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Finishing in Australia the ‘first milestone’ for Vandoorne, McLaren

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Stoffel Vandoorne says that getting to the finish of last Sunday’s Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix was the “first milestone” for McLaren after a difficult winter.

McLaren entered the new year looking to build on a quietly impressive 2016 campaign that saw engine partner Honda make big gains, lifting the team to sixth in the constructors’ championship.

Honda tried to cut the gap to pace-setter Mercedes by revising the layout of its power unit, only for a number of issues to arise through pre-season that left Vandoorne and teammate Fernando Alonso frustrated on the sidelines for much of testing.

McLaren arrived in Australia unsure about its chances, but Alonso was able to fight for P10 through the race before retiring late on due to a suspension issue.

Vandoorne did reach the checkered flag, albeit two laps down after having to complete a power cycle on his car mid-race. The Belgian was eventually classified 13th.

“It was a difficult race, but we knew that before coming here. We have to look at the positives, we finished the race, even with some issues we had,” Vandoorne told NBCSN.

“It was very busy behind the steering wheel doing a lot of changes on the toys and really trying to bring the car home. We even had to come in the pit lane and do a full power cycle of the car. At some point I lost the dash as well so didn’t really know what was going on.”

Despite the issues, Vandoorne said McLaren could take plenty of positives from the race, admitting that he did not expect to even finish the first round in Australia.

“I think it’s the first milestone to finish the race already. After Barcelona we didn’t expect this,” Vandoorne said.

“As a total package, we’re definitely not there. We don’t have the pace yet to compete with the cars ahead, that’s for sure. We need a big push.

“Hopefully China shows another step for us.”

Pagenaud leads no-tow times in Sunday practice

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Sunday practice ahead of Day 2 of qualifying for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 was split into two groups – one for the drivers who ended Saturday qualifying in positions 10-33, and one for the drivers who made the Fast Nine Shootout for the Pole.

In the combined times, Ryan Hunter-Reay was fastest overall. But, Simon Pagenaud topped the all-important no-tow speeds with a lap of 229.409 mph.

Pagenaud’s Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, and Will Power were second, third, and fourth on the no-tow chart – and they were also the only four drivers from the Top 9 who went out for practice.

Of the drivers who qualifying between positions 10 through 33, Alexander Rossi had the quickest no-tow speed of 227.779 mph.

Combined results are below. Qualifying begins at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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