Stoffel Vandoorne’s rise in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship continued on Sunday in Malaysia as he matched his best grand prix finish of P7 for McLaren.
After a tough start to his first full season in F1, Vandoorne charged to seventh place in Singapore two weeks ago before leading McLaren’s charge once again in Malaysia, repeating the result.
A perfectly-executed race saw Vandoorne finish second out of the midfield runners in Malaysia, trailing only Force India’s Sergio Perez, and pass teammate Fernando Alonso in the points standings.
“I can say that this was my best ever race in Formula 1,” Vandoorne said after the race.
“All weekend, I’ve been really strong and felt really confident with the car. After qualifying seventh, we weren’t really confident about where we’d finish in the race, so to pull off seventh today is an amazing result.”
Vandoorne ran as high as fifth early on, but was not surprised to slip back, losing places to Perez and the recovering Sebastian Vettel.
“I made a great start. We knew it was probably going to be difficult to hold off the Force Indias and the Williams behind, but only Perez came through,” Vandoorne said.
“From then on, I had amazing pace, pushed hard every lap to try and manage the tires and maintain the gap over Stroll, and I managed that until the end. I’m very happy.”
By contrast, Alonso had a tough race spent mostly running outside of the points as he struggled to put McLaren’s aerodynamic updates to good use.
“It was a tough race today. From the very beginning, at the second corner, the two Williams touched in front of me, and made me lose a few positions,” Alonso said.
“As a result, we ended up in the secondary group, running a little slower than our true pace, and could not overtake.
“So I lost a lot of time, and that really compromised our race. A shame, definitely not one of our best races today.
“But we’ll have better days, and, hopefully in Japan, we’ll come back with stronger form, and I’ll be able to add my contribution to the constructors’ championship on Honda’s home ground.
“Having scored points at this track and at Singapore, two very different circuits, is really good for the team. I hope we can continue scoring more points in the remaining races.”