Alonso: First lap crucial in points push
22 October 2017 – Fernando Alonso is wary that McLaren could be "exposed" on the opening lap of the United States Grand Prix due to its speed deficit, but is hopeful of pushing for points thereafter.
Alonso qualified in ninth place at the Circuit of the Americas, though will move up a place on the grid and start from eighth, due to a penalty for Red Bull's Max Verstappen.
Alonso believes that putting space between himself and his pursuing opponents early on, giving him breathing space along the back straight, will be vital if he is to collect points.
"We had some concerns before coming here about how competitive we could be," said Alonso.
"We put the car on track and immediately performed quite well, being in the top 10 in every single session, and that was a nice surprise.
"We'll start eighth, due to Verstappen's penalty, so I think it's a great chance to score points.
"We know we still have a deficit on the straights compared to other teams and we'll probably be a little exposed on the first lap because we're in a group.
"But after the first lap has settled I think we could open up the gap in the high-speed section and maybe defend a little bit better."
Stoffel Vandoorne, meanwhile, reckons his prospects have been compromised by trialling McLaren's upgraded front wing on Friday morning, before handing it to Alonso for the remainder of the weekend.
Vandoorne qualified in 13th position, though will start from 14th on the grid, the impact of his five-place penalty minimised due to sanctions for other drivers.
"I've been struggling a bit this weekend," Vandoorne commented.
"From FP2 I haven't really felt comfortable in the car and it was quite difficult. FP1 was good – I had a busy aero programme with a new front wing and I finished fifth in that session.
"We then swapped it to the other car after that, and ever since we returned to the previous spec we've been on the back foot a bit and struggling with the car balance, which has continued up to qualifying.
"I haven't really found the right balance across the corners or been able to get the car together as I've wanted it.
"As I have a penalty it made sense to give the front wing to Fernando as he has a better chance to finish in the points.
"It's a challenging track and a long race, and hopefully with the degradation there are some opportunities to get back some positions."