mexico, hopes are high that Vandoorne can move forward on Sunday.
“We’re taking penalties this weekend so our focus today was preparing for the race and definitely not on qualifying,” said Vandoorne. “Even in Q1 I was running on high fuel to prepare for the race and fine-tune the balance.
“After the struggles I had with the engine yesterday in FP1 and FP2 – which made it a very difficult and complicated day – today I felt a lot more comfortable in the car from the first moment of FP3, and actually our package is getting stronger and looks reasonably competitive here.
“Today was a lot more positive for me and a big step forward, and I feel like we’re in a decent shape for the race tomorrow. We’ll be starting from the back so it will be tough, and where we will finish is hard to say. Overtaking in a straight line will be difficult for us so we’ll have to be aggressive, thoughtful and ambitious in the way we drive, and hopefully we can have a strong race.
“Qualifying was never really a priority for us today so I’m looking forward to the race.”