Russian GP: Qualifying team notes – McLaren

Both McLaren drivers face a difficult Russian Grand Prix after failing to graduate from the opening Q1 session during today’s qualifying shoot-out.

Fernando Alonso, who prioritised race performance over qualifying pace due to a grid penalty, qualified 17th fastest, but is set to line up 16th due to the penalties applied to a number of drivers across the grid.

Stoffel Vandoorne qualified 19th, but also benefits; he is likely to line up 14th for tomorrow’s race.

Fernando Alonso: “In qualifying today we didn’t use our full potential because our starting position is already fixed due to the grid penalties we’ll receive.

“That meant I had two objectives this afternoon: setting a lap within the 107 per cent limit, and helping Stoffel with a tow along the straight. I didn’t go for a performance run: I used the engine in safe mode.

“Much of our focus has been on our race pace: hopefully we can execute a good strategy, look after our tyres, and look to be close to the points tomorrow.

“The tyres are looking a little tricky around here as it seems to be hotter than usual. We believe the softest tyre will suffer a little bit, so hopefully we’ll be in a position to benefit from that in the race.”

Stoffel Vandoorne: “It was always going to be difficult for us around here this weekend. In FP3 this morning, I think we saw that the pace of the car wasn’t looking very strong. Going in to qualifying, our target was to try and get ahead of the Williamses: we managed to beat one of them today. I don’t yet know where that puts us once all the penalties are applied.

“Our car is lacking performance in a number of areas. The balance isn’t always perfect but it feels reasonable; we just lack general performance.”

Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: “We knew this was going to be a difficult weekend for us, but we’re not hiding the fact that qualifying was a disappointing result for our team.

“Fernando was facing an engine penalty going into the weekend, so we chose to focus on race preparation rather than qualifying throughout all the practice sessions.

“Given our overall pace, unfortunately Stoffel was unable to make it out of Q1. On a positive note, our race pace has typically been stronger than qualifying, as our car seems to be fairly kind on the tyres, which will likely be a particularly important factor tomorrow. We will fight hard and do our best to try and bring some points home.”