Stoffel Vandoorne will race around the Baku Street Circuit for the first time this weekend, but the Belgian feels relatively comfortable having spent a lot of time in the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team’s simulator, both this season and last.
However, the Belgian is not expecting a great weekend despite being excited to race in Azerbaijan, with the MCL32 and in particular the Honda power unit not being a strong entity in 2017, with one of the issues McLaren face being extreme fuel consumption, something that will work against them this weekend.
“I’m excited about racing in Baku for the first time,” said Vandoorne. “I’ve spent quite a lot of time in the simulator driving the track already – and I did last year too, to help the engineers prepare for a new circuit – so it doesn’t actually feel too unfamiliar.
“The circuit is a real mix of great characteristics from other tracks – high speeds and long straights but also close racing and heavy braking for the tight corners on the infield section of this street circuit layout. It has a bit of everything so there’s a lot for our engineers to work on.
“It’s heavy on fuel consumption and puts high loads on the ERS, so we’ll need to try to optimise our package to adapt to the demands that the weekend will throw at us.”
Vandoorne finished a lowly fourteenth in the Canadian Grand Prix last time out after a disappointing weekend, but he does not expect the weekend in Azerbaijan to be any better, particularly as the team are not expecting any jump in performance.
“Canada was a disappointing race for the whole team, and we don’t expect Baku to offer us any particular surprises in terms of performance, but we’re learning all the time and working hard to get on top of our issues,” said Vandoorne.
“We’ve already regrouped and we continue to look forward, and we’ll approach next weekend the same way we do every race weekend – fighting hard and trying to extract everything we can from the package beneath us.”