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2018 F1

We’re looking forward to the race – McLaren

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Fernando Alonso will start tomorrow’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix from 12th position, four places ahead of team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne, who lines up 16th.

The Spaniard set the 13th-fastest time of the afternoon, but jumps a position due to Nico Hulkenberg’s five-place gearbox grid penalty. He feels he is well placed to make progress in tomorrow’s race.

Stoffel only set his first complete flying lap of the weekend during Q1, after failing to earn a representative time in practice due to traffic or yellow-flag incidents. He too feels he has a car with which he can attack tomorrow.

Fernando Alonso: “Qualifying still isn’t the strongest part of our weekend, but a lot usually happens during a street race, and at this track in particular.

“There’s no room for mistakes around this circuit: it’s very windy, dusty, the walls are very close, and you cannot push or over-drive the car. It’s also a mentally tough race, so I think tomorrow is going to be both crazy and fun at the same time.

“This weekend, we seem to have improved our top-speed compared to previous races, but we’ve also compromised some grip in the corners. Still, during Q2, the wind picked up a little, and we were losing speed along the straights due to the headwind. Tomorrow, that wind should be even stronger, so it’s going to be important to race among a group of cars to stay in the fight.

“This is the third time in a row where I’ve qualified 13th, and we normally seem to score good points from that position. Hopefully tomorrow will be another one of those good days.”

Stoffel Vandoorne: “It’s been a bit of a tough weekend for me.

“During practice, it seemed like, whenever I was on-track, I was in the wrong place, or encountered a yellow-flag at the wrong time. In fact, Q1 was probably the first session this weekend where I finally managed to complete a quick-lap.

“In the end, I was much happier with the car; we still lack a bit of top speed, so we really need to follow another car to benefit from their speed, and I missed out on that on my final lap.

“Still, our race performance looks better than qualifying. We’ve seen so many incidents under braking this weekend; and that’s a real strength of our car, it feels very good under braking, and that’s a key requirement for the race.

“I think we can pull together a good race performance tomorrow.”

ERIC BOULLIER, McLaren Racing Director: “Qualifying 13th and 16th is a solid effort ahead of what’s almost certain to be a tough and relentless Azerbaijan Grand Prix tomorrow.

“Given this circuit’s long straight, outright pace over a single lap was always going to be a challenge for us, but – happily – neither driver has put a foot wrong all weekend, and we head into the race feeling positive that we can move forwards.

“This is such an unpredictable place, so we’ve been working hard during practice to ensure our car feels solid and dependable, particularly under braking. That should help to provide both drivers with the confidence they need to drive attacking races tomorrow.

“Fernando and Stoffel know how to manage their pace, pushing hard when necessary, but also keeping something in reserve to stay out of the wall. We’re looking forward to the race tomorrow – there’s definitely opportunities out there for us.”

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