Stoffel Vandoorne will start the Bahrain Grand Prix from fourteenth on the grid on Sunday, but the Belgian admitted he expected a bit more performance from his MCL33 than what actually came.
The McLaren F1 Team racer will join team-mate Fernando Alonso on the seventh row of the grid after both missed out on the top ten, with Vandoorne more than half a second down on a time that would have been good enough to knock Esteban Ocon out of Q3.
“We all expected a bit more from today,” said Vandoorne. “We had good sessions yesterday in FP1 and FP2 and I was feeling very confident in the car. We know we’re in this very compact midfield where every tenth is very important for us and makes all the difference, so we need to keep improving.
“With a step forward today we could have fought for Q3, but we knew it was going to be tough. In these harsh conditions things can change quickly and it’s really unfortunate we couldn’t get there.”
Despite the struggles in Qualifying, Vandoorne has hope that McLaren can move forward in the race, particularly as the Belgian felt more comfortable on the long runs on Friday.
“We didn’t make the step forward that we needed to today, so we need to keep pushing and there’s a lot of work to do,” said Vandoorne. “But, I think we can race tomorrow.
“We had good pace during the long runs on Friday and the balance was pretty good. “
Vandoorne feels McLaren can also benefit from having a free choice of starting tyre, which will open up the strategy options, and he also hopes to be able to be in a position to benefit from any mistakes from any of his rivals.
“This is a circuit where strategy and tyres are quite complex, so there are some possibilities,” said the Belgian, who made his Formula 1 debut in Bahrain in 2016. “We need to be opportunistic and, like in Melbourne, try to benefit from other people’s mistakes.
“We have a free choice of tyres tomorrow, and I think around here it could be quite interesting. Tyre degradation has been key at this track in the past and there are a number of different strategies possible. We’ve seen some good races here and that’s what we’re going after tomorrow.”