An encouraging inaugural race of the season for McLaren and its new relationship with Renault. Both Fernando and Stoffel started the race one place ahead of their original qualifying spots thanks to Bottas’ grid penalty, and made solid starts, narrowly avoiding any drama at turn one.
Both drivers drove a strong race, and a solid pit-stop for each under the Virtual Safety Car ensured Fernando and Stoffel maximised their respective strategies.
Race pace was promising, and gives the team optimism for the future. Despite strong advances from the cars around them, both Fernando and Stoffel could attack as well as defend their positions and maintain pace with the surrounding pack. Although the team benefitted from a couple of retirements further up the field, the drivers kept their heads down, stayed out of trouble, and enjoyed a clean race to cross the line in fifth and ninth positions respectively – a double points finish and a positive start to the season for the whole team.
Started 10th (due to BOT grid penalty)
Fastest lap 1m26.978s on lap 57 (+1.033s, 7th)
Pit-stops One: lap 26 (3.3s), [Option/Back-Up]
“It was a good race today, especially considering where we started.
“The last couple of years have been difficult, and I think the winter has been difficult as well. We switched to the Renault engine quite late and the team had to react very quickly to redesign some of the parts at the rear end, and now we’ve come here and both cars have scored points – one in the top five.
“We should be proud of that, but I think there’s a lot more to come from McLaren. We didn’t maximise the full potential nor squeeze everything out of the package today. This is only our first race together with Renault, and some updates will come in the next few races. We can start to look ahead a little bit and Red Bull will be the next target.
“As I said before, this race is probably our lowest performance of this season as things are going to get better and better.
“Obviously, today we got lucky with the two Haas cars retiring, Carlos’ [Sainz] problem in turn nine, and then overtaking [Max] Verstappen under the Safety Car. Let’s say four positions came thanks to some favourable conditions, but we made no mistakes and we capitalised on everything. A perfect job from the team.”
Started 11th (due to BOT grid penalty)
Fastest lap 1m26.958s on lap 57 (+1.013s, 6th)
Pit-stops One: lap 25 (3.0s), [Option/Prime]
“It’s a great result for the team to have both cars in the points today. It’s a big contrast from last year, and I think there’s massive potential for the future. From my side, I was a little bit unlucky with the Virtual Safety Car, as I think we could have finished even higher up, but for the opening race I think we can be very happy.
“I’m very optimistic for the rest of the year. We know there is more to come from us this season, and the partnership with Renault is still very new. This was our first race, we know that there are new parts coming over the next couple of grands prix, and I really hope we can show that on track too. The baseline is good, we have something to work with and now we need to keep improving and deliver more performance, and ultimately points.
“Our performance in the race was pretty good – we were fighting with the Renault and Red Bull cars which is positive, and we think there is definitely some margin for progression. “It’s a great start to the season, and after this race I feel there’s a lot of potential for the future. We need to be ambitious as a team, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s around the corner.”
Eric Boullier Racing Director
“A good result for us today. We benefitted from every opportunity that was thrown at us – the first being Haas’ double retirement. We really feel for them because we know what this is like; a double DNF is hard to take, but this is racing.
“As we said yesterday, we knew we had some potential and further speed to unlock from the car today. We took every chance we could and both drivers drove superbly. We showed good pace, enjoyed some good fights, and we completed two decent pit stops which helped us keep our strategy on track.
“I want to say a huge thank you to the whole team, here and back in Woking, not only because we’re encouraged by the potential our car has shown in the first race of the season, but also reliability-wise we had a trouble-free weekend, which is a relief after the issues we had in winter testing. It’s all thanks to a huge amount of hard work from everyone in the team, who have done a remarkable job since Barcelona.
“Now we need to keep pushing, and work on readying the upgrades we have in the pipeline as soon as possible. Our priority is to get closer to our nearest competitors in front, especially those who have the same engine in the back of their car.”