McLaren racing director Eric Boullier is confident his team can find redemption in Mexico after a disastrous effort last year when the race returned to the F1 calendar.
READ: Who said that? Top quotes from the United States GP
After suffering with engine issues during free practice in Mexico last year, Jenson Button was hit with a 55-place grid penalty for power unit component changes but ultimately missed all of qualifying to preserve engine life.
Fernando Alonso equally sustained a difficult race weekend having been knocked out of qualifying in Q1 before retiring with a power unit issue at the end of the first lap, while Button battled on to finish 14th.
In 2016, McLaren has enjoyed a solid recovery and matched its best results of the year with Alonso's fifth place and Button in ninth in the United States Grand Prix last weekend.
Despite this momentum, Boullier is wary of the high altitude and long straights placing huge demands on its Honda power unit which ultimately failed the team 12 months ago.
“Achieving a similar result to Austin at this circuit will be no mean feat,” Boullier warned. “It's a tough track for the chassis due to the high average speeds and big braking zones, and it makes the power unit – particularly the turbocharger – work harder than normal because of the high altitude.
“It will be interesting to see how our improving package fares on this challenging configuration, and I hope we can bring all of the elements together to see a more promising performance there than we managed last year. Saturday will be the most crucial day for us, as we need to give ourselves the biggest chance in the race, and we can only do that by maximising everything in qualifying.”
At the two high speed circuits already visited on the F1 circuit this season, Baku and Monza, McLaren has failed to score a point due to its outright power deficit to its rivals and Honda chief Yusuke Hasegawa is wary of the challenges its power unit faces in Mexico while aiming for the top ten.
“Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is located at the high altitude of 2,200m which means that the oxygen in the air is very lean, and therefore the turbocharger must work extra hard to force air into the power unit,” Hasegawa said. “As a result, the quality and the efficiency of the turbo will be the key factor in the Mexican Grand Prix. At the same time, this track has a very long straight, so we need to consider the power effect while matching the power unit to the chassis.
“We had a very difficult race here last year, but we would like to maintain the good momentum gained in Austin, and also show our technological progress throughout this season. We are hopeful that we can once again target points in the race.”
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