There was a large media crowd at McLaren to hear from Stoffel Vandoorne yesterday – a driver who is focussing on working with the team to try and do everything they can to push them forward at what is a frustrating time.
It’s clear that despite being hampered by the power unit issues that reside firmly at Honda’s door, the team both at the track and back at Woking are doing everything possible to get what they can out of testing, and Stoffel maintains he is “100% ready for Melbourne”.
Read what he had to say below:
On the day’s testing and stoppages.
“This morning we had an electrical issue, but at the moment we still don’t know what the issue was. The team and Honda are investigating what went on, but I don’t really have a correct answer yet.”
On improving his personal best testing lap time by over one second:
“We have not covered the amount of laps that we wanted to today, but overall it’s been positive for us. For the time we were on track, I felt very confident with the car, I could attack like I wanted to, so it was positive for all the laps that I did, and we’ve made some steps forward definitely with the car. Obviously, there are still some issues going on, and we would have liked to do more laps through this winter. This was my final day before Melbourne.”
“In any case, I feel 100% ready for Melbourne, I feel confident in the car, and over the past years, McLaren have done a good job to prepare me to do this job. We will have to improve as a team, that’s for sure, and hopefully for Melbourne, we bring some updates to improve.”
On his year in Super Formula – has that prepared him well for the 2017 cars?
“Yes, I think it’s been a very good preparation for me. The cornering speeds in Super Formula were very high, and it gave me and idea of how the cars would be this year. I found a very similar approach with the cars as well – very high downforce, quick cornering speeds, so it’s not been a bad thing to race in Japan last year.”
On the confidence having raced in Bahrain last year might give him:
“Sure, we may not have covered the amount of laps in these four days that we wanted to, but I feel 100% ready, and like you said, I’ve done a race weekend in Bahrain last year, with a lot less preparation, and I managed that pretty well. However, this is obviously very different. I will have a full season in the car, it’s completely new rules, and completely new cars as well. Every driver needs some time to get to grips with the cars, but with the amount of track time I’ve had, I feel very confident and able to push the car, so we will go to Melbourne in the best possible way, and try to make the most out of it.”
On making the step forward to complete a race distance by Melbourne:
“I think we should be able to. We are McLaren Honda, and we are one of the biggest teams in Formula 1. We’ve seen quick turnarounds in the past before, we know it’s not an easy task to do. It will not be easy, otherwise we would have turned it around already. We know that there is a lot of work to do, that’s for sure, and we will push very hard as a team, McLaren side as well, and Honda side, together, to make sure we get to Melbourne with at least an updated package, which obviously is going to be needed. I think the important thing is to see the progress we are making, and, hopefully, we can see some signs from that in Melbourne.”
On entering F1 now as a good choice, as you don’t have to “unlearn” the previous cars:
“Well, it’s not really that you can choose when to go into F1, you need to be given an opportunity as well. I think I’ve been ready for Formula 1 over the past couple of years, so yes, I think it’s a good time for me. Like I said, I feel 100% ready for it. Sometimes when you get an earlier opportunity, you have to take it as well, it’s not always a way of choosing when to get here.”
What is he missing the most in readiness for Australia?
“I think it’s a combination of everything. We haven’t been able to perform our long runs. I ‘ve done a little bit of work yesterday which was okay, but like I said, we haven’t done the mileage during those four days like we wanted to do. We know we have a lot of work to do, and we’ll try to work together as a team to get to Melbourne with a stronger package. Fernando has one more day in the car tomorrow. Hopefully overnight, we will find some new things with the car and new things with the engine, and, hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day.”
On sharing information at the test with Fernando:
“Yes, we’ve been talking quite a lot together, which is normal because it is winter testing and it’s the start of the season. We know that the situation at the moment is not ideal and we are pushing very, very hard together to make the team move forward. Every lap we get on track is extremely valuable for us, and we are trying to push the team in the right direction for future developments. We can’t sit still and do nothing, so we are trying to make the most of it. The last thing we should do is be frustrated about it and do nothing, as then we aren’t going to move forward as well.”
On what words Zak Brown may have said to boost team morale whilst at the test:
“I’ve been catching up with Zak, only briefly today, but I think the team has been very professional, even in difficult moments. The mechanics, all the guys at the factory, they are getting their heads down and being very professional, and trying to get the most out of every lap we get on track.”
On being disappointed to find the team in this position after previous progress:
“It’s true that I’ve been with McLaren Honda since the beginning, and the last two years were difficult for us, and we have seen quite a bit of progress during those two years which was definitely encouraging, so everybody was expecting to come here with a definite step forward. I think we see that the problems we are facing now were maybe a little bit unexpected, which obviously is far from ideal, but this is the situation as it is now. We can’t sit still and do nothing, so we just need to make sure we push everybody in the right direction and make sure we move up.”
On where McLaren may sit in terms of performance compare to the other teams:
“It’s difficult to say. A lot of our runs have been broken up. Like I said, the feeling in the car is quite positive, when I go out, it’s easy to push, which is a positive feeling. When you can drive on the limit and when you feel confident, you can more or less extract the maximum out of it, but where it stands in terms of the others is extremely difficult to say.”