Vandoorne: P7 "as good as it gets" for McLaren

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Stoffel Vandoorne was left 'pleasantly surprised' after extracting every ounce of performance from his McLaren to qualify a career-best P7 at the Malaysia Grand Prix. 

Vandoorne, who claimed his best result of the season last time out in Singapore, impressively out-paced Fernando Alonso in Sepang and will start from the fourth row.

The Belgian took pride in a fine performance, but fears he will struggle to hold station in Sunday's race.

"We weren’t really expecting to be so high up the grid," the 25-year old said. "We’d hoped to get into Q3, but fighting for seventh was a pleasant surprise.

"In fact, my whole qualifying session went really well. I didn’t make any mistakes and pulled every sector on every lap. To qualify seventh on a circuit like this is probably about as good as it gets for us, so I’m very happy with my performance.

"We generally tend to be better over a single lap than across a race stint, so I think tomorrow will be tougher for us, but at least we’re in a position to race."

Racing Director Eric Boullier was full of praise for Vandoorne's efforts both on and off the race track.

"Both drivers have worked very well together to develop and refine our car package across the weekend, and today’s qualifying result really justifies their efforts," he said.

"Stoffel has driven superbly all weekend, and absolutely nailed it in all three qualifying sessions, achieving his best F1 qualifying position so far.

"Fernando wasn’t particularly happy with his final lap, but he still has a very good opportunity for tomorrow."

Weighing up his chances on Sunday, however, the double world champion believes rain is the only chance he has of staying in the top 10.

“We’ll try to gain some places tomorrow and defend from those behind us," the Spaniard said. "For sure it will be a difficult race and the rain would be our biggest ally. For sure in the dry, it will be difficult to score points, but we’ll do the best we can.

“We know we lose a bit of pace in the race, compared to our most direct rivals, like Renault, Williams and Haas, so we know it will be complicated to score points, but that’s the goal.”