Circuit of the Americas, Saturday 21 October
FP3 went to plan on both sides of the garage this morning in Austin. Fernando and Stoffel completed two trouble-free runs in dry and sunny but blustery conditions, finishing the session in 13th and 14th respectively.
In qualifying, the field faced similarly windy conditions out on the circuit, but with track temperatures five degrees Celsius higher than in the morning session.
Q1 was a straightforward session for both cars – Fernando opting for one run and Stoffel two. Both cars comfortably passed through into Q2, Fernando in eighth and Stoffel in 13th. Q2 was also drama-free for both drivers, but the differences in the handling between the two cars due to new components became more apparent as the session progressed, Stoffel struggling more with the balance of his car than his teammate. He finished the session in 13th, while Fernando slipped through into Q3 in ninth place.
Fernando started Q3 with a few tweaks to the set-up, and found good track position between cars to post the eighth-fastest time. After a second run and a slightly improved time to stay P8, he eventually finished the session in ninth on the timesheets.
Fernando will ultimately start tomorrow’s race in eighth place due to [Max] Verstappen’s penalty. Stoffel will start 14th due to his own five-place grid penalty, but benefits from penalties for Verstappen, [Lance] Stroll, [Nico] Hulkenberg and [Brendon] Hartley.
FERNANDO ALONSO, McLaren Honda Driver, MCL32-05
|FP3||13th||1m36.239s (+1.761s)||15 laps|
|Q1||12th||1m35.712s (on Options)|
|Q2||12th||1m35.046s (on Options)|
|Q3||9th overall*||*Will start 8th due to penalties for VER|
“We had some concerns before coming here about how competitive we could be, but we put the car on track and immediately performed quite well, being in the top 10 in every single session, and that was a nice surprise. We also brought some updates here and they are working fine.
“The car felt great today. We had difficult conditions out there – it was very hot and windy in qualifying and the grip level was lower than we expected. In those conditions our car performs extremely well, so our lap in Q2 was good and we were able to make it into Q3, with ninth place overall.
“Tomorrow we’ll start eighth, due to Verstappen’s penalty, so I think it’s a great chance to score points.
“We know we still have a deficit on the straights compared to other teams and we’ll probably be a little exposed on the first lap because we’re in a group, but after the first lap has settled I think we could open up the gap in the high-speed section and maybe defend a little bit better.
“We’re definitely happy to race here in front of the US fans and I think they’ll see a great race tomorrow!”
STOFFEL VANDOORNE, McLaren Honda Driver, MCL32-04
|FP3||14th||1m36.599s (+2.121s)||14 laps|
|Q1||10th||1m36.286s (on Options)|
|Q2||13th overall*||1m35.641s (on Options)||*Will start 14th due to five-place PU penalty & penalties for VER, STR, HUL, HAR|
“The result is probably as much as we could have expected today, as I’ve been struggling a bit this weekend. From FP2 I haven’t really felt comfortable in the car and it was quite difficult today. FP1 was good – I had a busy aero programme with a new front wing and I finished fifth in that session. We then swapped it to the other car after that, and ever since we returned to the previous spec we’ve been on the back foot a bit and struggling with the car balance, which has continued up to qualifying.
“I haven’t really found the right balance across the corners or been able to get the car together as I’ve wanted it, but as I have a five-place penalty it made sense to give the front wing to Fernando as he has a better chance to finish in the points. With the penalty we’re not really in an ideal position, but that’s the way it is, and hopefully we can have a better day tomorrow. It’s a challenging track and a long race, and hopefully with the degradation there are some opportunities to get back some positions.
“It’s reassuring to see Fernando through to Q3 with the new front wing and it looks like it’s performing very well. For tomorrow, we need to analyse carefully how things are developing, but I think our long-run pace is probably a bit better than our short-run pace. If you look back at the whole season it’s been pretty difficult for us to overtake, but we’ll have to wait and see. The start has always been quite tricky here with the wide first corner and steep uphill section, but if we have a good start we can wrestle ourselves into a better position.
“The fans are amazing here and wherever we go for the events we do they are cheering us on – it’s really good to see and hopefully we can put on a good show for them tomorrow.”
ERIC BOULLIER, McLaren Honda Racing Director
“Today both drivers did well to maximise everything they had in their armoury for qualifying. Fernando ran a newer-spec front wing than Stoffel – since he won’t be penalised by grid penalties, unlike his team-mate – and we knew that on this track there was the potential in our package for him to get into Q3. He put in some great laps and pushed the car to the limit of what was possible, so we’re pleased he was able to get through and qualify in ninth.
“Stoffel had a more difficult session than Fernando and he and his engineers had hoped to find a better balance in the car. From FP2 onwards he wasn’t able to find the sweet spot that he found in FP1 with the updated components, but drove well under the circumstances to qualify 13th.
“Fortunately, both drivers will benefit from the penalties of others in tomorrow’s race, which has mixed up the starting grid and promises a dramatic first few laps at the very least. Stoffel will only lose one place on the grid rather than five, starting 14th, and Fernando will start eighth. Although it will be more difficult for Stoffel, we’ll focus our attention and preparation on the strategy for tomorrow’s race in an effort to maximise every opportunity for a points-scoring result at COTA for both drivers.”
YUSUKE HASEGAWA, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“The second day of the United States Grand Prix took place under Texas bright sunshine and boiling hot temperatures. Despite the tough conditions, our qualifying was rather positive for the team.
“As both drivers felt there was more room for improvement in terms of the set-up after yesterday's sessions, we focused on finding the best balance of the car in FP3.
“Thanks to the team’s hard work, Fernando managed to advance into Q3 in qualifying once again, showing a fantastic run. It was disappointing that Stoffel missed out on Q3 but I think both drivers showed decent improvement compared to yesterday’s performance.
“Our PU performance this weekend is as we expected, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow's race and hopefully scoring some points.”