Racing Director of the McLaren F1 Team Eric Boullier thinks that strategy will be the most important factor in deciding Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix and expects another good race showing from McLaren.
The Woking team have struggled with their one lap pace in 2018, with Boullier joining drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso in expressing frustration over the performance shown on Saturdays. However, McLaren are certain that they have a car that races well, a claim backed up by 28 points in the first three races of the season, a total that leaves them fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.
Boullier is half-preparing for a repeat of last year’s chaotic race, one that Alonso believed McLaren could have even won. It was a race that saw them pick up their first points of the 2017 season after seven no-scores.
“On a track where drama and action seem to have become almost par for the course in Baku given last year’s events, strategy will be a key factor in next weekend’s race,” said Boullier. “We know our package tends to deliver more on Sundays, so the important thing will be to react quickly to anything that happens.”
McLaren are yet to make Qualifying 3 this season, and Baku’s 2.2 kilometre straight – the longest on the Formula 1 calendar – may highlight the shortcomings of the Renault Sport power unit. Yet Boullier still holds great faith in his driver pairing’s ability to “maximise” the potential of the MCL33.
“We must keep our heads down, push hard and take any and every opportunity that comes our way,” he added. “Both of our drivers have raced brilliantly in the first grands prix of the season and I know they’ll be relishing the opportunity to maximise what they have underneath them in Baku.”
Previewing the occasion and location of the third Grand Prix in the Azeri capital, Boullier expressed excitement about racing in the narrow streets, but reiterated that McLaren must improve their Qualifying performance as overtaking opportunities can be few and far between.
“This fast, challenging street circuit has already become a welcome and exciting location on the calendar and we’ve witnessed some great battles.
“Overtaking is at a premium, so, while we don’t underestimate the importance of our starting grid slots for Sunday’s race, we’re also looking forward to the challenge that racing through these historic city streets brings.”