Japanese GP: Qualifying team notes – McLaren

Fernando and Stoffel qualified in 18th and 19th positions respectively for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix, as the team focussed on preparation for the race. Despite unpredictable and changeable weather conditions all day with intermittent light rain in both free practice and in qualifying, tomorrow’s race is predicted to be run in the dry.

While it’s set to be a challenging race for the team with few strategic options to affect the outcome, both drivers will focus on maximising their race package on this legendary circuit in front of the passionate Japanese fans.

Fernando Alonso: “It has been tough today. We are the last two cars so definitely not the best performance so far. This whole weekend we have been slow in every session, with any tyre, as this high-efficiency circuit seems to hurt us more than others. Aero efficiency is what we are lacking and especially here you need a car with lots of downforce and very low drag for the long straights.

“We know in what areas we need to improve, and it has been part of the job we’ve been doing in the last couple of races – trying to make sure next year’s car is stronger than this year’s.

“In qualifying the balance of the car was good, so it wasn’t like we could have found any more time anywhere. Our pace is what it is, so it’s going to be a difficult race for us tomorrow, trying to recover from the back.”

Stoffel Vandoorne: “It’s been a tough weekend for us and I think in a way it’s not been a surprise. We’ve been uncompetitive all weekend and our performance is similar to how we were in Russia.

“When it comes to qualifying, we don’t seem to be able to make a small step forward. Hopefully in the race we should be a little bit better, but it’s a circuit where it’s difficult to overtake, so we’ll see how tomorrow goes.

“Hopefully a little bit more happens during the race and we can benefit from that. It shows we still have a big deficit to catch up. It will be good if tomorrow turns out to be a hot race, as it could introduce a bit of blistering on some of the tyres. We’ve been good when races have been like that, and tyre management is key. Strategy could make a difference.”

Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: “Obviously we’re disappointed with our qualifying positions and our general pace.

“Operationally, it has been a smooth weekend and both our drivers extracted everything out of the car.

“Looking ahead to tomorrow, although on the face of it there doesn’t seem to be a lot of strategic variants to take advantage of, we will keep our heads down and antennas up, to try and maximise our finishing position.

“It’s great to be here in Japan. It’s only Saturday and you can hear the crowd from the pit-wall, so I can’t imagine what tomorrow’s excitement will be like.”