McLaren brought some updates for the Malaysian GP, but there were only enough for Alonso’s car. They looked to be working too, as throughout practice Fernando was right up there and showing good pace.
However in qualifying it was actually Vandoorne who starred, ending up in seventh, three places ahead of his teammate, and despite not having the updates or having driven at the Sepang International Circuit before.
In the race he managed to finish seventh too, equalling his career-best result from the previous round in Singapore.
However the Belgian reckons that his drive in Malaysia was the best of his short F1 career so far. He said:
“I can definitely say that, for me, that was my best drive in Formula 1 until now. To finish seventh on the circuit like this, and being very quick all weekend, to qualify seventh, we thought it was going to be very difficult today, and we had a fantastic race.”
His race was helped by making a great start and running fifth in the early laps, keeping out of the battles that were going on in the pack behind him, and slipping only behind Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez by the end.
“I got a great, great start – and then we knew it was going to be difficult to keep the Force Indias and Williamses behind, but only Perez came through. We pushed like crazy, lap after lap, trying to manage the fuel and tyres at the same time. Tough conditions out there, but we managed the gap with Lance very well, so extremely satisfied with seventh.”
After a slightly sketchy first half of the year it marks a continued upturn in form for the Belgian where he’s now starting to match (and beat) his illustrious teammate much more regularly.
“The last races have been very, very good as well for me. I’m definitely working hard with the team, putting the pressure on [Alonso], and it’s good for the team spirit.”
Fernando could only manage 11th, and he blamed traffic and the first lap collision for his pretty underwhelming result.
“We’ve had better days, definitely. It was a shame at corner two that the Williamses were in front of us and touched each other and we lost a few places there. Then we were always in the secondary group, always slower than our true pace, but we could not overtake. Hopefully in Japan we come back in a stronger form.”
It’s good to see Vandoorne start to live up to his potential, although if he keeps it up Fernando might not be too happy about it. Still, that’ll be good news for us, especially if the Renault engine can help the team be somewhere near the front next year…