Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Saturday 12 May
A more encouraging Saturday for the team, as Fernando and Stoffel qualified in eighth and 11th places respectively.
Although Stoffel was caught in traffic in Q1 - which made the final seconds of the first session tense, both drivers had the pace to comfortably ease through into Q2. There, the pair was more evenly-matched, separated by little over two tenths of a second by the chequered flag. Unfortunately, this gap straddled the top-ten threshold, and Stoffel narrowly missed out on a pass through to Q3, in 11th.
Fernando made a solid start in Q3, and for his final run opted to switch to the Prime tyre in the closing stages. This enabled him to break into the 1m17s bracket to qualify eighth, confirming the team’s best qualifying performance of the season so far.
FERNANDO ALONSO, McLaren Driver
|FP3||9th||1m18.847s (+1.566s)||14 laps|
|Q1||8th||1m18.276s (on Back-Up)|
|Q2||10th||1m18.100s (on Option)|
|Q3||8th overall||1m17.721s (on Prime|
“Making it into Q3 for the first time this season feels fantastic, and if you combine that with the fact we are at our home grand prix, it’s a double benefit.
“I’m happy – we were P13 in the last few qualifying sessions, so P8 today is definitely a step forward. The top guys are still too high up so we need to close that gap, but I’m pleased that all the updates we brought here seem to be delivering as we expected. We just need new parts as soon as possible and to keep going in this direction.
“Every Spanish Grand Prix is special, and there are always a lot of emotions when you go out there and feel all the support. The fans are not giving you extra performance because they can’t push the car, but they can motivate a little bit more so we seem to always perform a little bit better here.
“Hopefully tomorrow we’ll put on a good show for all the fans. Maybe there’ll be some rain around, and that could be very interesting. Over the winter we’ve learned that a wet track is very slippery here, so we could have a chaotic race and maybe out of any chaos we can benefit.”
STOFFEL VANDOORNE, McLaren Driver
|FP3||14th||1m19.236s (+1.955s)||17 laps|
|Q1||15th||1m18.885s (on Option)|
|Q2||11th overall||1m.18.323s (on Prime)|
“We’ve had the best qualifying session so far this season here, and it was a very close one, again. The tyre selection was not an easy one to decide. The feeling was positive in the car, and we ended up very close to Q3 – Fernando just made it – which shows the parts we’ve brought here are working well. It’s a step in the right direction and we need to keep improving like this in the next races.
“I think points are possible tomorrow. So far, we’ve done pretty well on a Sunday, as we have a good understanding of the strategy and how to use the tyres. We’ve had good race pace and we need to fight to get ourselves in a good position in order to benefit from other people’s mistakes.
“Conditions out there have been tricky all weekend with a lot of cars going off, so tomorrow we need to be sharp. We must make sure we don’t make any mistakes, and then I think we can be in a position to benefit and get some points.”
ERIC BOULLIER, McLaren Racing Director
“Today’s result is an important validation of the immense amount of hard work that is being put in behind the scenes to move closer to the competition ahead of us. I’d especially like to thank everybody back in Woking for their tremendous team effort in bringing all the new parts we planned to complete our updated package on time.
“Of course, Saturday doesn’t offer any championship points. However, while not yet a cause for celebration, eighth and 11th positions on an aerodynamically-challenging track such as this mark our best qualifying session of the season so far, and is certainly the step forward we were hoping for on track to correlate with the evidence we saw in simulation.
“We’ve said many times that we can’t expect miracles overnight, and there is a long season ahead of us, but we feel today’s result demonstrates the first step for us in the progressive development of the MCL33. Time will tell, and the first real test of our updated package will come in tomorrow’s race. The primary objectives are to race cleanly in this tight midfield pack, stay out of trouble and optimise our strategy to ensure we maximise our chance to bring home more points. Let’s see what we can do from there.”