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Azerbaijan GP: Preview - McLaren


Fernando Alonso: "Baku is a great city, and after the success of last year's inaugural grand prix I'm really looking forward to going racing again in Azerbaijan. As a Baku Ambassador, I've spent more time there than a lot of my peers and colleagues, and it's a really cool location to host a Formula 1 race. We literally drive straight through the centre of the historical old town and the old city walls make the perfect setting for this race in a new territory for the sport.

"After getting so close to scoring our first point in Canada and suffering another retirement, we go to Baku with even more determination, but it's no secret that we expect to find this weekend tricky. After the power unit issues it's likely we'll need to take penalties, and the nature of the narrow, fast straights and tight corners means overtaking is generally tough. However, it's certainly not impossible, and we'll keep fighting as we always do.

"Baku City Circuit is the fastest street track on the calendar, so from a driver's perspective it's really exciting to be racing at such high speeds with the walls closing in on you either side. As usual, the starts are always one of the most crucial points of the race for us, so getting the set-up just right on Friday in time for qualifying on Saturday will be the most important thing."

Stoffel Vandoorne: "I'm excited about racing in Baku for the first time. 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.

"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. 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."

Eric Boullier: "After the frustrations we felt in Montreal, we move to what is another fascinating city in Baku, for the second race in the city's history at the newly renamed Azerbaijan Grand Prix. In Canada we were unable to fulfil any potential we showed during the weekend, and we anticipate that in Baku we will face a similar challenge due to the demands this circuit's characteristics place on the car.

"Nevertheless, in the midst of our current struggles, we aren't standing still. Quite the opposite, in fact, and the team's hunger and determination are stronger than ever to move us forward and into the hunt for more positive results. Rather than focus on the negatives, we need to turn our attention to solutions and work together to get the best out of our situation.

"Although we know this weekend won't be easy, the backdrop of the stunning old town and medieval walls of Baku offer a dramatic arena for more great racing. The atmosphere during our first visit there last year was incredible and the support we received from the fans was fantastic. In terms of location, it couldn't be better: the team stays at the Hilton situated downtown - indeed precisely overlooking the start-finish line - and places us on the doorstep of the stunning city centre, where we hope we will be able to make the most of an enjoyable weekend."

Yusuke Hasegawa: "This season will mark just our second visit to Baku, and after a disappointing end to our Canadian Grand Prix weekend we're looking forward to moving on to the Azerbaijan capital.

"The race is not back-to-back this year so we're fortunate to have extra time back at the factory to analyse and understand the data collected in Canada. However, we're under no illusions that this weekend will be straightforward for us - Baku City Circuit has one of the longest straights of any Formula 1 track at over 2km (1.243 miles) and is a notoriously power-hungry circuit. I think we can expect another tough challenge for the team.

"We're going through a difficult time at the moment, but we're doing all that we can to rectify the situation. We must continue to concentrate on development as one team with McLaren and turn things around as soon as we can."

Track length: 6.003km/3.730 miles (the second longest of the year)

2016 pole position: Nico Rosberg, 1m42.758s

2016 fastest lap: Nico Rosberg, 1m46.485s (lap 48)

Lap record: 1:46.485s (Nico Rosberg, 2016)

Tyre choice: Red Supersoft, yellow Soft, white Medium - the third time this combination has been used in 2017

Distance to Turn One: 202m/0.126 miles (longest of the season: Barcelona 730m/0.454 miles)

Longest straight: 2.1km/1.305 miles, on the approach to Turn One (longest of the season)

Top speed: 370km/h/230mph, on the approach to Turn One (fastest of the season)

Full throttle: 56 per cent (highest of the season: Monza, 75 per cent)

Brakewear: Medium. There are six significant braking events around the lap, the hardest into Turn One

Fuel consumption: 2kg per lap, which is high

ERS demands: High, due to lots of full-deployment

Gear changes: 62 per lap/3,162 per race

Laps: 51 laps

Start time: 17:00hrs local / 14:00hrs BST

Grid advantage: Pole position is located on the right-hand-side of the track. That's the same side as the racing line, where most of the grip is located, but Turn One is a left-hander and there's an opportunity for the driver starting second if the pole-sitter makes a poor getaway

DRS: There are two DRS zones, on the approaches to Turns One and Three

Don't put the kettle on: Last year's race was won by Nico Rosberg on a one-stop strategy. He made that pitstop after 20 laps, changing from the red-walled Supersoft tyre onto the yellow-walled Soft tyre. Daniel Ricciardo was the first two-stopper home, in seventh place, and with this year's harder tyre compounds it seems likely that one pitstop will prevail again

Pitlane length/Pitstops: 295m/0.183 miles (longest of the season: Silverstone, 457m/0.284 miles). Estimated time loss for a pitstop is 22s

Safety Car likelihood: Despite pre-race fears of incident and accident, there wasn't a single Safety Car period last year. "Entering last year's race," says Fernando's Race Engineer Mark Temple, "there was the feeling that just getting to the end would ensure a points finish. That didn't turn out to be the case and we can expect people to be more aggressive in 2017, helped by the knowledge that the tyres can take it."

Watch out for: The pitlane entry. Last year Valtteri Bottas clocked the fastest ever speed by an F1 car along the narrow pit straight, exactly where cars are peeling into the pitlane.


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