Fernando Alonso says McLaren knows the limitations of its 2018 Formula 1 car but is not expecting “radical” improvements in performance at this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. 

Having switched to Renault engines following its disastrous three-year tenure powered by Honda, McLaren made significant progress over the winter to establish itself well within the tight midfield battle that has emerged this season. 

McLaren matched its best finish in the V6 hybrid era thanks to Alonso’s fifth-place in Australia’s season-opener, while the Woking-based outfit has recorded double points finishes in two of the three opening rounds of 2018. As a result, McLaren currently occupies fourth place in the constructors’ standings, three points clear of the factory Renault squad.

Alonso previously admitted McLaren has work to do on its performance in qualifying-trim and hopes he will be able to continue to make the most of his car’s potential on Sundays with a fourth consecutive top-10 finish this year in Baku

“We know our limitations and where we need to improve our package, and, although we bring parts to test to every race weekend, we aren’t anticipating a radical change in our performance in Baku,” Alonso explained. 

“However, we’re learning more and more about the behaviour of our car each time we step into the cockpit, and in Azerbaijan we’ll be maximising everything we have as usual to score as many points as possible.”

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier insists his team needs to be ready to maximise any strategic opportunities that could open up this weekend, given the unpredictable nature of last year’s race in Baku. 

“On a track where drama and action seem to have become almost par for the course in Baku given last year’s events, strategy will be a key factor in next weekend’s race. We know our package tends to deliver more on Sundays, so the important thing will be to react quickly to anything that happens.

“We must keep our heads down, push hard and take any and every opportunity that comes our way. Both of our drivers have raced brilliantly in the first grands prix of the season and I know they’ll be relishing the opportunity to maximise what they have underneath them in Baku.”

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