Fernando Alonso does not expect to see McLaren making a significant step forward at this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix despite further upgrades.
McLaren has been bringing new parts to every race but racing director Eric Boullier has warned the next major update will be introduced at the opening European round in Barcelona. With McLaren often struggling in qualifying this season but performing better on race day, Alonso is expecting a similar situation in Baku before attention turns to his home race.
“We know our limitations and where we need to improve our package, and, although we bring parts to test to every race weekend, we aren’t anticipating a radical change in our performance in Baku,” Alonso said. “However, we’re learning more and more about the behavior of our car each time we step into the cockpit, and in Azerbaijan we’ll be maximizing everything we have as usual to score as many points as possible.”
Teammate Stoffel Vandoorne warns the circuit will not suit McLaren, with the team struggling for top speed heading to a venue which features a section of over two kilometers at full throttle.
“We saw anything but a processional race last year and hopefully we can take advantage of any drama that this track throws at us next weekend,” Vandoorne said. “Last year was tough as the only real overtaking opportunity is at the end of the long straight, and it’ll be tricky for us again, but we’ll see what’s possible with the MCL33.
“As well as making sure we set ourselves up on the right strategy, for me the start will be crucial on Sunday. I’ve not had the best starts over the last couple of races and with overtaking tough here we need to try to maximize our starting position. In China, we fought hard but I picked up some floor damage which made pushing ahead very difficult, so I’m looking forward to a tight battle in the midfield and progressing as much as we can in the race.”
McLaren scored its first points of 2017 in a chaotic race in Baku last year, with Alonso finishing ninth after starting in 19th place due to power unit penalties.