“EXCELLENT WORK FROM BOTH THE TEAM AND DRIVERS”

#ItalianGP
On a washed-out Saturday morning in Monza, FP3 became little more than an exploratory test bed for the cars ahead of qualifying. With torrential rain delaying the start of the session until 15 mins before its scheduled end, the teams and drivers could do little more than watch and wait for the water levels on-track to subside, in the hope of at least getting one lap out on track to get a handle on the conditions.
Both drivers did just that, Fernando doing one run on Wet tyres, and Stoffel two, before the necessary install checks. Neither driver set a time.
By qualifying, the rain had intensified significantly. While the track went green at 14:00 as scheduled, it was quickly deemed too wet and Q1 was red flagged only five minutes after it had begun. After a long delay, qualifying was finally restarted at 16:40 and all three sessions ran without any further stoppages.
In Q1, both drivers executed perfect run plans, and as the track began drying out changed from Wets to Intermediate tyres. Both got through to Q2 without any drama – Stoffel in 10th and Fernando 12th.
In Q2, Fernando – knowing his grid penalty meant he wouldn’t be able to make a difference to his starting position – did only one run right at the end of the session, qualifying in P13, although he’ll start last. Stoffel did two longer runs of five laps each – staying out to take advantage of any change in track conditions – and progressed through to Q3 with a fantastic final lap.
In Q3, Stoffel once again read the conditions well, and opted to begin what would be his only run of the session on Wet tyres. Once again the plan was to stay out and take advantage of track conditions and position, and had settled into a good rhythm despite a lot of traffic as the rain increased. Unfortunately, while he was looking good for a quick lap, he lost power and was forced to box early, ending his session. He qualified 10th, but will start eighth due to penalties for Verstappen and Ricciardo.

THE DRIVERS

FERNANDO ALONSO
#FA14 MCL32-05
FP3 No time set 2 laps
Q1 12th 1m39.134s (on Wets)
Q2 13th overall* 1m38.202s (on Inters)
*Will start 20th due to 35-place PU penalty

“The car was great today in wet conditions, especially compared to the dry. We were much more competitive and we made it into Q2. Obviously, we didn’t want to push too much in qualifying because there was no point – we’ll start last anyway, due to the penalty – so we just saved the tyres and used the engine in a lower power mode, but we still did a decent qualifying. We needed to keep an eye on Stoffel’s position too, as we didn’t want to be in Q3 with the wrong car!
“We missed the opportunity to use the tow today because with wet conditions you don’t want anyone in front, as the visibility is so poor. We’ll save it for some future races.
“I think we were potentially top five or top six today, so we hope for these conditions tomorrow. It’s apparently going to be sunny though, but we’ll see what we can do from there.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE
#SV2 MCL32-04
FP3 No time set 4 laps
Q1 10th 1m38.767s (on Wets)
Q2 9th 1m37.471s (on Inters)
Q3 10th overall 1m39.157s (on Wets)
*Will start 8th due to penalties for VER and RIC

“For us to be in Q3 on a circuit like Monza means it’s been a pretty good afternoon, especially as it wasn’t so easy out there and there were pretty difficult conditions.
“I’m happy with my performance today. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to have a proper go in Q3 – we had a loss of engine power so I had to abandon my quicker lap, and we don’t know what the problem is at the moment. It’s a shame because I really think we could have pushed our way further up. We could have taken more time to find the limit and taken a few more risks, but we didn’t get that chance.
“With penalties we’ll probably start P8, which is inside the top 10, and we’ve been running strong in the dry. I think tomorrow should be dry, so we’ll need a good start and to keep in touch with the group in front. There’s some quick cars in front and some quick cars behind, but once we’re in position hopefully we can stay there. Tomorrow is when the points are distributed, and I’m optimistic in the race we can have a good go.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

McLAREN-HONDA RACING DIRECTOR

“After a chaotic Saturday in Monza, and some excellent work from both the team and drivers, it was a shame we couldn’t capitalise more on a great Q3 performance from Stoffel. Despite a long delay, a lot of patience, and very difficult conditions on track, both drivers did a sterling job to keep their cars on the black stuff and in one piece in heavy rain, and it was encouraging to see us comfortably progress through to Q2.
“In Q2, we opted to run Fernando late in the session since we knew his grid position was less critical than Stoffel’s due to his penalty. His run was solid on the Inters and he could have gone quicker still, but made sure Stoffel was able to leapfrog him for the best chance to get into Q3. He did the best job for the team under the circumstances and I’d like to thank him for his efforts. Stoffel did a great job too, clocking progressively quicker lap-times as the rain started to subside, and he maximised everything to slip through into Q3 on his final flying lap.
“Q3 had all the hallmarks of a topsy-turvy result with the rain getting heavier, and there was definitely scope for Stoffel to pull a surprise out of the bag in the dying moments as each car navigated through the worsening conditions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, and Stoffel was cruelly robbed at a final shot at a higher grid slot, when he was forced to cut his final run short – while on a faster lap – due to a loss of power, which is still under investigation. Nevertheless, Stoffel drove fantastically and we hope he’ll be able to start from a stronger grid position tomorrow.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

HONDA R&D CO. LTD HEAD OF F1 PROJECT & EXECUTIVE CHIEF ENGINEER

“It was an extremely disrupted qualifying session for the team today with a delay of more than two-and-a-half hours due to rain.
“The weather varied all afternoon which meant it was also tricky for the drivers, as the majority of their running was done in unstable track conditions. Despite this both drivers did a great job and Stoffel put his car into Q3 for the third time this season.
“In the end Stoffel qualified P10, but we think he could have improved and finished further up the grid had it not been for a PU issue right at the end of the session. We’re not sure at the moment what caused the problem – we need to do more investigating and then decide on our strategy for the race tomorrow.
“Fernando’s qualifying strategy was different to Stoffel’s because he was always destined to start from the back on the grid, but he also did a great job in the conditions.
“And of course thank you to the team for their good job with the strategy, which made all the difference.
“We expect tomorrow will be another challenging day for us, but as always we will come out fighting.”