McLaren Honda had a fantastic Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi circuit on Sunday as Fernando Alonso who started the race from 14th place came through the field and ended the race in sixth place just ahead of Renault Sport F1 Team’s Kevin Magnussen. Speaking following the race, Alonso commented by saying:
We were lucky in Turns Two and Three on the opening lap – due to those accidents, we were able to gain some places for free.
“But, as we saw last year, we can make a good start but then not be able to maintain those strong starting positions. This year, it’s different – we have the pace: to finish sixth, and set the fifth-fastest lap, shows that our car is still gaining pace.
“In fact, the car felt good all race – obviously, we were saving fuel at some points of the afternoon, but, on one lap, I just decided to go for it – to wake myself up a little bit! – and the lap-time showed the potential is there.
“Finishing in the points should be our regular target from now on.
Jenson Button started the race from 12th place and did great job to secure his first point of the season with a great drive to 10th place and speaking following the race the 2009 world champion commented by saying:
To get both cars home in the points – and at a track which we didn’t feel would really suit our package – is a fantastic result for the whole team.
“As the pack dived into Turn Two, I had to back off because it was mayhem. The bollard at Turn Two is the problem at the start because people are trying to fight through Turns Two and Three. I think that needs some looking at.
“From there, I was disadvantaged, but the pace was in the car. After that, it was just a case of fighting my way back – which I really enjoyed. It’s difficult to overtake around here, but I was able to make a few moves and enjoy myself.
“I think the next race in Barcelona will be reasonably difficult for us, but there’s no reason not to look forward to targeting another points haul in Monaco.
McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier was really happy with the Woking based outfit’s performance and commented by saying:
A double points-finish is a great result for the entire team, and a real marker of the progress we’ve been steadily making since the start of the season.
“Fernando drove a brilliant race, displaying all the guile, aggression and opportunism for which he is so well known. His race was established at the very start, when he took advantage of the opening-lap carnage to leap from 14th to eighth. From there, he was able to firmly establish himself in the top 10, gaining two further positions before the chequered flag. Sixth was a great reward for his efforts.
“That said, he drove a somewhat lonely race, with one eye very much on his fuel-meter. The gap ahead to fourth-placed Valtteri Bottas tells the story of how conservatively he drove his race – and the handful of very quick, unrestrained, laps that he punched in during the closing laps show the potential of what could have been achieved had he been able to run at full pace throughout.
“If Fernando’s race was defined by the start, Jenson’s only really came together towards the end. He was heavily compromised by the chaos on the opening lap, but pulled off one of his characteristically deft and gritty performances, enjoying a lengthy four-car battle on his way to 10th.
“This race showcases the collective efforts of the entire organisation – not just McLaren Racing and Honda, but also our key technical partner, Mobil 1, whose oil and lubes have played such a key role in our ongoing development. To our partners, too, their faith and belief is starting to be repaid.
“While we know that one swallow does not make a summer, we stand firm in our belief that we have turned the corner and will start to make further progress throughout the season.
Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project and Executive Chief Engineer Yusuke Hasekawa commented by saying:
I am very happy that we finished with both cars in the points today. Our two highly experienced drivers manoeuvred expertly around the chaotic start and first-lap collisions, which put us in a position to battle for points throughout the race.
“We knew that our longer stints were good here, but it was a job well done for our team and drivers to manage our one-stop strategy and fuel-saving during the race, which led to today’s results.
“We know that we still have a long way to go, but I’m relieved that we’ve finally confirmed that we have the true potential to fight within the middle of the pack.