Vandoorne making 'big steps' at every race
16 August 2017 – Stoffel Vandoorne feels that he is making "big steps" forward at every Grand Prix following a difficult start to his first full-time season in Formula 1 with McLaren-Honda.
Vandoorne entered F1 with high expectations, after storming to the GP2 crown, and impressing as a stand-in for the injured Fernando Alonso at last year's Bahrain Grand Prix.
But amid Honda's power unit woes, Vandoorne initially struggled in 2017, suffering seven Q1 exits from the first eight rounds, and failing to score a point over 10 races.
Alonso, meanwhile, progressed to Q2 on six occasions, missing Monaco for the Indianapolis 500, and gave the partnership its first points finish of the season in Azerbaijan.
However, after what team boss Eric Boullier described as "a lot of dedicated hard work", Vandoorne turned his fortunes around shortly before the summer break.
Vandoorne out-qualified Alonso for the first time at Silverstone, in a wet/dry session, and raced to 10th at the Hungaroring to finally get a point on the board.
Reflecting on the first half of the campaign, Vandoorne said: "With the experience I have now, I'm much more able to direct the way I want to go.
"I think the last few races have been very good from a performance point of view, matching Fernando on pace as well, which has been positive.
"Every weekend still I'm making big steps forward and I'm pushing very hard with the team to get things in my way, let's say, trying to get the car to suit my style a little bit more.
"Also from my point of view in terms of managing practice sessions, managing a whole race weekend through qualifying and then the race is definitely going in a good direction."
Vandoorne reckons his adaptation to the MCL32 was made more challenging due to Honda's chronic power unit issues, but has been encouraged by recent gains.
"I think the start of the season has been difficult, not only from my side, but for the team as a whole," he went on to comment.
"[We had] a lot of problems which hampered a lot of the running.
"Maybe from my side, as well, it took a bit more time to really understand what I needed from the car, because of those problems.
"Lately, we have had good runs, we have been putting in a lot of work with the engineers, with the team back at the factory, and everything we have done from now has been a very good step.
"It's been good progress during that first part.
"I think that the margin to improve is still big; there are still a lot of things to come, so that is looking promising for the next races."
Vandoorne also recently stated that McLaren-Honda should aim to be the fourth-best team "on a more regular basis" over the second half of the season.