McLaren suffered their worst qualifying performance of the season at the French GP as both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were knocked out in Q1.
It is the first time both cars have been eliminated in the first portion of qualifying since last season’s Azerbaijan GP, and is their most disappointing result since switching to Renault power.
McLaren were already under pressure coming into the Paul Ricard weekend following a deeply underwhelming start to the F1 2018 season.
Hamilton on pole, Vettel third
Lewis relieved but puzzled
Alonso, fresh from his Le Mans 24 Hours victory, could only manage 16th in Saturday’s shootout with team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne two places back.
Equipped with the same engines, the McLaren duo were 1.5s adrift of the Red Bulls, while they were also half a second off the pace of Pierre Gasly’s Honda-powered Toro Rosso.
“Nothing went wrong – the performance is what it is,” a despondent Alonso told Sky F1. “I’m two tenths in front of the most talented young driver of the last couple of years in Stoffel so this is the pace we have.
“On Saturday, after qualifying I’m always here answering negative questions. The level of competitiveness is not at the point we want it.”
And in a telling addition, Alonso insisted: “It’s not a big surprise. This car is slow and we are slipping back.”
While Alonso has done little to squash speculation that he could leave the team at the end of the season, Vandoorne could also be feeling the heat thanks to his 8-0 deficit to the Spaniard in the qualifying head-to-heads.
He is the only driver on the grid who has yet to beat his team-mate this season.
“It’s a very disappointing qualifying,” admitted Vandoorne. “To have both cars eliminated in Q1 was not what we came here for.
“We just lack a lot of pace. There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes investigating what is going wrong for us.”
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