Stoffel Vandoorne believes the McLaren F1 Team “did the best we could,” in qualifying for the Formula 1 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as the Belgian became the first driver since 2008 to be out-qualified by a team-mate at every race in the season.
Vandoorne, who will dovetail a Formula E seat in 2019 with a simulator role at Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport, could only manage 18th on the grid at the Yas Marina Circuit, three places behind Fernando Alonso, who himself will also depart F1 after the race.
By failing to out-qualify Alonso, Vandoorne matched Nelson Piquet, Jr’s 2008 record of not besting his team-mate across the season on a Saturday.
Incidentally, it was Alonso who whitewashed Piquet. Vandoorne’s run of not qualifying ahead of the two-time world champion stretches to 26 grands prix: the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix.
Despite the unwanted record, Vandoorne was feeling positive ahead of the race, the 41st of this stage of his F1 career.
“[It] was a bit better than [Friday],” he noted. “It was all about having fun and enjoying it as much as I could. I know we’ve not been in shape all season, so we did the best we could.
“We’re going to try and make the most [of the race], have a good start and opening lap, and then see what happens. I’ve had a good couple of races lately and I hope that continues and I can finish the season on a high – that’s what matters.”
New chapter awaits
In a season where McLaren has failed in developing its car and has often been at the foot of the timing screens, Vandoorne has struggled for pace and consistency.
He scored his first points since Azerbaijan in April in the Mexican Grand Prix, but has played second-fiddle to Alonso throughout the season.
It was announced after the Italian Grand Prix that Vandoorne would be dropped in favour of Lando Norris for 2019, but was offered an opportunity in FE by the HWA squad, an affiliate of Mercedes.
“These cars are still nice to drive, even though sometimes when you look at the classification it’s not always what you want to see,” he commented. “I’m looking forward to seeing the chequered flag and starting a new chapter.
“I have mixed emotions. It’s sad to leave so many people I’ve been working very closely with, but I’m also quite excited for the future.”