Both our drivers were able to take advantage of a trouble-free session in FP3, completing their run programmes and conducting important evaluations on our new upgrades and set-up configurations. Fernando completed 16 laps and set the 10th-fastest time on his Option tyres, and Stoffel, who reported low grip while fine-tuning the balance of the car, drove 15 laps and finished the session in 19th.
In qualifying, Stoffel was unable to find the sweet spot in the performance of the car after a solid day of running yesterday, and fell foul of the highly competitive nature of the midfield, in which the cars were separated by just a few tenths. That meant he was unable to progress through to Q2; he finished the session in P19.
Fernando had a much more positive qualifying session, reporting that the balance following yesterday’s power unit change felt much improved. He made it through to Q2 in 12th position. In Q2, a spirited final lap allowed him to squeeze into Q3 with P10 – the first time for McLaren-Honda this season. In Q3, he had only one run in which to post a lap, and in typical Fernando fashion in front of his adoring home crowd he put in a sterling effort to extract the maximum out of the package, qualifying in P7.
Fernando Alonso: “Today is one of those days where everything goes right and everything is meeting and exceeding expectations. I’m definitely happy, surprisingly happy, after how our weekend started yesterday, and our qualifying results so far this season. P7 was not something we were even thinking about.
“Even if yesterday we didn’t do much running, the car performed quite well and the upgrades were working fine. Today we put everything together, I felt confident in the car – in spite of quite windy and tricky conditions – and I need that confidence to push and gain those couple of tenths in quali.
“All the support I get from the people here in Spain always gives me extra motivation, so the extra tenths today were because of them.
“I’m so happy for the team because these guys work so hard. Being on the grid tomorrow among the cars that we should always be fighting with to get to the top positions will be a boost for all the guys.
“But, the race is tomorrow, and that’s when the points will be given out. We need to try to maintain this position as much as possible with a good strategy executed well, and a good start of course.”
Stoffel Vandoorne: “I don’t really know what happened today. Yesterday I was feeling quite comfortable and confident in the car, happy with the performance, and everything was moving in the right direction to do a bit better today. It’s a shame we weren’t able to translate that in qualifying, because I think the potential was definitely there to get into Q2. It seems like we lost a bit of performance compared to yesterday, and at the moment there’s no real explanation why. But it’s been a difficult start to the season altogether, so hopefully tomorrow we can do something better.
“Today I struggled a bit in both sessions – everything felt a little bit more difficult – and I don’t really know why as I say. We need to analyse the data tonight and see what happened and what we can do for tomorrow. It’s not been an easy start to the weekend for the team again and the most important thing is that we get on top of those issues and have some smooth running for the rest of the weekend. I don’t have any targets for tomorrow – just to run a smooth race without any issues. I think strategy will be quite important and we’ll see what’s possible.
“Fernando getting through to Q3 shows that the car is going in the right direction. We just need to makes sure we put it all together. Everyone is keeping their head down and trying to push as much as they can to improve this situation, so hopefully we can see some improvements over the next few races.”
Eric Boullier, McLaren-Honda Racing Director
“In qualifying for his home grand prix here in Barcelona this afternoon, Fernando carved an utterly committed yet millimetre-perfect lap to end up P7 for tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix. Bravo amigo!
“However, although Stoffel wasn’t that far behind Fernando in Q1 – just a few tenths – it was enough to prevent him from going through to Q2. Stoffel says he wasn’t perfectly comfortable with the balance of his car today, and we’ll look at that, but the truth is that the midfield is now super-competitive and that was the factor that prevented him from being able to progress past Q1. But we know how good he is, and his engineers will work hard with him this evening to try to optimise his set-up for tomorrow’s race.
“Finally, well done to Honda for a small but useful update, which undoubtedly contributed to our improved form today.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“First of all, I want to say what a superb job Fernando did today in qualifying in front of his enthusiastic home crowd. He had a difficult start to the weekend, but both Fernando and the team worked incredibly hard to overcome this and find the optimal setting for qualifying. P7 was an encouraging result that saw us reach Q3 for the first time this season.
“Adding to Fernando’s great work, we were also able to ensure the improvement in our PU with a small update we brought here. However, there’s still some distance between us and the top runners and we have to keep pushing hard and improving.
“It was a challenging day for Stoffel who struggled to find the best balance of the car, and it’s unfortunate that he’ll start the race from P19 on the grid tomorrow. The midfield times were extremely close today, and it will be a tough race for him, but I’m confident he’ll bounce back and put up a good fight.
“We’ll continue our hard work and try to show the fans a great race tomorrow.“