Vandoorne says bad times have made him a better driver

Stoffel Vandoorne says the tough times he faced during the early season struggles with McLaren-Honda have helped make him a stronger Formula 1 driver.

Vandoorne says bad times have made him a better driver
 Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
 Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
 Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren
 Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
 Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
 Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren

After scoring on his debut for McLaren at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, when he stood in for Fernando Alonso, the Belgian hoped to hit the ground running at the start of his first full campaign this year.

Honda's down on power and unreliable engine put paid to those hopes though – as Vandoorne also faced a period where he struggled to get the most out of the chassis.

But progress from Honda on the engine front, allied to a better understanding on what he needed from his car's setup, have helped Vandoorne lift his game, and he delivered a career-best seventh placed finish in the Singapore Grand Prix.

Reflecting on the progress on his campaign, Vandoorne admitted that he had actually learned more about himself and how to adapt to a car because of the tough times earlier this year, than he would have if he had enjoyed instant success.

"It's the first time in my career I've had a difficult time," Vandoorne told Motorsport.com. "In all the junior series I was competing, usually I was winning all the time. And of course every now and then you have a difficult race.

"But I've never really experienced this where you are not competitive enough to fight for any results. In a way it's made me much stronger, focusing on different details. And working with Fernando as well, it's definitely prepared me much more.

"It's not a situation I wish to be, but when times will turn and when we will be competitive, this will definitely have helped."

Vandoorne said the lack of mileage early on as the result of Honda's poor reliability hurt especially because it limited him getting to grips with what he needed from the car.

"Missing a lot of the mileage we should have had kind of disturbed the interaction with the engineers," he explained.

"As it turned out, my driving style is quite different to Fernando, so I required a few different things from the car as well.

"Lately everything has been going much more my way in terms of setting up the car. Also myself adapting to a few of the things got better.

"Just the whole relationship with the team and the effort I've put in has definitely helped a lot to understand each other and translate that into the results."

Vandoorne has confessed that he found the early stages of the season difficult to cope with, as there seemed little hope of Honda making quick progress.

"At the start it was not easy," he said. "Before the season it had been two difficult years for the team, and I think everyone was sensing a very good improvement, a much more positive season. That hasn't turned out to be.

"Since winter testing it was very tough. We lost a lot of mileage, and the first races were not easy. Since then things have turned round a lot.

"You find new ways of motivating yourself. Finding new things to focus on. Now I go to every weekend very motivated, even though there's not much to play for. I just go to every weekend trying to make the most out of it. I'm sure once the car will be competitive that will pay off."

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