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Australian GP: Preview - McLaren


Fernando Alonso: "The start of a new season always gives us a range of feelings - great excitement to be racing again, and the sense of the unknown as we go into a formula with a brand-new set of regulations. We don't yet know where everyone stands as testing was a proving ground for the teams more than ever before, and it'll be interesting to see how quickly teams show their hand over the course of the weekend.

"I'm incredibly motivated for 2017 and I can't wait to see what kind of racing this new shake-up of the sport will bring. We already know the sport is a lot more physical and the cars are more challenging to drive - from a driver's point of view this is exactly what we were looking for in the new regulations, and I really hope this will translate to good battles on track.

"After a difficult two weeks of testing we're prepared to face a difficult weekend in Melbourne. We'll do our best with what we have and there's a lot of hard work and collaboration happening within the team, but the lack of time before the first race means you have fewer options for big changes. The first step will be to work on reliability before we can make any assumptions or predictions about performance, and we will try to enjoy the weekend as much as we can."

Stoffel Vandoorne: "Since my position as full-time racing driver for McLaren-Honda was confirmed back in September, it feels like the Australian Grand Prix weekend has been a long time coming. It's a great feeling knowing that I'm about to start my full first season in Formula 1 and it's a dream I've been working towards for my entire racing career.

"I'm looking forward to stepping into the MCL32 cockpit on Friday morning and I feel totally ready for the challenge ahead. I've prepared very well over the winter, worked a lot on my training and in particular my strength and endurance, and I'm incredibly motivated to work hard with the team to make improvements step by step. I'll be pushing hard as always and I'm looking forward to getting back into the car.

"In terms of performance, I'm not setting myself any particular targets, other than to keep my head down, learn a lot from the team and from Fernando, and do my best. I know the guys and girls at McLaren and Honda very well, and I feel very much part of the family, so there's no sense of nervousness about starting my first full season as a Formula 1 driver. It's my first time in Australia so I'll be soaking up the atmosphere, enjoying the buzz of the first race of the season, and we'll see how the weekend unfolds from there."

Eric Boullier: "It's no secret we at McLaren-Honda had a more difficult two weeks of testing than we'd anticipated, and we've been working together closely since returning from Barcelona to address the issues we've faced in time for the first race of the season.

"As a team, we're very excited to be going racing again, but aware of the unknowns that face us as the lights go out to start a new era of Formula 1. We don't yet know where the formbook lies, so until we hit the track on Friday morning it's impossible to predict how the weekend will unfold. It'll be interesting for us all to see the pecking order emerge as each session goes by, as well as where our own strengths and weaknesses lie, and we're prepared for a challenging weekend ahead.

"We will approach this season race-by-race - for us Australia will be the benchmark by which we can understand where we are in relation to the rest of the field, and what we need to do to tackle the coming grands prix. We won't make any promises or predictions about our performance or results, but McLaren and Honda will continue to worth together in partnership and maximise everything we have in our package. Melbourne is always a fantastic season-opener and we're looking forward to seeing and hearing the fans trackside - the atmosphere there is always something the whole team really enjoys."

Yusuke Hasegawa: "It has been a challenging winter for everyone at the team. Obviously the problems we had in Barcelona limited our track time and put added pressure on our pre-season preparations, however, we were still able to generate a huge amount of useful data.

"In terms of performance, there has been room for improvement with mapping in order to have better driveability, and with further analysis we were able to make additional changes to be ready for Melbourne. We know we are heading in the right direction and we'll continue our efforts in order to increase our competitiveness throughout the season.

"As a season-opener, the Australian GP is a strenuous grand prix for the drivers, car and the power unit. It is also unpredictable and tricky because of its track features. The circuit is flat, narrow, slippery and fast. Our priority for the weekend will be to extract the most out of our power unit, while maintaining reliability.

"It won't be an easy weekend, but despite the challenges we love coming to Melbourne. The fans are amazing, and we always have fantastic support from our Honda Australia peers. We hope we can show our appreciation through our efforts on the track."

Track Length: 5.303km/3.295 miles (12th longest track of the year - longest: Spa-Francorchamps, shortest: Monaco)

Tyre choice: Purple Ultrasoft, red Supersoft and yellow Soft

Distance to Turn One: 350m/0.217 miles (longest of season: Barcelona, 730m/0.454 miles)

Longest straight 860m/0.534 miles (longest of the season: China, 1.17km/0.727 miles)

Top speed 300 km/h/186 mph, on the approach to Turn One (fastest of season: Monza, 350km/h/217mph)

Fastest corner 250km/h (155 mph), Turns 11/12

Slowest corner 90km/h (56 mph), Turn 15

Brake wear High. There are seven braking zones, where the cars will be slowing from more than 230km/h (143mph). The extra weight this year - minimum, including driver, is 722kg - will add to wear rates over a race distance

Cooling Medium. There aren't many straights along which to cool the car's complex hybrid systems

ERS demands Medium

Gear changes 55 per lap/3,190 per race (most/least of the year)

Laps 58 laps

Start time 16:00hrs local / 05:00hrs GMT

Grid advantage The left-hand-side holds an advantage because it's situated on the cleaner, racing line. There's another advantage to be had from starting on the grippier, Option tyre, which provides a four-metre advantage over the Prime tyre away from the line

DRS There are two DRS zones, on the approaches to Turns One and Three. But neither is very long, making them relatively ineffective

Don't put the kettle on... during the pitstops. Pirelli's tyres are more durable this year, meaning one-stop strategies should be the norm in Melbourne. The timing of those stops will be governed by traffic. Full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/43.5 laps

Pitlane length/Pitstops 280m/0.714 miles (longest of the season: Interlagos, 380m/0.236 miles). Estimated time loss for a pitstop is 21s, which is relatively short and opens up strategy options should more than one pitstop be necessary

Safety Car 48 per cent, which is a relatively high probability. The highest number of Safety Car periods in this race is four, in 2006

Watch out for... the weather. Melbourne's coastal location means the weather can change very quickly, from sun to rain and from warm to cold. Qualifying in 2014 was rain-affected


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