Kevin Magnussen is hopeful that Renault can inch its way closer to the top ten in the Russian Grand Prix as it looks to break its duck for the 2016 F1 season.
The Dane sat out Friday morning's practice session at the Sochi Autodrom, and continued to chase handling problems once he had taken his RS16 back from newly-appointed reserve Sergey Sirotkin, but remained optimistic that the car was returning to its early-season potential after a couple of poor performances.
“A better Friday already,” he grinned, aware that he had hardly turned a lap in China last time out, “I think, actually, the pace relative to the others looked as it did in Bahrain and even Melbourne. In Melbourne, I think, we qualified 14th and 15th after the penalties, but it's similar and, if we have similar luck as well with cars not finishing, then we are close to points again, so it's important that we optimise everything so that, if there is an opportunity, then we will be there.
“F1 doesn't always make sense, so we didn't expect it, but maybe we are faster, or maybe tomorrow we are back to where we were in China - you never really know. You've just got to keep focused and improve the things that you can and then see where you end up. Then, later on in the season, we go to tracks that hopefully suit us a bit better, plus we will improve the car and the engine.”
Magnussen finished the day 15th overall, three places ahead of team-mate Jolyon Palmer, who contested both 90-minute sessions, and admitted that it had taken him a while to get back up to speed with the requirements of an F1 cockpit.
“It's difficult because, with all the procedures specifically, all the test procedures with systems on the steering wheel and switch changes, you have to remember them and, with not doing FP1 and with Sergey in the car, he was doing all of the preparation this morning and yesterday,” the Dane explained, “I forgot a few switch changes, but no big deal really, it's just you'd rather not forget. It's easy to forget stuff, test items on the system side, so that's not perfect but, in the future, we will make sure that I put more effort into going over stuff because it is tough when you can't be told what to do on the radio.”
Magnussen said that he and Palmer had reported similar problems with their respective cars, and suggested that that could actually be a positive heading into day two of the weekend.
“I think we have similar problems really, maybe on a different level, but we are complaining of the same [oversteer] issues and I think that's a bit encouraging [because] we can work in the same direction,” he mused, “I think there are things that we can improve for tomorrow, and definitely in the future. It's early days, this is where we are and, as I said, we just need to be ready so that, if there is an opportunity in the race, we are there to score the points.
“We need to score points and then, after that, we need to score top five and a podium, and win, and then a championship. We are very much at the beginning and the next step is getting points.”