Stoffel Vandoorne scored McLaren-Honda’s first world championship point of the season after a faultless drive to 10th place on his grand prix debut.
The young Belgian, deputising this weekend for Fernando Alonso, started 12th, stayed out of trouble on the opening lap as the field bunched up and collected one another on the approach to Turn One. Thereafter, he kept his nose clean throughout all four stints, pulled off some confident passing manoeuvres and drove cleanly and consistently to the chequered flag.
Jenson had a short-lived race. After running strongly inside the top 10, he encountered a sudden power unit issue and was forced to pull the car onto the run-off and retire on lap seven.
#47 Stoffel Vandoorne
Fastest lap: 1m36.121s on lap 44 (+1.639s, 12th)
Pit-stops: Three: laps 9 (2.92s), 25 (2.78s) and 41 (3.62s) [Opt-Pri-Pri-Opt]
“This result was more or less what I expected – I maximised the opportunity and I’m quite satisfied.
“The start was a little bit difficult. There was debris left and right – it was pretty hectic in fact – and there was a lot of fighting throughout that opening lap.
“Since the beginning of the weekend, I’ve felt very confident in the car, and pretty comfortable that I could do a good job. I’m pleased that I didn’t make any mistakes operationally – I was really focusing on that side of things – and I came away with a point, which was a nice bonus.
“This weekend was a big opportunity for me: I made the most of it, I showed what I’m capable of, and now I just need to wait and see what happens next. That’s not for me to decide – so let’s see what the future brings.”
#22 Jenson Button
Finished: DNF – power unit (7 laps)
Fastest lap: 1m39.427s on lap 3 (+4.945s, 20th)
Pit-stops: – [started on Opt]
“We made some real progress with the car this weekend.
“Qualifying didn’t go fully to plan, but the pace was there – it’s just been a tough weekend because I think we could have scored a good amount of points. Still, I think we can take away some positives in terms of our outright pace.
“In the race I had a loss of power and then the car stopped. We don’t know yet exactly what the problem was – the car just cut out. I initially felt it out of Turn Two, and I eventually stopped at Turn 10.
“It’s a pity; I got a really good start, and made up lots of places, overtaking three cars at Turn 10 under braking, so I was pretty chuffed with that. So it’s a real shame, as I say: before I stopped, I was saving a lot of fuel, my tyres were in good condition, and I was just cruising behind the cars in front.
“We were going to try something a little bit different with the strategy; the cars we were sat behind finished fifth and sixth, and I felt like we could have had a good fight with them.
“Stoffel has done a solid job this weekend, getting our first point of the year. We were both helped out by the incidents on track, but, all said, he’s done a good job as I say.”
McLaren-Honda Racing Director
“This evening, under floodlights here in the Bahraini desert, over the twists and turns of the superb Bahrain International Circuit, Stoffel did that remarkable and noteworthy thing: he scored a world championship point on his Formula 1 debut.
“In so doing, he capped a very fine weekend, which began with a late call-up and a lengthy two-leg flight from Japan, and ended with what can only be described as a flawlessly mature performance.
“After a troubled qualifying yesterday, Jenson made an excellent start today, and was driving hard and well when his run was ended through no fault of his own. He was understandably disappointed, as we all were, but it’s fair to say that both he and Stoffel showed a decent turn of speed this evening, and for that reason we have reason to look ahead to the next grand prix, in Shanghai, with a degree of optimism.
“But, here in Bahrain, we scored our first world championship point of the year – and, although on its own that’s nothing to write home about, the fact that it was scored by a grand prix debutant is surely cause to uncork the Chandon! Well done, Stoff!”
Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“I am very happy for Stoffel to score a championship point in his first ever Formula 1 race. On the other hand, the disappointment over Jenson’s power unit issue and his early retirement is also great.
“We have been working hard on improving our reliability since last year, and will continue to do so.
“The overall performance of the package was very solid, and I think that is definitely a positive result we can take away from this weekend. Once the car returns, we will investigate the power unit and prepare it for the next race.”