“It feels like we’ve started the season proper”
Shanghai International Circuit, Sunday April 12
McLaren-Honda got both cars safely to the finish in today’s Chinese Grand Prix, Fernando and Jenson finishing 12th and 14th respectively.
Both drivers started on the Option tyre, but then ran constrasting two-stop strategies. Fernando switched to Primes at his first stop, which made his car oversteer, before fitting Options for the run to the flag. Despite a longer-than-planned stop (to clear debris from the rear wing), the softer tyre enabled him to make up significant ground to the cars in front.
Jenson, switched to a second set of Options at his first stop, setting a string of competitive midfield times, before ending the race on the Prime. He struggled with a lack of rear grip on the harder tyre, which dropped him into the sights of the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado, with whom he enjoyed a spirited tussle for many laps.
Into the closing laps, the action between Jenson and Pastor intensified, the pair passing and re-passing each other before colliding on the high-speed entry to Turn One. Pastor was pushed into a spin, and the contact broke off Jenson’s right-hand front-wing endplate. With his car’s balance not too badly compromised, Jenson made it to the finish line in 13th, but was later given a five-second penalty for his role in the Maldonado accident, which cost him an extra place.
The incident enabled the closely following Fernando to move cleanly past. When a late-race Safety Car period neutered the race, he came home 12th.
Fastest lap 1m43.728s on lap 40 (+1.520s, 13th)
Pitstops Two: laps 12 (3.34s) and 35 (3.58s) [Opt-Pri-Opt]
“This wasn’t the easiest race for us. We weren’t very competitive at the beginning, then we had a few issues with the aero behaviour of the car, which slowed me down in the middle stint, but I was able to push a bit harder on the soft tyre at the end of the race.
“We still need to learn a lot more about this car in order to extract its maximum, but an afternoon like today was extremely useful for us as it enabled us to better understand the car.
“It was a useful race for me too: my longest stint during winter testing was 12 laps; in Malaysia, I did 22; and here I completed the race, so this is a step forward.
“Hopefully, we can improve again for Bahrain.”
Finished 14th – finished 13th but received 5s post-race penalty
Fastest lap 1m44.991s on lap 21 (+2.783s, 16th)
Pitstops Two: laps 14 (3.45s) and 32 (3.47s) [Opt-Opt-Pri]
“Today wasn’t too bad – we’re still fighting at the back of the field, which is a shame, but it’s positive to see that we’re progressing.
“My middle stint on the Option tyre wasn’t too bad – I don’t think our pace was too bad at all on the softer tyre – but the Prime was a bit trickier in those closing laps. A lot of that was due to all the blue flags and traffic I encountered – they meant the tyre temperatures dropped off quite a bit through the stint. It wasn’t easy.
“Regarding the collision with Pastor, I thought there was room on the inside – a collision is something you never want to see happen. It was just a misjudgment, I guess.
“Still, we go to Bahrain hoping for more progress, although the circuit configuration doesn’t suit us, so heading to Europe will hopefully work out a little bit better for the team.
“We need to improve at every race because we’re quite a way back.”
Racing director, McLaren-Honda
“First, it’s a real positive for the entire team that we managed to get two cars to the finish with no issues whatsoever during the race. I think that’s a great reward for Honda, and we should congratulate them – today’s double-finish is the result of an enormous amount of hard work, much of which goes unappreciated, so I want to personally thank everybody working in Woking, Sakura and Milton Keynes for their efforts. It’s great that we’re starting to make solid progress.
“Second, our race pace showed further improvement: Jenson drove strongly in the middle stint, and Fernando was reasonably quick relative to the others in the final stint.
“Fighting towards the back of the pack still isn't where we want to be. We know we’re not in a position to fight for points yet – but, little by little, we’re getting there. And we must keep pushing to ensure there are improvements coming for every race.”
Honda R&D senior managing officer – chief officer of motorsport
“After today’s result, it finally feels like we’ve left this long period of winter testing behind us, and started the season proper.
“To get both cars to the finish of the race is one more item off our list, and we’ll now continue to push forward race by race to achieve the targets that we’ve set for ourselves.
“It may appear that we’ve only achieved a minor objective, and we know there’s a lot of work ahead, but the whole team deserves credit and thanks for all of their hard work.”