Stoffel Vandoorne
Topic

Stoffel Vandoorne

Vandoorne column: Mechanical issue ends promising Williams battle

In his latest Motorsport.com column, McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne looks back at a mixed Chinese Grand Prix race, in which early promise was followed by another retirement.

Vandoorne column: Mechanical issue ends promising Williams battle
Eric Boullier, Racing Director, McLaren, and Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, on the pit wall
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32, leads Antonio Giovinazzi, Sauber C36
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team RS17, leads Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Felipe Massa, Williams FW40, leads Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MP4-31
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MP4-31
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MP4-31 and Sergio Perez, Sahara Force India F1 VJM09
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren

Everyone at McLaren-Honda knew that the Chinese Grand Prix was not going to be an easy weekend, but I don’t think even we could have predicted that everyone would lose Friday running because of the weather.

The decision to cancel the afternoon practice session at Shanghai after the interrupted one in the morning meant everyone was lacking mileage – and with that forcing a compressed schedule on Saturday morning, it was not an ideal way to go into qualifying. Don’t forget that Friday was going to be my first experience of the track too, as I had never driven there before.

Even so, I was feeling very comfortable in the car straight away, and the pace felt quite promising. Unfortunately, we again had a little issue in the garage that meant we were not able to get out on the track early enough, and then I wasn’t able to extract everything I could from the car in Q1.

So I didn’t get through to Q2, but my teammate Fernando Alonso showed the potential was clearly there to have a good result in qualifying, as he ended up 13th overall.

Taking the fight to Williams

The start of the race was a very intense moment because it was a tough decision on which tyre to pick. When we did the laps to the grid, the track was a lot drier than expected but it was not a clear call for slicks because the starting grid was completely wet. In the end, only Carlos Sainz opted for slicks.

Our start on the intermediates was very good and I was making up some places, but later around the first lap I had some contact with Romain Grosjean. We both went off the track and although my car wasn’t damaged, I’d lost many of the positions I had gained.

Then there was the safety car and everyone pitted to change to slick tyres – and it was a difficult moment to keep the temperature in the rubber.

But once we were racing again, I was actually pretty pleased with how things were going. Compared to the others, our performance was very, very strong and I was closing the gap to Felipe Massa in the Williams.

Being able to fight with the Williams was quite promising – and I definitely felt that the McLaren chassis had good potential in the corners. Unfortunately on the straight, with the top speed that we have, it was hard to compete with the Williams and there was no way we were able to overtake.

That was a shame because I felt we were faster. Every time I could close on Felipe in the middle sector where the corners were, before losing out on the straight. It wasn’t an easy situation, and then unfortunately we had to abandon the race after 17 laps with a fuel issue.

Returning to Bahrain

My attention has now already shifted to Bahrain. It will be one year on from my F1 debut – although in very different circumstances this time around. I will be much better prepared because I am a full-time racer with McLaren-Honda.

I am looking forward to being back in Bahrain and, from now on, we will start going to tracks that I have raced on in the past. That will help me in terms of set-up direction and in terms of sticking with the normal practice programme from the start.

I think Bahrain will still be a very difficult weekend for us, especially because this year, with the cars having a lot more downforce, there will be fewer corners and more straights.

But even though it will be hard, the team will continue to do the very good job it has done so far to bring new parts to the car. The updates we have brought have been working very well, and that is what we have to concentrate on at the moment.

We know the engine performance isn’t there yet, so from the team side we need to keep pushing to bring the parts to the car and make the most of that. We will be doing more of that in Bahrain.

shares
comments
Tech gallery: All the updates from the Chinese GP
Previous article

Tech gallery: All the updates from the Chinese GP

Next article

Verstappen has "sixth sense" in the wet - Horner

Verstappen has "sixth sense" in the wet - Horner
Load comments
How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison Prime

How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison

He’s had a hand in world championship-winning Formula 1 cars for Benetton, Renault and Mercedes, and was also a cog in the Schumacher-Ferrari axis. Having recently ‘moved upstairs’ as Mercedes chief technical officer, James Allison tells Stuart Codling about his career path and why being axed by Benetton was one of the best things that ever happened to him.

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback Prime

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback

It’s easy to look at Robert Kubica’s second Formula 1 career and feel a sense of sadness that he didn’t reach the heights for which he seemed destined. But as Ben Anderson discovered, performance and results are almost meaningless in this context – something more fundamental and incredible happened…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2021
The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren Prime

The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren

From being lapped by his own teammate in Monaco to winning at Monza, it’s been a tumultuous first season at McLaren for Daniel Ricciardo. But, as he tells STUART CODLING, there’s more to the story of his turnaround than having a lovely summer holiday during Formula 1's summer break...

Formula 1
Nov 26, 2021
The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title Prime

The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title

As the battle continues to rage over the F1 2021 drivers' championship, teams up and down the grid are turning their attentions to the prize money attributed to each position in the constructors' standings. But F1's sliding scale rules governing wind tunnel and CFD use will soften the blow for those who miss out on the top places

Formula 1
Nov 25, 2021
The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher Prime

The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher

After winning his past few Formula 1 titles as a canter, Lewis Hamilton currently trails Max Verstappen by eight points heading into the final double-header of 2021. Although Red Bull has been his biggest on-track challenge, Hamilton feels that he has just as much to grapple with away from the circuit

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2021
Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay Prime

Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay

OPINION: Quibbles over the length of time taken by Formula 1's stewards over decisions are entirely valid. But however inconvenient it is, there can be no questioning the importance of having clearly defined rules that everyone understands and can stick to. Recent events have shown that ambiguity could have big consequences

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021
The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax Prime

The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax

OPINION: Red Bull has had Formula 1’s fastest package for most of 2021, but in several of the title run-in events it has wasted the RB16B’s potential. It cannot afford to do so again with Lewis Hamilton motoring back towards Max Verstappen in the drivers’ standings with two rounds remaining

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021
Qatar Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Qatar Grand Prix driver ratings

Qatar was a virtual unknown for most as Formula 1 made its inaugural visit to the Gulf state, and tyre management quickly emerged as an even more critical factor than normal. Perhaps then it should come as no surprise that two of the championship's elder statesmen produced standout drives

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2021