"Finishing in the points should now be our regular target"
Sochi Autodrom, Sunday 1 May
Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button opened their 2016 points-scoring accounts with respective sixth- and 10th-place finishing positions in the Russian Grand Prix.
For the midfield runners, the shape of the race was largely dictated by a pair of chaotic clashes at Turn Two and Turn Three, on the opening lap. These incidents saw several drivers either forced into retirement, pushed to the tail of the field, or served with penalties.
Fernando profited from the carnage to vault into the top 10 – an advantage he tenaciously held onto until the finish. Jenson was more circumspect at the start, dropping behind a number of slower cars, then spending much of the remainder of the afternoon steadily chipping away to jump back into the top 10.
This afternoon’s result is a firm reminder of the progress that’s quietly being made at McLaren-Honda – and a firm indicator of the potential to come.
FERNANDO ALONSO, MP4-31-02
|Fastest Lap:||1m40.347s on lap 52 (+1.253s, 5th)|
|Pitstops:||One: lap 20 (2.45s) [Opt/Pri]|
“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, MP4-31-03
|Fastest Lap:||1m41.720s on lap 50 (+2.626s, 8th)|
|Pitstops:||One: lap 21 (3.39s), [Opt/Pri]|
“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.”
ERIC BOULLIER - Racing director, McLaren-Honda
“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 in 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.”
YUSUKE HASEGAWA - Honda R&D head of F1 project & executive chief engineer
“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.”