McLaren drivers and team preview the Malaysian Grand Prix, Round 15 of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, at Sepang.
Fernando Alonso: “After Singapore, I’m already eager to get back into the car and hopefully make it further than the first corner in Malaysia! Of course, what happened was disappointing and it’s difficult to hide your frustration when you’re the victim of someone else’s incident. I felt we had the potential to be really competitive – one of our only opportunities of the year – and it’s a shame we couldn’t bring home the points to prove it, but these things happen.
“The conditions in Malaysia will be very similar to Singapore – hot, humid and challenging for the drivers and the car. The configuration will work less in our favour, but of course we will still fight for everything. There are six races left and we are still putting all our energy in finishing every race in the best possible position we can.
“Sepang will be more difficult for us in terms of set-up since the straights require good straight-line speed and power, but this track is a mixture of a lot of different characteristics, so we’ll see how much we can make up on the slower-speed corners. The 2018 cars will definitely be faster through there, which will surely be fun to experience, and I hope we can avoid any drama and have a solid race.”
Stoffel Vandoorne: “After Singapore, I’m looking forward to heading to Malaysia on the back of a positive weekend on my side of the garage. I felt strong all weekend and we were able to put in consistent performances in every session. It’s a shame we couldn’t score points with both cars as we all felt it was really deserved; Fernando was very unlucky, but we head to Kuala Lumpur with a bit more confidence and the objective of keeping this momentum going.
“Like Singapore, Malaysia will be a first for me as I’ve never raced there before. It’s a shame it’ll be the last time we’ll be racing there for a while, but that’s all the more reason to make the most of it. It looks to be a pretty cool track – challenging and similar conditions to Singapore – but hopefully potential to show what our car can do.
“It definitely won’t suit us as much as the Singapore track did, so we still need to be cautious about what’s possible, but having watched races there in the past, there’s always some kind of drama and the risk of a shower or two, so we’ll have our fingers crossed for an opportunity for us to mix it with cars a little bit further up the field.”
Eric Boullier, Racing Director: “There’s no denying Sepang will be tough for us – both for our package and for our drivers – as we often see the hottest temperatures and highest humidity levels of the year. Our two drivers are among the fittest on the grid, so I’ve no doubt they’ll approach the weekend fully prepared as usual. The conditions present a pretty unique technical challenge for our engineers too, as we try to find the best compromise in terms of performance and cooling over the whole weekend.
“As for performance, we will of course be pushing for Q3 on Saturday – as we have done over the past couple of races – but this circuit is unlikely to be as kind to us as Singapore in terms of outright lap-times. As ever, reliability will be key in these tough conditions, as points are only ever possible with a reliable car, as will avoiding any first-lap chaos, which is always easier said than done.
“Nevertheless, our drivers report that the MCL32 has good balance as well as strong traction on slower-speed corners wherever we race in the world, both of which factors will be a benefit on a track of this nature. We’ll aim to bid a fond farewell to Sepang International Circuit after 19 great years, and I hope we can put in a fitting performance in front of our Malaysian fans.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer: “We’re heading back to Asia for the Malaysian Grand Prix, and we expect it to be another challenging race with extremely hot and humid weather conditions.
“Last time out in Singapore we had mixed fortunes. Fernando was involved in an unfortunate incident and ultimately retired, while Stoffel’s pace was competitive and he drove incredibly well, eventually crossing the line in P7. Overall it was positive that we were competitive throughout the weekend and came away with some precious points.
“Regarding Fernando’s Singapore power unit, we were concerned that it may have been irreparably damaged, but fortunately after a thorough check back at the Sakura factory we can confirm it is okay to be re-used.
“The layout of Sepang International Circuit is a mixture of long straights and sweeping corners, which will no doubt make for an exciting race. Despite it being a power-hungry track, the changeable conditions mean anything can happen, so hopefully if we prepare well we can capitalise on any opportunities that come our way and break into the points. After 19 fantastic years, this year’s Grand Prix will be the last in Malaysia, so we’d like to thanks the fans and treat them to an exciting race weekend.”