Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne are both setting their targets pretty low for the Russian Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso: “Sochi Autodrom is an interesting circuit – a mixture of challenges, and ones which I think will be tackled quite differently this year with the new regulations for 2017. For example, Turn Three last year used to be tricky and you needed to be very precise – it’s a multi-apex left-hander which means good car balance and control are important to not get out of shape mid-corner. This year, though, it will likely be taken flat, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the feeling in the car has changed around this circuit.
“There are two long, slightly-curved straights and high-speed corners, which means this circuit will be challenging for us with the package we have, but our car is also very well-balanced, so I hope we can get the most out of the many 90-degree corners that make this circuit so unique. Although it’s technically a city circuit, it’s pretty fast overall and the track itself is wide, so it usually provides close racing and good overtaking opportunities.
“A positive result for us in Sochi will be to finish the race with both cars, first of all, as we’ve suffered a few reliability issues over the past couple of weekends. I followed the test in Bahrain and I’m pleased that we were able to secure a lot of valuable data from both the car and the power unit, and I know everyone at McLaren-Honda is working hard to put that to good use to aid our progress as quickly as possible. The season is long, but there isn’t much time between races – especially fly-aways – for development, so the laps we managed on the final day of the test were a big positive for us and hopefully will be beneficial to us over the next few races.”
Stoffel Vandoorne: "I’ve raced in Sochi before and had good results there – it’s where I clinched the GP2 championship in 2015 – so that’s definitely a plus point for me going into the weekend. We’ve not been so lucky recently on my side of the garage and I’ve missed quite a lot of valuable mileage, but I hope we can improve that situation this weekend.
“After a difficult couple of weeks, the last day of the Bahrain test was very encouraging, both for me and for the whole team. It was a boost we needed and provided us with a lot of useful information about the direction we are taking the whole package in, so we go to Sochi with a better feeling than we had on Sunday night after a disappointing race.
“As I’ve said before, on tracks like this where straight-line speed is important, we know we’ll already be slightly on the back-foot heading into the weekend. Our focus should definitely be on maximising our track time and working on reliability. If we can have a clean weekend from that point of view and no issues with the car, it will give us the best chance to find performance for the race, and we’ll give it our best shot with the package we have.”