Vandoorne: I can operate at Alonso’s level

Stoffel Vandoorne has said that he is capable of emulating the same characteristics as his team-mate and two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso.

The Belgian has been outqualified and outfinished by Alonso in all three races so far this season, but has secured two points finishes himself.

Vandoorne believes Alonso is always at his best when it matters the most and that is a trait he feels he has adopted, too.

"He knows how to overcome a few things, how to build his weekend towards the critical moments," Vandoorne told Autosport, when discussing Alonso's ability.

"It's one of his strengths, whatever the conditions and circumstances he always delivers at 99% and that for me has been very good to learn out of.

"I definitely feel I became a lot stronger and am able to do this myself a lot more now whenever conditions are difficult or the situation is tricky."

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Alonso: ‘No radical change’ to MCL33 in Baku

Upgrades may be on the way for McLaren but Fernando Alonso is not expecting any drastic improvement from the team in Baku this weekend.

Alonso has already surpassed his 2017 points total with three consecutive points finishes since the start of the season, but the Spaniard is going to have to remain patient if he wants to be more competitive over the course of the race weekend.

"We know our limitations and where we need to improve our package, and, although we bring parts to test to every race weekend, we aren't anticipating a radical change in our performance in Baku," Alonso said in his Baku preview.

"However, we're learning more and more about the behaviour of our car each time we step into the cockpit, and in Azerbaijan we'll be maximising everything we have as usual to score as many points as possible."
 

Racing director Eric Boullier is well aware of McLaren's vulnerability in qualifying, but is confident that both drivers can "maximise" everything.

"We know our package tends to deliver more on Sundays, so the important thing will be to react quickly to anything that happens.

"We must keep our heads down, push hard and take any and every opportunity that comes our way.

"Both of our drivers have raced brilliantly in the first grands prix of the season and I know they'll be relishing the opportunity to maximise what they have underneath them in Baku.

"Overtaking is at a premium, so, while we don't underestimate the importance of our starting grid slots for Sunday's race, we're also looking forward to the challenge that racing through these historic city streets brings."

McLaren are due to bring a major upgrade to the following race in Spain.

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Norris wants to give McLaren ‘a headache’

Lando Norris is hoping to give McLaren "a headache" with their 2019 driver selection by winning the F2 World Championship this season.

The Brit won the first race of the F2 season in Bahrain before finishing fourth in the second race.

It was enough to see him take an early lead in the Championship but, if he was to go on to win the F2 title this year then rules dictate that he would not be allowed to compete in the series again in 2019.

"Obviously a headache would be nice! It’s good for me, and at least they’re thinking about what position I could be in," Norris said via Crash.Net.

"I think they’re very happy with Fernando and Stoffel at the moment. It’s in a position now where there’s a lot of development going on, and having a slightly more experienced driver is a help.

"The rate of development would be slightly faster than if I jumped in, because I’d have to get used to F1 a bit. So I think the position they’re in now, they’re reasonably happy with."

While an F2 title win could force McLaren's hand, Norris is remaining realistic about his chances of stepping up to F1 as early as next season.

"I guess it’s the first year where if I did win F2, I wouldn’t be able to do another year, and every year I’ve taken a step up into the next category. It could be the first year where I don’t get this opportunity to step up," Norris added.

"But I don’t think that’s something I need to be thinking about for now. I just need to be focusing on the job I have to do, winning Formula 2, and worrying about that later in the season."

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Alonso linked with McLaren exit – report

Lando Norris has been tipped to replace Fernando Alonso, who will reportedly leave McLaren at the end of the season.

According to Spanish publication Diario Gol, highly-rated Norris is in line to make the step up to Formula 1 as Alonso has 'grown increasingly frustrated' with McLaren's incapability of providing a car that can match the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

McLaren are believed to have further one-year options on both Alonso and his team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne, but Alonso is apparently ready for a new challenge elsewhere.

Mercedes and Ferrari could both have seats available at the end of the season with Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen also out of contract, but it appears very unlikely either team will look to sign him and risk disrupting the team dynamics with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

That may lead Alonso to continue racing in other disciplines away from Formula 1, something which he has stepped up this year with a full WEC season also on the agenda this year.

In reality, we look forward to Alonso being linked with every team under the sun before he signs a new extension with McLaren.

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Alonso ‘doesn’t care’ about Ferrari or Honda

Fernando Alonso has said he finds it "funny" to be asked about the performance of former partners when they do well in Formula 1 and doesn't "care about them".

Alonso had a messy break-up with Ferrari before returning to McLaren in 2015, where he endured three long years with engine manufacturer Honda.

The Spaniard found himself answering the same old questions when he was asked for his thoughts on Toro Rosso-Honda's P4 finish in Bahrain and finds the whole thing rather humourous.

"I've been answering about Ferrari in 2015 and 2016," Alonso told reporters in China.

"After I left Ferrari, every win, every podium they were achieving, you asked me about if I regretted when I left Ferrari.

"After four years Mercedes keep winning and they have four championships and now you are not asking me about Ferrari, you've changed for Toro Rosso.

"Or Renault, in 2005 and 2006 I won two championships with them and now they are competitive again.

"I don't care so much about other teams. It's just funny how people get excited about the ex-teams when they are OK.

"They ask me and I don't care too much."

On Toro Rosso-Honda's P4 in Bahrain, he did add: "[Bahrain] was a very nice weekend for them.

"To be honest, after 18 years in Formula 1, to answer after one good qualifying or one good result from any team makes no sense."

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Boullier: Real MCL33 ‘coming to Barcelona’

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier has said the MCL33 they planned to launch in Australia with will finally arrive at the Spanish Grand Prix.

After another tough pre-season, the Woking team were forced to delay some of the upgrades they wanted to introduce for the season opener – but Boullier believes McLaren are close to being back on schedule.

McLaren have made a decent enough start to the 2018 campaign, delivering double points finishes in the first two races and Fernando Alonso adding six more points with a P7 result in China.

But McLaren are struggling for pace in qualifying and there is quite a substantial gap to Red Bull who are using the same engine, and Boullier hopes the Spanish Grand Prix can bring a much truer reflection of the 2018 car.

“The 2018 car is coming to Barcelona, and obviously we hope that’s the car we expect it to be,” Boullier told Motorsport.com.

“The car we have now, is as per plan, it’s not that we missed the [performance] targets with it.

“But we missed the schedule targets with it, which means the car we’ll have in Barcelona should have been in Australia.

"So we are running actually with an evolution of last year, and not the new car. And this car hopefully will be the one that we expect.”

Boullier also revealed his frustration with having to wait for four races of the season to pass in order to get the car in line with the team's expectations.

“This is what it is. We knew this, and we just have to take the best we can," he added.

"So far we have been opportunistic, and we took the opportunities we’ve had with both drivers to take as many points as we could.

“It’s just frustrating to see that we have such performance or pace in the race, and we are unable to unlock yet that performance in qualifying.”

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Alonso admits Vettel tussle wasn’t ‘fair fight’

Fernando Alonso says his brief battle with Sebastian Vettel in China wasn’t a “fair fight” as the German’s Ferrari was damaged.

Alonso grabbed seventh place off Vettel on the penultimate lap of the Chinese Grand Prix, taking advantage of the Ferrari driver’s woes.

Vettel, who had at one stage been fighting for the win, was hit by Max Verstappen and was struggling with a damaged SF71H.

Alonso took advantage.

Speaking of his brief tussle with a member of his former team, he said: “It was good.

“Obviously it was not a fair fight because Sebastian had damage on his car and I was a little bit quicker on the corners,” said Alonso.

“I was surprised when I saw a Ferrari not going too fast at the end.

“I asked what was the problem and apparently he had damage on his car so he was struggling a little bit on the corners.

“He was running very wide in the corners so in the first opportunity I saw the door open and went for it and in the end at one point the track finished so he kept going until there was grass, so you need to back off at one point.”

As for Vettel, he wasn’t impressed with the way in which Alonso went about passing him.

“I was very vulnerable so he could have passed me another time,” he said.

“I think the way he dived in was now or never, and I obviously had to back off, otherwise we would have just crashed.”

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