Stoffel Vandoorne reckons that McLaren is definitely making progress after finding a different MP4-31 on hand for testing at Silverstone last week.
Vandoorne, who is still waiting to learn whether he will get the chance to race for the Woking team
next season, was back in the 2016 car for the first time since the Barcelona group test following the Spanish Grand Prix in May, and reported a solid step forward for McLaren after replacing Fernando Alonso for day two at Silverstone.
Although he was unable to repeat the second-overall time he posted at the Circuit de Catalunya – he went fifth fastest on Wednesday - the Belgian noted that agreeable advances had been made in the space of a couple of months.
“The car feels quite different - in a positive way - from Barcelona,” Vandoorne reported, “Again, when I got in the car, it felt pretty positive straightaway and that is always a good situation when you can push straightaway. It is coming along nicely.”
With the weather turning for the worse after the lunch break, the best running was seen during the morning, and McLaren ensured that its young charge was kept busy.
“We had a quite successful morning,” Vandoorne confirmed, “[There was] a lot of aero stuff to do so, as a driver, it wasn't very exciting in the first two hours but, after that, we got some good runs in and we were going through various new systems we have got on the car. It is the final day of in-season testing so there is always a lot of stuff to go through.
“We're still pushing on with the development and trying to resolve some of the issues we had during the race weekend. It is not always easy because the wind changes a lot around here, day-to-day, and makes quite big differences on the car balance, [but] we just have to carry on pushing through.”
Acknowledging Honda's ongoing engine development, which he said was going on 'in the background' while he focused on other areas, Vandoorne insisted that his work looked further ahead than next weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix as McLaren continues its bid to claw back ground on its rivals – and he attempts to cement a place on the grid for 2017.
“Every test you do, if you find new things, you will try to carry that forward to the next race,” he noted, “I don't know exactly what will come true for Hungary, if there will be new parts for Hungary - I suppose there will be but I don't know.
“It is not specifically for Hungary, it is just in general as well. We are focusing on the weaknesses of the car and trying to get on top of them. Even the Mercedes may have some weaknesses and, as a driver, you always want more from everything so that is what we are pushing through and it is going in the right direction.
“As usual, I try to benefit from those days too. For a young driver, there are not a lot of opportunities to get in the car so every day I get I need to take the benefit of it and try to do as many laps as possible.
“It is a long time since I drove the car so, every time you get back in an F1 car, it feels quite fast naturally. From the data we've got, we've made some progress, but we are still not at the level we want to be so we will keep pushing on.”