McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne was a relieved person after Formula 1 Mexico Grand Prix after his first points finish since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Vandoorne started on the ultrasoft compound and found himself at the back of the field after the opening lap. The Belgian then went for an early switch to the supersoft tyre and did 57 laps on the set to score some handy points.
He was helped by the misfortunes of both the Racing Point Force India drivers along with teammate Fernando Alonso and Renault’s Carlos Sainz – who looked quicker and more likely to score points in the race.
Even the Haas cars had the chance to score but their strategy didn’t work as their pace dwindled due to no tyre performance. At the same time, Vandoorne was able to keep his tyres going until the end of the race in a safe position.
Despite being lapped twice by the leaders, it was a welcome back for Vandoorne in the Top 10 in eighth – his first since the Baku race and only his fourth points finish of 2018 where he has struggled immensely with the low car performance.
“I am super happy with that result today,” said an elated Vandoorne. “It was great race. We knew it was possible to score points here with a lot of preparation we have put in – in this race in terms of what strategy to use – one or two stops.
“Ultimately, we made the tyres last for one stop and after Lap 1 we were last, so it was a great recovery [with] some good overtakes on track which were very crucial and at the end, making your tyres last and finishing eighth is first of all a great result for myself.
“But [it is] also for the team to score some points for the constructors. In practice we didn’t look super competitive and qualifying wasn’t the best result, but we were closer than usual, and we always know that when we get to the race there’s an improvement.”
The four points comes in handy for Vandoorne and McLaren especially after Alonso retired early on due to debris from Esteban Ocon’s car which made the car difficult to drive. He also suffered water pressure loss from a leak which the team is investigating as well.
With both the Racing Point Force India drivers not scoring, McLaren managed to increase the gap to 15 points between themselves in the constructors’ standings in the fight for sixth position with two races remaining.
McLaren’s Andrea Stella commended Vandoorne’s performance: “Stoffel scoring four valuable points after he was 19th at the end of the first lap was due to a combination of factors including some great overtaking manoeuvres, impeccable driving, and looking after the tyres to make them last for 59 laps.
“Also, it was a great race by our strategy team, who realised we had to take a risk by extending our stint on the harder compound, and it paid off. In addition, we did well to manage the cooling of the engine and the brakes which were both very marginal throughout the race, thanks to good preparation at the track and at the factory.”