McLaren Honda head into this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix with Stoffel Vandoorne substituting for the injured Fernando Alonso who is suffering from rib and lung injuries following his horrendous crash last time out in Australia.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s race at the Sakhir circuit Jenson Button commented by saying:

Bahrain is a fun track to drive on and very different from Albert Park in its configuration. It’s tough on brakes and fuel, and good balance is key to putting together a lap, as you need downforce on the long, fast straights and then stability and traction through the lower-speed corners. It’s a more extreme version of Australia in many ways, with the track starting off very dirty and rubbering in over the weekend. While that makes the track faster, we also have to juggle the rapidly cooling temperatures on race day after the sun sets. I’m really keen to get back behind the wheel, as, although it didn’t show in our results from Australia, our package felt very good to drive and the team worked really hard to bring a step forward in driveability from testing to the first race. Bahrain is definitely a tricky track for us as it’s high-speed, but we have a solid platform and improved deployment, so there are some positives to look forward to.

Speaking about the Australian Grand Prix, Button commented by saying:

We made a couple of misjudgements on the strategy side in Melbourne, but it’s all part of the learning curve with the new tyre compound rules. Together with the engineers we’ve studied the data and hopefully we can make some good calls in Bahrain, pull together the various stages of the race and achieve a more representative result.

“The landscape of racing in the desert after sunset is always really special and brings a new dimension to the spectacle. Everything in Bahrain is always very slick and it’s an impressive place to be. My win there in 2009 is still a great memory and the wide track and run-off areas mean it’s a fun circuit on which to battle. I hope we can mix it with the midfield pack – it’s a very competitive area of the field – so we’ll be pushing hard to get the maximum from our package as soon as we can.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s race, McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier commented by saying:

The race in Australia was certainly an eventful one for McLaren-Honda. First of all, I was very happy to see Fernando walk away after such a heart-stopping incident. In addition, I’d like to say a huge thank you to all our McLaren and Honda employees for the incredible efforts going on behind the scenes to get the spare chassis built and ready to race next weekend. It’s a truly remarkable achievement in between flyaway races, and a testament to our incredibly strong teamwork.

“We’re certainly hoping for a less dramatic race in Bahrain, and will be aiming to build on the promising initial data we’ve collected from our car, which shows a definite improvement in pace from last year’s package. There’s still much more potential to unlock and performance to find, but the encouraging leap made from testing to Melbourne has shown what’s possible, and we will keep pushing to improve our pace and develop our strengths by continuing to bring updates to the car at every race.

“The Bahrain Grand Prix has become something of a home race for us, and we’re very proud to be racing in front of our shareholders and enthusiastic fans. The spectacle of the Bahrain International Circuit is something very special. Racing under floodlights always creates a unique atmosphere and the fans get to enjoy action on track in completely different settings over the course of the weekend. For the engineers, it’s a battle to juggle many different constraints – temperatures, track surfaces, brake wear, tyres, fuel consumption – and we’ve already learned a lot about how our car performs in different conditions from Melbourne, which we’ll be putting to good use. In Bahrain we’ll be looking to discover our true pace and put our package to work in the tough desert conditions.

Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer, Yusuke Hasegawa commented by saying:

After a chaotic Australian weekend, we head off to our first night race of the season in Bahrain.

“We have recovered the power unit from Fernando’s car used in Melbourne. After initial investigations, we are massively disappointed that the ICE and most of the surrounding parts have been heavily damaged, as the impact from the accident was just too great. We will be replacing the complete power unit in Bahrain.

“Looking forward, Bahrain’s sunny and dry weather will hopefully ensure that we have plenty of clean running. The circuit’s two long front and back straights will be strenuous on the power units, so we will make the most of the practice sessions to set up the car. It’s evident that we still need to increase our performance, but thankfully we were able to learn more about where we are and how to progress from the data collected in Melbourne.

NB – Fernando Alonso is in Bahrain however the Spaniard will not race this weekend due to the injuries he sustained during the Australian GP. See link https://paddockeye.ie/2016/03/lung-and-rib-injuries-mean-alonso-will-miss-the-bahrain-gp/

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