Suzuka Circuit, Saturday 7 October
Despite qualifying 11th, Stoffel Vandoorne will start tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix from ninth position – taking advantage of two drivers ahead of him who earned grid penalties.
It means the young Belgian will get to have his cake and eat it, starting inside the top 10, but with the benefit of a choice of tyres as he didn’t make it into the top-10 Q3 shootout.
On the flip side, Fernando Alonso, who qualified 10th, will start 20th as his mechanics were forced to break last night’s curfew and fit a host of new PU components, a necessity that earned him a 35-place grid penalty.
Qualifying 11th and starting ninth; qualifying 10th and starting 20th, we’ll do our utmost to ensure both drivers move forward in the race.
FERNANDO ALONSO, McLaren Honda Driver, MCL32-02
|FP3||8th||1m30.424s (+1.369s)||13 laps|
|Q1||12th||1m30.525s (on Options)|
|Q2||10th||1m29.829s (on Options)|
|Q3||10th overall*||1m30.687s (on Options)||*will start 20th due to a 35-place PU grid penalty|
“Knowing that we’d be starting last after changing the engine last night, meant qualifying wasn’t too important for us. Still, despite the penalty, we wanted to have a normal qualifying session and push; we have so many fans here – so many Honda supporters – and I think we succeeded and did a decent job.
“Of course, the race will be much different, starting from the back it’ll be quite difficult to gain any advantage, but we’ll try to do the best we can to close up to the top 10.
“Points would have been a difficult target even on a normal weekend, but since we’re starting last, on a track with so many high-speed corners where you can’t easily follow the cars in front, we’ll need a lot of action in front of us if we want to make up some positions.”
STOFFEL VANDOORNE, McLaren Honda Driver, MCL32-03
|FP3||12th||1m30.770s (+1.715s)||18 laps|
|Q1||13th||1m30.654s (on Options)|
|Q2||11th overall*||1m29.778s (on Options)||* will start ninth due to grid penalties for Fernando and Raikkonen|
“That was actually a pretty good session for me. Not getting through into Q3 isn’t actually that bad because it means I can start the race on a new tyre tomorrow. Starting from ninth is pretty decent, and, on a new tyre, it should make for a good day.
“The limited running we’ve had so far this weekend has been the same for everyone, but we’re usually pretty strong at working out what the tyres are going to do, how long they’re going to last, and how to manage them efficiently. We’ll definitely be looking to benefit from that tomorrow.
“It still looks quite hard to decide between a one- and two-stop strategy, so we’ll also try to use that to our advantage. We’re not in a bad place – we can definitely race from this position.”
ERIC BOULLIER, McLaren Honda Racing Director
“Once again, it’s encouraging to see both drivers fighting for position on the fringes of the top 10 – it shows the progress we’ve made this year to be in the thick of it. It’s also gratifying to see how closely matched our drivers are – Fernando and Stoffel were split by just 0.029s at the end of Q2, so it’s pretty evident that neither is leaving much out there on track.
“By lining up ninth, but with the benefit of choosing his starting tyre for the race, Stoffel is perfectly placed for an advantageous strategy tomorrow. He’s driven extremely well all weekend, and this is a solid underlining of his pace.
“With a 35-place grid penalty, Fernando was always limited by what he could ultimately achieve in qualifying. But 10th position was a nice reward for us all. He’ll be starting at the back tomorrow, but he’s famously done that before at Suzuka and stunned everyone with his pace.
“At this place, you wouldn’t rule out something similar happening tomorrow - anything can happen around here.”
YUSUKE HASEGAWA, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“Thankfully the heavy showers we had yesterday stopped overnight, and we had drying, almost sunny, conditions throughout today.
“Both drivers did a good job today in qualifying, and Fernando succeeded to go through to Q3 while Stoffel secured P11 just missing out on Q3.
“As for Fernando, we detected hydraulic issue on his PU yesterday after the session, and we decided to change his PU overnight. It is disappointing that we’ll now start our home grand prix from the back of the grid due to the penalties incurred for the change.
"However, the set-up of both cars has gone well, and I am hopeful for a good performance tomorrow. Furthermore, Stoffel has a strong history around this track, winning last year in the Japanese Super Formula series, and I’m sure Fernando will show his usual determination and fight his way through the pack.
“We will do our best job tomorrow for all of our fantastic fans, and hopefully we can reward their support with a nice haul of points!”