McLaren needs race 'mayhem' to boost Alonso and Vandoorne

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Japanese Grand Prix
© XPB 

McLaren enjoyed a solid qualifying session at Suzuka ahead of the this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, with Fernando Alonso making it into the final round of qualifying.

Ironically he did so by edging out his team mate Stoffel Vandoorne by 0.029s with a last-gasp flying lap right at the end of Q2.

But despite finishing the session in tenth place, Alonso will start the race from an all-too-familiar last place on the grid. He has picked up another 35-place grid penalty as a result of power unit changes to the MCL32.

"I think there was a little bit more, but we did a decent qualifying," Alonso reported afterwards. "We knew that with an engine change we would start last anyway, so [we were] qualifying mainly to be last.

"Still, despite the penalty, we wanted to have a normal qualifying session and push," he continued. "We have so many fans here, so many Honda supporters, and I think we succeeded and did a decent job.

“Of course, the race will be much different," he noted. "It’ll be quite difficult to gain any advantage. But we’ll try to do the best we can to close up to the top ten.

“Points would have been a difficult target even on a normal weekend. But we’re starting last, on a track with so many high-speed corners where you can’t easily follow the cars in front.

That means the two-time world champion will need a lot of luck - and plenty of incidents ahead of him - to be in any positon to pick up points on Sunday.

"We’ll need a lot of action in front of us if we want to make up some positions," he agreed.

Alonso revealed that this weekend's engine change and raft of penalties had caught the team by surprise.

"I was unexpected. The engine I think was quite new - we only did a few sessions in the Malaysia race. In Singapore I was out in corner 1! So I think it was only the Malaysia race.

"Unfortunately we had to change it. Hopefully we don't have to change any more for the rest of the season. But there's still four or five races so I don't know if this engine will keep alive."

Penalties for Alonso and for Kimi Raikkonen mean Vandoorne will start tomorrow's race from ninth place. Having not made it through to Q3, he's also got a free hand when it comes to tyre strategy.

"We were very close," commented Vandoorne. "I think in the end to not to go to Q3 is pretty much the ideal scenario for me. It means I can start on a new set of tyres tomorrow.

"We’re usually pretty strong at working out what the tyres are going to do. How long they’re going to last, and how to manage them efficiently. We’ll definitely be looking to benefit from that tomorrow.

"It looks like it's not really straightforward between one and two stops. Hopefully that can actually play into our advantage," he said. "We're in a position where hopefully we can race from and maybe take some points.

"We've got a couple of good cars in front of us," he added, referring to Williams' Felipe Massa and the two Force Indias.

"Maybe if there's any mayhem happening, we just need to make sure we're in a position to benefit from that."

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