Stoffel Vandoorne made the most of his surprise Formula 1 debut in Bahrain by finishing 10th to pick up a solitary point for McLaren, the team’s first of the season.
Reserve driver Vandoorne flew overnight from Japan to Bahrain on Thursday after Fernando Alonso was ruled out of the race weekend due to a fractured rib sustained in Australia two weeks ago.
The Belgian driver qualified 12th on Saturday, and enjoyed a spirited drive in the race to battle his way to 10th place at the checkered flag.
Vandoorne pulled off fine overtaking moves on Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg among others, and told NBCSN after the race he felt comfortable behind the wheel of the McLaren MP4-31.
“Very good to come away with one point this wekend,” Vandoorne said.
“Today the focus was on operationally making no mistakes and bringing the car home. That’s what I managed to do. Getting a point was a bonus.
“I felt very confident and comfortable in the car. I knew I did something good. Today was a good finish on the weekend.”
Vandoorne became the 64th driver in the history of F1 to score points on debut, but said he was not thinking about the records or enormity of his achievement.
“I still don’t realize what I’ve done! Trying to enjoy the moment,” Vandoorne said.
“This weekend has been a success on the whole. It’s never been easy to jump in a car without any testing in the season.
“My first Formula 1 race, first race would be tricky to do, but I coped with the pressure that came with it. Just to finish and then finish 10th.”
Vandoorne may yet be drafted in for the Chinese Grand Prix in two weeks’ time should Alonso not be fit enough, but the Belgian was just grateful for the opportunity he received in Bahrain.
“I don’t know yet,” he said when asked if he’d be racing in China.
“It’s not up to me to decide that. Just be happy about the one shot this weekend and go from there.”
Vandoorne now sits above both Alonso and teammate Jenson Button in the drivers’ championship, with the latter retiring early on in Bahrain.