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Stoffel Vandoorne
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Stoffel Vandoorne

Vandoorne column: The focus was just on finishing

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Vandoorne column: The focus was just on finishing
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Mar 28, 2017, 12:01 PM

In his latest column for Motorsport.com, McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne reflects on a challenging season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32, leads Antonio Giovinazzi, Sauber C36
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing, and Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32

We knew heading to Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix that it would be a tough weekend for the McLaren-Honda team, so it was good that we could come away with a few positives.

We have made at least made a small step forward since the Barcelona tests. It may not be in terms of pure pace, but we could do some more normal running than we had been able to do before.

Yes, we had some issues during the practice sessions, both on my car and teammate Fernando Alonso's car, but in general we managed to do quite a few laps and we managed to finish the race.

In fact, the race was the longest distance that we had managed until now.

So in summary, it is maybe a small step better, but for sure there is a long, long road ahead to gain performance.

Q2 shot

Going back over the weekend, qualifying was very difficult for me. We had a fuel pressure problem, and it took a while to understand where exactly the issue was coming from. It meant we had to abort my qualifying efforts – so in the end we managed just a single run and I qualified 18th.

That was not the result we were hoping for because, after final practice, I had quite a good pace and a positive feeling with the car.

I felt we were going in the right direction and I really feel that I could have challenged for a place in Q2. So it was unfortunate we had this issue.

Making the finish

The race was for very difficult for us as well. Before the start we knew it was going to be a tough one – even in terms of the operations behind the steering wheel, because there were so many things that we had to look after to bring the car to the finish.

The first phase of the race was very difficult, because my dashboard didn't work anymore and I couldn't see what I had to do in terms of fuel saving. There was no information on my steering wheel, and it took me a while before I was able to reset that.

Then, the car started to lose power and we didn't really know what the problem was at that moment. So we decided to pit the car and make an early stop. It meant we could completely reset the car with a full switch off and switch on.

It took a couple more laps after the pitstop before the car became normal again, and from then on it was quite a lonely race. I had to deal with a fair few blue flags, so it wasn't really a case of racing anybody, and the focus was just on bringing the car to the finish.

From my side, the pace was feeling good at the end of the race, and I think we extracted more or less what was possible in those circumstances.

But our ultimate performance is definitely not strong enough, and our package is definitely not there yet. We need to improve a lot in order to compete with our rivals and start fighting for some good positions. I am convinced we will get there in the end though.

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