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Vandoorne stays hopeful despite latest McLaren setback

The McLaren MCL33 of Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren is recovered back to the pits
© XPB 

Stoffel Vandoorne says that McLaren is in a much stronger position than it might appear from the outside.

The team has suffered a string of reliability issues during pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

A wheel came off on the first day of testing, and overheating issues meant more lost time during the week. This week the MCL33 has suffered a hydraulics issue and an oil leak on Wednesday that forced an engine change.

And it hasn't stopped there. The car completed just five laps on the final day of testing before crawling to a halt once again at turn 7 to trigger the day's first red flag.

“Engine ... five laps,” was the radio message from a dejected Fernando Alonso in the cockpit. The cause was subsequently confirmed as a turbo failure, meaning another engine change was required.

With the repairs completed, Alonso finally returned to the track just before half past two in the afternoon. Even so, the two-time world champion must be having flashbacks to last year's equally dismal pre-season test.

That was when McLaren were still with Honda. Yet despite a change of engine providers over the winter to Renault, the team still seems pursued by the same reliability nightmares.

But Vandoorne insists things aren't as bleak as they seem. He showed the car's pace on hypersofts last week, and on Thursday completed 151 trouble-free laps of distance running.

"[Thursday] was a very positive day for us, a lot of laps obviously," he said. "We've completed a full race distance, which was nice to get all the laps under our belt.

"I think the feeling in the car is very positive," he continued. "I think both myself and Fernando, we've had very positive feeling in the car since the start of testing

"With the running we did [on Thursday], that just confirmed my feeling," he added. "Obviously there's a few areas we have to work on."

Even before the latest engine trouble, Vandoorne hadn't been due to get back in the car until teams roll out on track for the Australian Grand Prix in two weeks time.

"Our car in Melbourne will be quite different, there will be a lot of updates coming," he said. "We'll have to try and understand that there.

"Everything we learned here we need to carry forward [and] learn about it."

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