Stoffel Vandoorne: “We’ll give it our best, we want to finish on a high”

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Stoffel Vandoorne has bemoaned the lack of a ‘magic qualifying mode in the McLaren-Honda once again as strong pace in Saturday’s final practice turned into a thirteenth place qualifying position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but the Belgian is eyeing a strong finish to his rookie season.

“I have mixed feelings after today,” said Vandoorne. “Final practice was pretty good this morning and we were looking reasonably strong – we were the fourth quickest team.

“But, as we usually see going into qualifying we don’t have a magic button like the other teams to gain a little bit of extra horsepower and we lose out.”

Vandoorne, who qualified two places behind his team-mate Fernando Alonso, wasn’t surprised with his qualifying struggles but insists that he’s happy with his starting position for the final race of the year.

“We expected that it was going to be difficult for us today but it was very close and I think the potential was there to get into Q3,” admitted the Belgian.

“I experimented a little bit with the set-up and tried to go aggressive to find some more lap-time, but maybe it didn’t turn out as it should have done and we plateaued after Q1.

“Saying that, I’m reasonably happy and hopefully we’re going to have a good race tomorrow.”

The race will be McLaren’s last in partnership with engine supplier Honda, the renewed relationship having failed to emulate the first incarnation of McLaren-Honda, and Vandoorne is hoping to end the relationship on a high note.

“There’s only one more race to go and we’re all looking forward, but the whole team is treating it like any other race and there’s still an opportunity to score points,” said Vandoorne.  “We’re trying to make the most of it and hopefully we can make it a good one.

“Race pace has looked pretty decent in clear air recently, but qualifying is so important this year as overtaking is hard for us, so we’ll have to wait and see.  We know that strategy is going to be a little bit limited, so hopefully we can have a good start, a clean opening lap, and find ourselves in a strong position.

“We’ll give it our best, we want to finish on a high.”