Fernando Alonso is bracing himself for another tough weekend in Formula 1, stressing McLaren cannot expect “miracles” at the Russian Grand Prix.

The Spaniard sat out the opening practice session in Sochi as McLaren protégé Lando Norris took part in his latest FP1 outing ahead of his graduation from Formula 2 to F1 with the Woking squad next season.

On his return to the cockpit of his MCL33 in the afternoon session, Alonso could only manage the 17th-quickest time ahead of teammate Stoffel Vandoorne as the McLaren duo joined Williams at the bottom of the timesheets.

Despite a brilliant run to seventh in Singapore – marking his best result since July’s Austrian Grand Prix – Alonso is curbing his expectations at a circuit the team is expecting to struggle at.

“I think it’s the third highest power sensitivity of the year after Monza and Spa, so we know that this is normally a bad sign for our performance on that weekend and it’s something that we are trying to understand and try different setups to reduce the drag on the car,” Alonso explained.

“At the same time we know there are no miracles from one weekend to another, it’s going to be tough but the points I think are still possible. Even in Monza when we retired the car we were P11 and we were already close to the points, so I think it’s going to be the same on Sunday.”

Alonso is due to start Sunday’s race from 16th on the grid after opting to take on a fresh power unit in his McLaren. He explained the team’s anticipated struggles in Russia ultimately swayed the decision.

“This weekend we know that it could be quite difficult to perform well because the characteristics of the circuit and for that reason we opted to change the engine here and pay the penalty so let’s see what we can do,” he said.

“You saw quite a high degradation today also on the tyres so let’s try to be calm and to choose a good strategy for Sunday to prepare the car properly because qualifying doesn’t mean much for us unfortunately and hopefully with that we are closer to the points on the chequered flag.”