McLaren had a great start to their new partnership with engine supplier Renault. Fernando Alonso started the 58 lap race from 10th place and had a great day Down Under in Melbourne’s Albert Park as the Spanish double world champion finished the race in fifth place and importantly ahead of the works Renault Sport F1 Team.
Speaking following the race, Alonso commented by saying:
“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.”
Stoffel Vandoorne in the second McLaren started the race from 11th place and had a strong race using a one stop strategy on lap 25 moving from the Prime to the Option tyre. The Belgian finished the race in 9th place and speaking following the race he commented by saying:
“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.
McLaren head to the next race, the Bahrain Grand Prix in two weeks time in fourth place in the championship on 12 points and speaking following the race, McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier commented by saying:
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.