Eric Boullier, Racing Director at McLaren F1 Team, says there is more performance in the McLaren car – and that they could have been higher on the grid had they “unlocked” it.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne qualified eleventh and twelfth respectively, Alonso missing the third qualifying session by just fifteen-hundredths of a second. Though disappointing this is still a marked increase on last year’s qualifying, when the team finished thirteenth and sixteenth – Vandoorne failing to make it out of the first qualifying session.
Speaking on qualifying Boullier commented that, whilst both Alonso and Vandoorne did well on Saturday, the data shows there was top ten potential in the car.
“Today was a bit of a mixed bag for us,” said Boullier. “We had a solid P3 session where both drivers coped admirably in the ever-changing conditions and continued to give us valuable feedback as the track evolved.
“Come qualifying, the track was drying out further although clouds were once again forming, making track conditions difficult to read. Fernando and Stoffel put in strong performances to ensure our comfortable progression through Q1.
“Q2 was already proof of what we expected from winter testing – just how close the midfield pack is in 2018 – and we knew it would be a challenge. Both drivers were affected by traffic on a busy track, but also weren’t able to get the most out of the car today. We know from our analysis that there is more performance to be unlocked, and there was potential to be higher up on the starting grid tomorrow.
“On one hand, we know there’s more to come from our package that we couldn’t maximise today, and in some ways we were hoping for more. However, on the other hand, we’re encouraged by how far we’ve already come over the winter period.”
Boullier hopes that Alonso and Vandoorne can make gains on Sunday and bring home some points for the Woking-based team.
“Now, the important thing is that we extract everything we have in tomorrow’s race, where our pace over long runs is what matters most,” said Boullier.
“If conditions are dry, we have the benefit of free tyre choice, and we’ll use that to our advantage as much as possible on Sunday afternoon.”
McLaren’s two drivers will start one position forwards of where they qualified thanks to a five-place grid penalty given to Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport‘s Valtteri Bottas, who had to replace a gearbox following a monster shunt in the third qualifying session.