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Chaotic race could work in our favour – Alonso

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British Grand Prix: McLaren’s qualifying report – Stoffel Vandoorne will start tomorrow’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone from eighth – the highest starting position in his Formula 1 career. Today’s result was a real validation of the efforts of the young Belgian and his engineers, who have worked well together over the past few races to alter their preparation and approach in order to maximise performance.

A bravura effort from Fernando Alonso in Q1 saw him scrape over the line by the tiniest of margins to start one last flying lap. It was worth it: on a drying but still damp track, on slicks, he established the fastest overall time of the first session.

After setting the 13th-fastest time in Q2, he will start from the back of the grid tomorrow owing to a 30-place grid penalty for PU component changes.

Fernando Alonso: “We made the right call at the end of Q1 by switching to Option tyres. We took advantage of a track that was on the limit at that moment – and it was nice to hear people cheering. It’s good for the guys in the garage as well: they deserve it as they have been working so hard these past couple of years, and, even if it’s just for one moment, to be up there at the top of the time sheets feels good.

“Not making it into Q3 allows us to choose our tyres for the race. We’ll start last, owing to the penalties; starting on used Q2 tyres wouldn’t have been ideal, so we’re relatively happy with 13th.

“Now we need to think about tomorrow. We proved today that we’re quite competitive in mixed conditions, so a wet/dry chaotic race could work in our favour. Hopefully it’ll stay like this tomorrow, weather-wise.”

Stoffel Vandoorne: “To take part in Q3 at Silverstone was a bit unexpected. But I’ve been working very well for the past couple of races, and we’ve clearly seen the improvements inside the team – in Azerbaijan, in Austria, and here at Silverstone this weekend, Fernando and I largely matched each other’s pace. It’s obviously a pretty good feeling to have made that extra step.

“We’d been hoping to get a rainy mixed-condition qualifying for a long time, and I think we were pretty strong in these conditions all session long. Then, when the track got drier, we maximised every chance we got.

“As usual, it’s very close in the midfield pack, and we usually see that some of the others have got a little something extra for qualifying. But I think the mixed conditions really helped us today. Every time I was on track, I managed to bank a good lap-time, and I think ninth in Q3 was really the maximum we could do today.”

ERIC BOULLIER, McLaren Honda Racing Director

“Stoffel has been very quick all weekend, and it was great to see him duly get it all hooked up so well here today.

“He drove an excellent lap in Q1 on Inters, posting the eighth-fastest time on slippery asphalt and thereby splitting the two Ferraris, and then continued his fine form on slicks in Q2, as the track dried, successfully making it through to Q3 in the process. He’ll start tomorrow’s race from eighth on the grid, following Valtteri’s [Bottas] five-place grid penalty. Well done, Stoff!

“Fernando drove a stonking lap in Q1 on slicks to be quickest of all by the hefty margin of 1.3 seconds. It was almost too close for comfort – he nearly didn’t get his Q1 lap in – but, having crossed the line just in time, he made good his opportunity by totally nailing it. It was good to see – and the crowd’s cheers were great to hear, because our support here is simply fantastic. Thereafter, however, Fernando was unable to take part in Q3, but it was academic anyway, owing to his 30-place grid penalties.

“It’ll be interesting to watch our drivers tomorrow. Rain or shine, they’ll both be giving it their all. Fernando will surely make rapid progress in the early laps, while Stoffel will be striving to score his first world championship points of the season. Bonne chance!”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

“Today’s qualifying was tricky due to the random rainy conditions. However, both drivers and the team did a great job in such a challenging situation.

“Stoffel found a good balance with his settings and he has kept strong momentum throughout the weekend. It was his second time to go to Q3 – including Monaco – and the performance he showed was very impressive.

“Although Fernando missed Q3 due to heavy traffic, his brave Q1 performance in the rain was a nice surprise not only for us but also for the fans watching from the grandstands in these chilly conditions.”

“Having been able to show a good performance here in Silverstone, which is known as a power circuit, gives us some confidence regarding progress. Although we are still behind the front-runners, we are having concrete steps forward as a team.

“Tomorrow, Stoffel will start from eighth and Fernando will start from the back of the grid. But as we can expect unstable weather here in the UK, I think both drivers may have the chance to score points at our home grand prix.

“We’ll continue our best effort in order to show a good race in front of the home crowd.”

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