Today during FP3, when the air temperatures peaked at 35 degrees and track temperatures at 40, both sides of the McLaren-Honda garage enjoyed a trouble-free session, completing runs on alternate set-up configurations and practising pitstops mid-session. Fernando completed 10 laps, clocking the 12th-fastest time, and Stoffel 15 laps, setting the 15th-fastest time.
In qualifying, both drivers were unable to fully capitalise on their track time. Stoffel, having had limited running during free practice on Friday, had done relatively little mileage under twilight conditions. He finished Q1 in 17th place. Fernando took 15th spot in Q1, pushing him through to Q2, but an MGU-H issue on his flying lap meant he was unable to set a time during the second session, and he qualified 15th.
“Unfortunately, my lap in Q2 was good. I think until the last corner it was half a second better than my Q1 time, then I went on the throttle and there was an issue in the power unit. That hurt, because we had a chance of being a couple of places up, and tomorrow we’ll have to fit a new power unit, which won’t have the perfect settings or calibration. The first lap the engine gets will be the formation lap, so it won’t get any warm-up, we won’t get any laps to tune it, and we’ll probably therefore have an even tougher race than we’d expected.
“The guys in the garage work day and night to prepare the car, there are parts we keep changing, we keep testing the updates, there’s hard work behind every weekend, but we don’t have a competitive power unit to fight at the front.
“It’s not the ideal situation, but there’s nothing we can do just now, so we’ll see tomorrow what we can do.”
“Everything was more or less OK with my laps. I struggled a little bit with the brakes on the second run and had a couple of lock-ups, so I was lacking a little bit of confidence. But I think the lap was more or less the maximum possible – I don’t think there was much more left in the car. Our results are more or less the same as they have been during the past couple of races, so I don’t think we expected anything different here this weekend. We know once we get to qualifying that the others can turn up their engines and have a little bit more pace in their pockets, so we just have to drive the perfect lap and see where we end up
“Not having much running in FP2 cost us a bit, and meant it was difficult for me to get an idea of the grip available on track and what the Supersoft tyres were going to feel like, but in the end it’s more or less as expected. We’ll try our best tomorrow as usual; we know our race pace is difficult, especially with the straight-line speed we have, but we’ll see what we can do. The lap times in the evening are quite a bit quicker than in the daytime, but the track surface is still very hot, so it’s still difficult to manage the tyres. Tomorrow that will come into play.
“We’re not setting ourselves any targets for tomorrow. We just
need to stay out of trouble, do a good job, and hopefully we’ll have a good result – we’ll wait and see. The race will be tricky and there are difficult conditions out there, a tough race for everyone and a long race, but hopefully we can benefit from that and make a difference.”
“In Q1, Fernando got everything he could out of our chassis / power unit package, and would certainly have set a representative lap time in Q2 but for an MGU-H issue that prevented him from doing so. As a result, he’ll start tomorrow’s race from 15th place on the starting grid.
“Stoffel had a badly disrupted day yesterday, also as a result of MGU-H issues, but he recovered well today to post a Q1 lap just a couple of tenths off Fernando’s best. Super-competitive racer that he is, Stoffel was disappointed not to make it through to Q2, but we were very impressed by his performance here today. Given his acute lack of running yesterday, in fact, we reckon he totally
nailed it. He’ll start tomorrow’s race from 17th place on the starting grid.
“The 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix will be a long, hot and difficult one for both our drivers, but that’s the hand they’ve currently been dealt, and they’ll play it as best they can, of that you can be absolutely certain.”
YUSUKE HASEGAWA, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“It became a very disappointing day in the end today.
“During FP3 this morning we were able to complete our practice programme as planned to find suitable qualifying and race settings. Unfortunately this afternoon in qualifying we had to end Fernando’s Q2 session prematurely after detecting an MGU-H issue. We are still investigating to find out exactly what the issue is and whether or not it’s related to Stoffel’s issues yesterday.
“Despite the difficulties facing our drivers, they did a great job to extract the maximum power from our car. Fernando once again led us into Q2, and Stoffel was just 0.2 seconds behind his team-mate, which was a good performance considering the tough day he had yesterday.
“After the issues with Stoffel’s MGU-H yesterday, our boys worked incredibly hard with McLaren to utilise the limited working hours and get Stoffel’s car ready to run today. Tonight, we’ll do the same for Fernando.
“We’re having a challenging time here in Bahrain, but we’ll work as hard as we can to turn things around for the race tomorrow.”