Formula 1

“We are very, very closely matched” – Vandoorne on Alonso battle

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Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Stoffel Vandoorne has warned against using statistics as the only barometer when comparing him to his McLaren F1 Team colleague Fernando Alonso.

After 25 races together over one-and-a-half seasons, Vandoorne has only managed to out-qualify Alonso on three occasions – all in 2017 – and only finished ahead of the two-time world champion in two races when both drivers are classified finishers. Additionally, Vandoorne has so far failed to close the average lap time deficit between the two in 2018; the Belgian stands 0.349 seconds shy of Alonso after six rounds, compared to 0.319 seconds over the whole of last season – Vandoorne’s first full year in Formula 1.

However, Vandoorne has qualified directly behind the Spaniard in Australia, Bahrain and China in 2018. Speaking to the press before this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, the 2015 GP2 Series champion said that the stats fail to show the whole picture between the pair and that he has made notable progression from last year’s showing.

“No, I don’t think it tells the whole story,” Vandoorne said.

“Obviously, the statistics tell maybe that, but I think in reality we are very, very closely matched. In terms of where I was last year, I feel I’m in a much better position this year.”

He pointed the finger at luck evading him “on some occasions” but did admit that at times he has been outclassed by his vastly more experience team-mate, which he said is to be expected.

“I think things have not always gone my way,” he added. “We lacked a little bit of luck on some occasions.

“And some occasions Fernando was just the quicker one as well, which is normal.”

Looking ahead to Canada, a track where McLaren may see an upturn in performance compared to recent years after making the switch from a Honda works deal to Renault Sport customer power units at the end of 2017, Vandoorne said that the team are “moving forward” after a fluctuating start to the year.

“I think we are going in the right direction,” the 26-year-old mused. “The team is moving forward.

“We’ve obviously had a tough start to the season. There were a lot of expectations on our team and we’ve not managed to perform as expected.

“So we keep improving race after race and hopefully this weekend we can show we made another step forward.”

Alonso expressed his disappointment over McLaren’s Monaco performance, suggesting that the team should have been challenging at the front of the field. Daniel Ricciardo took victory for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing – with a customer Renault power unit – whilst Alonso was forced into retirement with gearbox failure.

Vandoorne also failed to score after finishing in fourteenth, one lap down on Ricciardo, meaning that he still sits 24 points behind Alonso’s tally of 32 in the Drivers’ Championship. Encouragingly for Vandoorne, he is just six points shy of beating his season total from last year.

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DTM, Formula 1 writer and deputy editor for The Checkered Flag. Autosport Academy member and freelance voice over artist.
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