Russian GP: Preview – McLaren

Fernando Alonso: “It feels like a long time since we last raced in Russia as the race was much earlier on the calendar last year. It also feels longer for me since I didn’t make the start due to reliability issues, so I’m looking forward to finally racing in Sochi again.

“Last weekend was definitely a boost for everyone. We have had at least one DNF over the last few races, so crossing the line with both cars was positive, and something we need to keep working on every race. It was great to get points too, and the aim is always to keep scoring at every possible opportunity.

“We know some of the coming races won’t be as favourable to us as Singapore, and there will be tracks that won’t suit our car as much. With every race we’re pushing hard, learning a lot and trying to maximise what we have. Sochi is a fun circuit with a very interesting and unique layout with its 90-degree corners, so let’s see how our car performs there.”

Stoffel Vandoorne: “After the last race, I hope we can continue to make progress in Russia and keep moving forward. Although I had a disappointing qualifying in Singapore, we once again showed that our race pace is stronger, so it’s important that on my side I can get the best result possible on Saturday to give us the best chance on Sunday.

“I felt very comfortable in the car, we had pace and I felt like we could keep pushing. Strategy and tyre wear will once again be very important during this race, and especially getting a good read on the durability of the Hypersoft tyres from Friday onwards.

“This track won’t be exactly the same for us in terms of performance as Singapore, as the layout is very different and it’s a challenging configuration. But I’m focussing on each weekend individually, race-by-race. Hopefully we can have a smooth Friday and start the weekend strong so we can make the most of every session.”

Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: “Although coming home with points from Singapore was a satisfying result and a much-needed step forward in performance after a challenging few races, we know there is a still a lot of work ahead of us.

Sochi is a different circuit, a new challenge, and we look ahead to another race weekend where we know we will need to keep our heads down and fight hard. The first priority is to maintain the reliability we achieved in Singapore, which was a positive result, while focusing on maximising our performance.

“Lando will once again drive in FP1 in Russia, which will be a busy weekend for him, as he combines his F1 duties with his F2 championship campaign. Nevertheless, this will hopefully be another positive step in his development.”

Focus points: Straight-line speed. The cars exceed 320km/h (199mph) in the two DRS zones, so it’s vital to maximise straight-line speeds because these areas provide the best overtaking points on the lap. However, it’s also important to maintain good traction and braking performance because of the stop-start nature of the layout.

Unique difficulty: Rear tyre wear. With so many short bursts of acceleration, the cars are rear-limited during the race stints. This is traditionally a one-stop race, partly due to the long and slow pit-lane – 60km/h (37mph) – so the engineers work hard to prolong tyre life during the practice sessions.

Biggest challenge: The Hypersoft tyre compound. This is only the fourth time this year that the new-for-2019 Hypersoft tyre has been raced (in addition to Monaco, Canada and Singapore), and its longevity could prove critical in the race. The drivers that can make it last long enough to execute a one-stop strategy will be in a strong position.

Engineer’s lowdown

Braking: This is a demanding circuit on the brakes. There are 12 braking zones in which 19 per cent of the lap is spent braking. The average deceleration is 3.7g, with the peak of 5.5g on the approach to Turn Two.

Power: The cars use 1.7kg of fuel per lap, which is average.

Aero: Medium downforce. The emphasis is on straight-line speed, without compromising braking, traction or tyre wear. As a result, the cars utilise a similar downforce level to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.