“SOMETIMES, YOU WALK AWAY EMPTY-HANDED…”
Today’s Monaco Grand Prix was a disappointing and unsuccessful race for McLaren Honda.
Stoffel Vandoorne ran as high as seventh during the flurry of mid-race pit-stops, and looked well positioned to bring home a point while running in 10th in the closing laps. Unfortunately, he was caught out at the end of a late-race Safety Car period: with cold tyres and brakes, he understeered into the tyre-wall at Ste Devote, retiring on lap 66.
Stoffel’s one-off team-mate Jenson Button was always going to be playing a weakened hand this afternoon. Consigned to the back of the grid, following a power unit component change, the team’s strategists decided to box him on lap one and allow him to run an alternative strategy in clear air.
But that call was immediately stymied by Sauber’s decision to box Pascal Wehrlein on the same lap. Notwithstanding the five-second penalty awarded to Wehrlein for an unsafe pit-stop release, the first-lap strategy call would define the rest of Jenson’s afternoon.
With no easy route past the Sauber, the team again adjusted the strategy on the fly, pitting Jenson for a set of Options at half distance. He caught the German and attempted to pass him on the inside at Portier. The pair collided heavily – Wehrlein’s car ending up sideways in the tyre-wall, and Jenson’s parked at the end of the harbor-front escape road with a broken left-front corner.
As one race ends, so another begins, and we now turn our attentions towards Indianapolis, where Fernando Alonso will be racing in today’s Indy 500.
Finished DNF – accident (66 laps)
Fastest lap 1m16.665s on lap 45 (+1.845s, 15th)
Pit-stops One: lap 43 (3.22s) [Option/Prime]
“It’s a shame we haven’t come away with any points this weekend. I think we’d all hoped to get a little bit more out of the weekend.
“Towards the end of the race, I knew it would be difficult at the restart. It’s always difficult to heat up the Supersofts, and we knew we wouldn’t be able to cover Sergio [Perez] and Felipe [Massa], who’d switched to the Option behind the Safety Car. That wasn’t an option for us – when you’re in the top 10, you’ve got to keep your position. It was hard to get the tyres and brakes up to temperature, and I just had nowhere to go at Turn One, unfortunately.
“So, this isn’t the result we wanted this weekend, but there are still positives to take away from Monaco: we may still be lacking overall performance, but we’ve made some useful steps forward this weekend.
“There’s still a lot of work to do – but I remain optimistic.”
Started 20th – started from the pit-lane
Finished DNF – accident damage, crash with WEH (57 laps)
Fastest lap 1m16.912s on lap 47 (+2.092s, 17th)
Pit-stops Two: laps 1 (2.78s) and 39 (4.39s) [Option/Prime/Option]
“Today was a disappointing day and one where we couldn’t make any progress. The race was made very difficult from lap one, and then obviously the incident happened with Pascal [Wehrlein]. His tyres were completely gone from lap one – I know because I had the same set of tyres on from the start of the race after I pitted just after the start.
“I had a lot more traction coming out of the previous corner, because when these tyres go on the marbles they have no grip. I thought I was a long way up the inside and then I looked across and saw that he hadn’t seen me, so I tried to back out, but obviously it was too late by then.
“You do struggle to see in these cars, but you don’t think in that moment that the guy’s not going to see me when you go up the inside. I gave it a go and thought it was a fair enough judgment, but it didn’t work out. You never like seeing a car tip over because you don’t know if his head’s going to hit anything, but the most important thing is that Pascal is okay – I spoke to him and he’s a bit shaken of course but the best thing is he walked out okay.
“Today was a bit frustrating, but, as a racing driver, it’s difficult to just drive around at the back and not get to have a go. I had a go, and thought it was a fair enough judgement, but it didn’t work out. I’m sorry to the team for even more damage this weekend. I enjoyed some laps today too, but obviously I never want to damage that car, and it’s not something I do very often. Yesterday was awesome – I loved it – and I’ll take away lots of good memories.
“I hope Fernando has a good safe race this afternoon and we’re all looking forward to it.”
McLAREN-HONDA RACING DIRECTOR
“Sometimes you visit the Monte-Carlo casino and hit the jackpot; other times you walk away empty-handed. For us, this was just one of those unfortunate days when the luck didn’t go our way.
“We always knew that Jenson would start the race on the back-foot, but it was unfortunate that our attempts to run him in clean air came to nothing after Sauber attempted the very same strategy. It was cruel luck for Jenson that, despite the unsafe release of Wehrlein’s car, the penalty did nothing to tip the odds in Jenson’s favour. The collision was just one of those things, but I’m pleased that both drivers were able to walk away.
“With our focus now turned solely towards Stoffel, we looked set for a decent result. He’d been running on the fringes of the top 10 for the whole race, and his pace on the Option was very promising. Following a switch to the Prime, he still looked set for a points finish, but, on cold tyres and with cold brakes, he understeered into the tyre wall at Turn One when the race restarted after the Safety Car.
“Still, there are positives: I think it’s fair to say that Stoffel has really taken a step forward this weekend, both in terms of his driving and his confidence level with the car; and Jenson showed us all that he is still a great champion and a fantastic ambassador for the sport of Formula 1.
“Finally, to Fernando and our friends and colleagues racing at the Indy 500, I say bonne chance.”
HONDA R&D CO. LTD HEAD OF F1 PROJECT & EXECUTIVE CHIEF ENGINEER
“Today’s race ended in disappointment, missing out on a potential first point of the season for the team.
“Although Stoffel had to start from 12th, we knew he was competitive this weekend. In fact, he moved up to 10th after his pit-stop with his brilliant performance and a good strategy from the team. I think the performance he showed today was very encouraging and therefore it’s regrettable that he had to end the race having such an unfortunate accident and no points to his name.
“Jenson’s race also had potential, but at Monaco it is notoriously difficult to overtake and he was unable to really push. The accident he had was disappointing; however, he brought great enthusiasm and a cheerful personality with him this weekend, and I think all the members of the team enjoyed racing with him.
“Next up is Montreal, but of course even before then we will be glued to our TV screens to watch Fernando’s Indy 500 challenge.”