The embattled McLaren-Honda team will head to Sochi in good heart, buoyed by recent positive developments off track, according to racing director Eric Boullier.
While the Woking squad continues to scratch around at the rear of the grid and toil with little hope of points on a Sunday afternoon, it has both signed a new partner and confirmed veteran Jenson Button since the last race in Japan. While neither Boullier nor Honda counterpart Yasuhisa Arai contend that the Russian Grand Prix will be any easier for the team, they insist that morale has been boosted by the news.
“After the challenges and emotion of Suzuka, it's been a very important week for the McLaren-Honda team,” Boullier insisted, “We've announced a new partner for the 2016 season and beyond, and confirmed that Jenson will be continuing to race with us next year. Both of these announcements are incredibly motivating for the whole team, and we go to Sochi with renewed enthusiasm and excitement.
Although last year's Russian Grand Prix proved successful for McLaren, with fourth- and fifth-place finishes, they came with Mercedes power, and Boullier accepts that a repeat this year is highly unlikely.
“We had a strong weekend there last year, and, while we know the limitations of our package, we are continuing to work tirelessly on our reliability and performance to achieve the best result we can,” he claimed, “There's still a long way to go until the end of the season, and every weekend counts as an opportunity to learn, develop and apply our knowledge and experience to next year's car. Sochi will be no different.”
Arai, meanwhile, confirms that the unique Sochi street track - which wends its way around the former Winter Olympic park at the Black Sea resort – is unlikely to do the Honda V6 any favours.
"Sochi will be a completely new track for Honda so it will surely be an exciting challenge as we are starting from scratch regarding data settings,” he pointed out, “It is a very unique and modern track, where cars can race side by side for the first half of the lap, then close in with tricky 90-degree slow- to mid-speed corners and intense straights for the latter half.
“This type of track layout is likely to be demanding on our power units but, as usual, the team will work hard to get the best out of the overall package. It will be interesting to see what we can learn from this weekend."