Prost: ‘Vandoorne even better than Alonso’

Date published: December 7 2017

The legendary Alain Prost has been very impressed with Stoffel Vandoorne’s development as McLaren and thinks he is operating at a higher level than Fernando Alonso.

Vandoorne had a tough start to life in Formula 1 but enjoyed a strong second half of the 2017 campaign which was highlighted by two back-to-back and career best finishes of P7.

Prost, who acts as Renault’s official advisor, thinks Vandoorne has built a strong foundation for himself and can go on to enjoy an even better in 2018 as McLaren join forces with the Enstone team.

“Everyone watched Vandoorne because, prior to coming into F1, he was recognised as one of the most exceptional youngsters for the future,” Prost told RTBF.

“He started at McLaren with reliability problems and never the same equipment as Alonso.

“But I think Vandoorne is now playing on the same level or even better than Alonso. He’s doing his development in a perfect way.

“Next year with a good engine, we’ll see if he’s efficient and reliable. Being on a team with Alonso is not easy, so Vandoorne has to stay calm, take his time, and I think there is no problem for him to be on top in years to come.”

Vandoorne: Abu Dhabi crash similar to Alonso’s

Date published: November 30 2017

Stoffel Vandoorne says his crash during Wednesday’s test in Abu dhabi was a “bit strange” as it was similar to Fernando Alonso’s off on Tuesday.

Two days in succession McLaren were forced into repair jobs as first Alonso and then Vandoorne hit the barriers at the Yas Marina circuit.

Alonso crashed on Tuesday when he spun on entry into Turn 19 while a day later Vandoorne rear-ended the barriers at that same corner.

“Today was generally a very good day – although it was a bit strange that I crashed in the same corner that Fernando did yesterday,” he said.

The Belgian racer, though, was happy with his day’s work.

“Overall though, today has been very productive for me and the team, and it’s been really beneficial to be able to have a first feeling of the 2018 Pirelli compounds.

“We’ve done a lot of testing, completed some good mileage, and understood a lot about how the tyres behave. The past couple of days have now given us the tools to be able to analyse the data over the winter and have a good benchmark for next year.

“Now that we’ve reached the final day on track of the 2017 season, I’d like to say a big thanks to all my mechanics, engineers and the rest of the team – not only for working so hard on my car today – but for pushing hard throughout the whole year, despite the challenges.”

‘Tape in the diffuser’ ruined Vandoorne’s race

Date published: November 30 2017

Stoffel Vandoorne’s “rally” car, as he put it, was the result of the a large piece of tape that was stuck in the diffuser.

Vandoorne had an unhappy last outing in 2017 when he finished down in 12th place at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The McLaren driver described his car as a “rally” car as he struggled with the handling.

McLaren have revealed the cause of the issue.

“We think that Stoffel spent the whole race with a large piece of tape stuck in the diffuser,” Vandoorne’s engineer Tom Stallard told Motorsport.com.

“The kind of super-sticky two-inch tape that touring car teams use to reattach the front bumper. At the end of the race there was a 20cm piece still stuck to the left hand diffuser fence.

“During the race we believe this tape was much larger. We measured a loss of downforce equivalent to opening the DRS, but all around the lap, and without the drag drop.

“Also the loss on the diffuser was symmetric, but at the end the tape was only on the left hand side.

“Around lap 22 the diffuser partially recovered and Stoff’s pace improved. We think until this point it was caught on both sides, but then snapped and was then only on the left.

“I would guess the original piece must have been around 50cm long.”

He added: “Pierre Gasly, who was behind Stoffel in the first stint, said the car was incredibly oversteery, and also that he could see something flapping in the diffuser.

“Given this I think Stoffel did an extraordinary job in not only keeping his car on the track, but also in keeping six cars behind him.”

‘Feeling of finality’ for McLaren-Honda

Date published: November 21 2017

Arguably one of the teams that is most looking forward to 2017 being over, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne hope to conclude McLaren-Honda’s partnership with points in Abu Dhabi.

Fernando Alonso: “As another season comes to a close, Abu Dhabi is a fantastic circuit to visit to round off another year of racing. There’s a really unique atmosphere – the year feels like it has gone quickly, but equally there’s a feeling of finality and everybody in the team who has worked so hard all year is looking forward to the winter break. It means there’s huge anticipation from everyone to perform well in the final race of the season, and it usually gives us great racing and we see everyone giving everything they have to finish on a positive note.

“Yas Marina Circuit is a trickier one for us than Brazil. We had an unexpectedly good result at Interlagos, but we’re anticipating a tougher challenge in Abu Dhabi. Of course, the whole team wants to finish the season on a high, so we’re working hard to extract every last bit of performance out of the MCL32. Qualifying is crucial on this track because overtaking is tricky, so it’s important we get the set-up right as early as we can in the weekend.

“Racing on this circuit is a really special way to end the season – racing in twilight and then the dark, and in ever-evolving conditions makes it interesting for the drivers, and I’m sure this year’s cars will be super fun to drive around this track. I’m looking forward to it and I hope we can end the season with a strong result as a reward for all the efforts of the whole team this year.”

Stoffel Vandoorne: “It’s good to finish the season at a circuit I know well after a couple of new ones in the past few races. I’ve driven at Yas Marina Circuit a number of times – in testing and also in GP2, and I’ve won here twice, which are really special memories. I’m looking forward to tackling it again in a Formula 1 car – it’s a tricky, technical circuit, but rewarding, and because of its configuration it’s pretty difficult to overtake.

“Racing from day to night isn’t something I’ve experienced much of in Abu Dhabi because of the timings of the GP2 races, but driving as the sun goes down is really cool. I like racing on this circuit and there’s definitely a special feeling at this grand prix. It’s a strange mix between that ‘end-of-term’ feeling and a lot of anticipation about the weekend ahead, before everyone goes home for a break and then starts working on next year’s car.

“This year has been full of ups and downs for us. For me, I had a difficult start to the year, but as the season has progressed I’ve worked really hard with the team and feel that I’ve come into my own. I’m more comfortable in the cockpit now than ever before, and my rate of progression over the second half of the season has been very satisfying. It’s been a challenging year, but ultimately a rewarding one because I’ve learned a lot, and I can’t wait to see what next year will bring. We’ll be pushing hard this weekend to finish the year on a high.”

Vandoorne: Renault swap brings postive pressure

Date published: November 15 2017

Stoffel Vandoorne is buoyed by Red Bull’s recent results, hoping that it means with Renault also powering McLaren next season, they can return to winning ways.

Vandoorne has suffered a torrid time in his first full season in Formula 1, more because of McLaren’s engine partner Honda than his own doing.

He has managed just 13 points in 19 races to sit 16th in the championship, one place behind Fernando Alonso.

The Belgian racer, who has already been confirmed for next season, believes better results are on the horizon.

He told the official F1 website: “McLaren is still one of the biggest teams in Formula One.

“Yes it is true that the last couple of years don’t reflect well. We all know what has been the limiting factor. But we are changing as a team.

“There have already been a lot of changes this year and there are massive changes coming up for 2018.

“We are all pushing very hard to get the team back on track. And we will get back there – to the Woking standard!

“I definitely know that I belong here – and that it is the right place to be.”

The 25-year-old is looking forward to racing with Renault power unext season but concedes there will be pressure as their results will be compared to Red Bull Racing’s.

“To be honest, I haven’t been told a lot so far,” he said about the switch. “Of course the team is already focused one hundred percent on next year’s package.

“Everything that I have heard so far is positive. The car won’t be compromised, even if it is a big change.

“What we have seen from Renault is promising when looking at Red Bull’s results – their wins and podiums. Yes, it will put us under pressure – positive pressure because we will have a benchmark.”

Vandoorne denies Alonso is his ‘mentor’

Date published: November 14 2017

Stoffel Vandoorne has refuted suggestions that Fernando Alonso is filling a mentor role for him, saying he’s just his team-mate.

Vandoorne entered Formula 1 this season with McLaren and couldn’t have asked for a stronger team-mate.

Racing against Alonso, both struggling with their Honda power unit, Vandoorne’s season didn’t get off to the best of starts, even earning him a bit of criticism from racing director Eric Boullier.

However, of late the 25-year-old has come, scoring 13 points, just two behind his double World Champion team-mate.

Asked whether he relied on Alonso as a mentor in the same way that Lance Stroll did with Felipe Massa, he told Brazil’s Globo Esporte: “No!.

“Of course we work together on the same team and in the same direction. But he does not stand by me and help me.

“We are very open, we have normal conversations when we are out of the car.

“But he is not there to be my mentor.

“Maybe Lance needs this, I don’t know.”

Vandoorne, however, admitted that racing alongside one of F1’s greatest drivers did have its benefits.

“He’s probably the best reference in Formula One,” Vandoorne agrees.

“I have a good relationship with him, even if there is a lot of competition, which is normal.

“We want to prove ourselves at all times, to show that we can get the best out of each other.

“It has been going being his team-mate even though the beginning was a bit difficult.

“We do not have a strong package this year, but it has been positive for me because I had the chance to get quite close to him.”

‘Everything to play for’ says McLaren

Date published: November 7 2017

Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne believe there is a “good chance” of McLaren scoring points in Brazil, they just need to start where they qualify.

Fernando Alonso: “Interlagos is one of the great ‘classic’ tracks on the calendar, with an incredible history and a long list of famous names that have lifted the trophy. It’s also one of the most dramatic Grands Prix of the year – there are always incidents and action and the weather plays a big part in the outcome.

“This circuit should suit our car better than the last couple of tracks, so we hope we can give ourselves the best chance in qualifying as starting position is very important in a race where a lot can happen. It’s a really fun track – a short lap with a good flow, and the new cars this year will make it feel even faster. During the race, if you can get a good rhythm through the final corner it really helps down the start-finish straight and into Turn 1, and then you can attack the first corner going into the next lap. It’s part of what makes this circuit so exciting.

“After the USA and Mexico, we’re looking ahead to Brazil and Abu Dhabi with a bit more expectation as we knew those tracks would be really difficult for us. However, Mexico was definitely a surprise and we performed better than we anticipated. This will surely be a tricky race and there are always risks to take with the weather and strategy, but if we can start the race from where we should be in qualifying, it could give us a good chance to score some points.”

Stoffel Vandoorne: “I’m looking forward to tackling another new circuit next weekend in Brazil, especially one that is considered so legendary among the fans and the other drivers. Interlagos is the place where championships have been won and lost, and classic Grands Prix have taken place with great names like Senna and Prost winning some of F1’s most famous races.

“Like every circuit we race on, I put in a lot of preparation with my engineers in the simulator, so by the time we head out onto the track on Friday morning I feel completely ready to tackle it and already comfortable with the layout and set-up the circuit requires. This means that, like Fernando, I can spend FP1 dialling-in the car to the track and conditions and give valuable feedback to the team so they can gather as much as information as possible.

“Qualifying at Interlagos is always important because you never know what can happen in the race. In Mexico I had a great start, so if we can start further up the grid in Brazil – providing we can avoid more penalties – it’ll open up good opportunities in the race. It’s important to stay out of trouble and have a clean race and then we can see what we can do from there. There’s everything to play for and I’m excited to experience the famous atmosphere at Interlagos thanks to the enthusiastic Brazilian fans.”