Stoffel Vandoorne has admitted that his performances early during his rookie campaign were not good enough, and it took a while for the Belgian to come to terms with his MCL32, although he did often find himself compromised by the performance of the Honda power unit.
The McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team racer was eliminated in Q1 in seven of the opening eight races and only scored his first point during the Hungarian Grand Prix at the end of July, with Vandoorne struggling to match the pace of team-mate Fernando Alonso.
Vandoorne knew that his early season performances and results were not to the standard he knew he could perform at, but he kept his head down and worked through the problems to have a much stronger second half of the season.
“I knew in the beginning it wasn’t good enough, but I also knew that I was dealing with a lot of problems,” said Vandoorne to Motorsport.com.
“The first races were definitely not to my standards, but it’s only my first season in Formula 1 so this kind of whole relationship with the team, with my engineers, had to develop. Because we run through so many problems it was difficult to do that.
“When things started to go a little bit better – I had more track time, spent bit more time in the factory, went through the data and spent more time in the simulator – then, everything started to develop in the right way.”
McLaren and Vandoorne worked through a programme following the Spanish Grand Prix, in which he retired after a collision with Felipe Massa, to work on the issues, and he began to see the reward of the extra work, with a first Q3 appearance coming in the Monaco Grand Prix, a first top ten finish in Hungary and a pair of seventh place finishes in Singapore and Malaysia that ultimately saw him end just four points shy of Alonso in the championship.
The end of season performances saw him receive praise from McLaren Executive Director Zak Brown, with Vandoorne feeling that the work done were key, and it meant that everything began to fall in place and the results began to improve.
“That period around Monaco, but even Canada, Baku – those were key moments where we gathered a lot of information,” added Vandoorne. “Massive efforts form my side, from the team side, and everything started to fall together.”