Baku City Circuit, Sunday 29 April
Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne threaded their way through the carnage on the streets of Baku to claim seventh and ninth places respectively in today’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
For both drivers, this afternoon really was a case of making something from nothing.
Fernando drove back into contention after being forced to pit at the end of lap one to change two punctured tyres, caused by banging wheels with another car along one of the straights.
Stoffel, too, looked to have dropped out of contention, having to make an unplanned second stop on lap 25 after flat-spotting a tyre at Turn Three. However, he made an inspired late-race call to fit fresher rubber while behind the Safety Car, allowing him to quickly vault the cars ahead of him and claim another points finish.
Due to another steadfast performance from the team, McLaren remains fourth in the constructors’ championship, with 36 points.
FERNANDO ALONSO, McLaren Driver
|Fastest lap||1m47.449s on lap 32 (+2.300s, 12th)|
|Pit-stops||Two: lap 1 (no time – two punctures and nosebox change) and lap 40 (3.1s)||[Prime/Back-Up/Option]|
“Today’s race was very complicated – right from the very first lap.
“The first lap in the midfield is the same old story; people preferring to crash into other cars rather than lifting off. But it’s also up to us to qualify further towards the front, where it’s usually a little bit cleaner.
“On that opening lap, my car was heavily damaged – I had two punctures, with one flat tyre damaging the floor. I also had a damaged front and rear wing.
“I really thought that would be the end of my race, but after the team fitted a new front wing and fresh tyres, I went back out, fought all race long, and actually found the car to be quite competitive.
“We were able to overtake a Sauber and a Renault thanks to the Safety Car, which enabled us to recover a couple of positions. It was one of the best races in years for us, I reckon.”
STOFFEL VANDOORNE, McLaren Driver
|Fastest lap||1m47.666s on lap 50 (+2.517s, 13th)|
|Pit-stops||Four: laps 17 (3.2s), 25 (3.1s), 39 (2.9s) and 46 (3.2)||[Prime/Back-Up/Option/Option/Option]|
“What a mad afternoon! This race is usually a bit crazy, and we saw that again today.
“By mid-race, I think I was last, and there was zero chance of making something work. But then the Safety Car came out: I made a good call at the end to put some hot rubber on when everyone else seemed to be struggling with tyre warm-up. Being at the back at that point wasn’t necessarily a bad thing – at the restart, I felt really confident, managed to overtake a few cars, and got myself back in the points.
“We still lack straight-line speed, which meant it was a struggle to attack or defend in the race, so there’s still some work to do there. Nevertheless, I’m pleased that we got some more points this weekend.”
ERIC BOULLIER, McLaren Racing Director
“To bring both cars home in the points today was a pleasant surprise after a relatively tricky weekend in Baku. It’s really worth crediting the teamwork of our strategists, engineers and mechanics, who ensured we were well positioned to benefit from what’s always a tough and demanding race.
“But I also want to highlight the efforts of our drivers today: after a hefty knock on the first lap, which was so heavy it punctured two right-hand tyres and broke part of the floor, Fernando drove with relentless focus and intensity, fighting until the last to bring his car home seventh.
“Stoffel didn’t feel particularly comfortable on the Option tyre, and cannily realised that he, along with those drivers immediately around him, was struggling with warm-up issues while behind the late-race Safety Car. It was a good team decision to box for a fresher, hotter set of Options, a gamble that enabled him to quickly pass a cluster of cars ahead and earn another points finish.
“It’s races like these where you earn your mettle, and, while we still have work to do to close the gap to the front, it’s rewarding that we head home with more well-earned world championship points.”