E s are only a few seconds, a few Words, few gestures. But they show how frustrating the past three years have been for McLaren. How frustrated the pilots were. Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne only have mockery left for ex-engine partner Honda. Vandoorne sits down, looks to the right at his teammate and asks him: “Where is Hasegawa?” Alonso grins. What is meant is Yusuke Hasegawa, ex-Honda sports director, who in recent years had always participated in the McLaren press laps after qualifying and had often suffered verbal beatings. Because the Japanese engines were too inefficient and unreliable.
McLaren on a good basis
The switch from Honda to Renault makes the drivers easier and gives them back their optimism. Alonso sees the first qualifying appearance of the year as confirmation that McLaren is on the way up. Yes, with a clean lap he could have finished in the top ten. But much more important than the result is that McLaren have a well-balanced car and that it delivered both in practice and in qualifying. Without any technical defects that the team had slowed down during the winter test drives. “We have a very good basis for this season.”
The double world champion from 2005 and 2006 is bursting with optimism: “Big points await us in the race. In fact, I hope that we can do better than sixth. ”What is the confidence referring to? “Our long runs are better than our speed on one lap. There have been a lot of failures here in the last year. If it hits a few of the top drivers, we can really clear away. ”Eight drivers failed early in 2017.
With Valtteri Bottas being relocated, both McLaren automatically slip to starting positions ten and eleven. And as the first drivers, they have a free choice of tires. That gives you more flexibility in your strategy. “I don't think it makes much difference. The tires simply don't degrade enough for that and the time differences between the three compounds are too small, ”says Alonso.
Sainz faster in Q2 than in Q3
McLaren doesn't want HaasF1 and Renault only challenge, but beat. As expected, the US racing team prevailed in qualifying. Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean distanced their immediate opponents in midfield by two to four tenths. “But we would have itcan defeat “, says Renault's sports director Cyril Abiteboul. “Carlos drove a 1: 23.0 in the second qualifying round. That time would have been enough in Q3. “
Indeed. The Spaniard finished the second part in 1: 23.061 minutes. In Q3, however, he missed this mark by more than half a second. The engineers blamed it on the fact that the tires weren't in the magic window. Abiteboul has a different explanation. “The red flag got in the way. He just went out and had to go back in again. Carlos is someone who likes to build rhythm. He couldn't do that without the first lap. ”Nico Hülkenberg struggled with his car like the day before. The long Rhinelander just can't find the right balance. “Given the feeling in the car, I'm pretty happy with my starting position,” said the eighth-placed qualifying. “Nico runs on a knife edge with his setup. It's easy to make mistakes, ”reports boss Abiteboul.
Uneasiness among the competition
HaasF1 showed what was possible under the circumstances and at asphalt temperatures of 31 degrees. 'Our car prefers to be warmer,' says team boss Guenther Steiner. “It was a good fight with Renault. We got them. That makes us happy. ”The good performance of the young team, which entered Formula 1 in 2016, upsets the competition. Now that HaasF1 is leading the midfield. The opponents criticize the Ferrari copy VF-18 and subliminally assume help from Maranello for the US team. HaasF1 purchases 70 percent of its vehicle parts from Ferrari and uses the wind tunnel in Maranello. “We are so good because we started the 2018 project in May and stopped developing last year's car early on. The last wind tunnel tests with it were made before the summer break, ”says HaasF1 race director Steiner.
McLaren wants to overtake HaasF1 over the course of the season at a higher development speed. “We have a lot of innovative ideas in the pipeline. Every race comes new parts. And the really big upgrades in two stages, ”says team boss Eric Boullier.“We are not satisfied with the qualifying result. The development of the team, however, does. We are convinced of the potential that the car has. ”
One thing is McLaren with a Renault engine too: slowly on the straights. Alonso and Vandoorne raced through the light barrier at the end of the home straight at only 309.8 and 308.0 km /h. This suggests that McLaren's downforce is bought at the expense of higher air resistance. “Our updates aim to make the car more efficient. If everything on the car is what we imagine, there will be no difference in the efficiency of our aerodynamics compared to competing products, ”promises Boullier.