A tough and hard-fought Mexican Grand Prix for both of our drivers, who drove brilliantly under difficult circumstances after starting at the back of the grid.
Stoffel made an epic start from 19th on the grid, and was up to 13th by the end of lap one, with Fernando just behind in 14th after lap two (from 18th on the grid). By lap five, Stoffel was up to 10th position, with Fernando in 12th behind a struggling Romain Grosjean. The pair fought a firm battle in which the latter gained an advantage off the track and was later penalised, although Fernando was still able to pass him and move up to 11th behind his teammate.
Both Stoffel and Fernando were then caught behind the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson for some laps, unable to get close enough in the corners to make a move after the straight. On lap 18, Fernando overtook Stoffel to give him the opportunity to attempt a pass, but he too struggled to make headway on what is notoriously a difficult track on which to overtake.
Following Brendon Hartley’s retirement on lap 30, a miscommunication in the pits due to the late deployment of the VSC meant Stoffel was called late into the box and his pitstop was delayed, causing him to lose over five seconds in the stop and ultimately a position on track to Felipe Massa. He dropped down to 11th and then later 12th on lap 52, after a short-lived battle with a championship-fighting Lewis Hamilton. Despite a long and close fight with Massa over the closing 15 laps of the race, Stoffel was unable to capitalise on his strong pace and make a move stick, and he finished the race in 12th position.
Fernando enjoyed a feisty battle with Sebastian Vettel, and despite ultimately forfeiting that position, was up to eighth when he boxed a lap later than Stoffel on lap 32, losing only one further place during his stop. He then set about chasing down Kevin Magnussen, in which he made up a deficit of over eight seconds to close up to his rear wing and spent a long time – the pair battling for 34 laps – in his dirty air unable to pass. A close tussle with Hamilton ensued in the final stages, providing hugely entertaining viewing for the fans in the grandstands until Fernando was forced to concede four laps from the chequered flag. He ultimately finished the race in 10th place and scored a well-deserved point.
Fastest lap 1:21.014s (lap 50) +2.229s (11th)
Pit stops One – lap 32 (3.20s) Prime > Option
“Overall it was a good race, considering we started at the back of the grid, and we finished in the points. The car felt very nice all weekend – strong in the corners, and we had good handling and good balance throughout the race.
“We lacked a little bit of straight-line speed to attack or defend, so we were stuck behind a Sauber for half of the race and then we could not pass Kevin Magnussen for many laps. As soon as we lost the DRS with him we became very vulnerable, so in the end I think there was nothing we could do to keep Lewis Hamilton behind.
“We fought hard, trying to brake a little bit later every time and defend the position, but we couldn’t manage to keep ninth place and save that point. It was a good battle but it’s hard when you don’t have the same car.
Fastest lap 1:20.972s (lap 66) +2.187s (10th)
Pit stops One – lap 31 (7.30s) Option > Prime
“We had an amazing start today – we were 13th after the first lap – but we’ve seen today how much we are missing in a straight line. We couldn’t even keep a Sauber behind and we couldn’t really overtake after that, so we lost ground. But our pace in clean air was very positive, the car felt very good, and starting from the back we knew it was always going to be tough for us.
“The end of the race got very exciting with a few cars coming close together, but it still shows that our straight-line speed is not good enough. It was a difficult race for us – there were definitely points on the cards today, but we were just too compromised because of our speed and losing time in the pitstop with the late VSC call. The positives we can take away are that our pace was really strong and we made it to the end, but our deficit on the straights is still too big.
“Massive congratulations to Lewis Hamilton today – it’s a great achievement and it was a strong fight from him this season.”
ERIC BOULLIER – MCLAREN-HONDA RACING DIRECTOR
“Today was an extremely tough race for both our drivers, who drove incredibly well given the limitations of our car on a circuit that is well-known for its challenges, namely its power-sensitivity and its complex configuration, which make it almost impossible to overtake.
“Both Fernando and Stoffel showed strong pace and made a number of excruciatingly close attempts to overtake, but with little reward for their efforts. We can certainly see the potential in our package – both drivers made incredible starts from 18th and 19th on the grid – and it’s frustrating to only have one point from 10th and 12th to show for it. Nevertheless, I think both of them should be proud of the performance they put in today on track, knowing as they do the challenges they face with every race, and it was positive to see us putting up a solid fight against the much less power-sensitive cars around us.
“A positive we can take from Mexico is that both cars made it to the end of the race despite the technical challenges this circuit poses in its altitude and cooling issues. We now look ahead to Brazil which should be a circuit much more sympathetic to our package, and we’ll keep pushing hard to improve our chassis as we continue our development into next year.
“I’d also like to take the opportunity to congratulate our former teammate Lewis Hamilton on a very well-deserved fourth championship. Today was a taste of what we hope will be more to come, and we look forward to more exciting battles with him on track next year.”
YUSUKE HASEGAWA – HONDA R&D CO. LTD HEAD OF F1 PROJECT & EXECUTIVE CHIEF ENGINEER
“Despite having both cars starting from the back of the grid, it was a great result for the team that we were able to grab a point in the end. Both Fernando and Stoffel made brilliant starts, and fought around tenth place throughout the race.
“Fernando, who has had a good feeling in the car all weekend, drove a superb, dogged race to eventually snatch the final point. His drive today was full of passion and showed what an incredibly skilled driver he is, and I think he deserves to be praised. Stoffel had an incredible start and pushed hard all race long, therefore it is disappointing that he was unable to reach the points.
“Regarding our PU, despite having a tough challenge at high altitude here in Mexico, both cars finished the race and we had decent speed. I think we can come away from this weekend with some positivity. The team also did a good job with strategy and everyone worked incredibly hard today. Obviously we have only two more races to go as McLaren Honda, and we will continue to work together and finish in the best position we can.
“Finally, I would also like to congratulate Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes for their world championship wins. Both Lewis and the team have done an incredible job this season.”