Fernando Alonso believes points can still be targeted at the Russian Grand Prix, despite his lowly starting grid spot of 16th and McLaren’s general lack of competitiveness in Sochi.

Anticipating a difficult weekend in Russia due to the emphasis placed on power and aerodynamic performance at the Sochi Autodrom, McLaren opted to take on a fresh power unit in Alonso’s McLaren.

Alonso was 17th-fastest in qualifying and ended up almost half a second adrift of Brendon Hartley’s Honda-powered Toro Rosso but will avoid a back-of-the-grid start thanks to his car being the first out on track in FP1 when it was driven by Lando Norris.

It means Alonso will actually start Sunday’s race one position higher than he qualified in 16th - two places behind teammate Stoffel Vandoorne. 

“We focused a lot on race preparation this weekend. We will see tomorrow if it pays off. It is going to be tough,” Alonso said.

“The track layout is not our preferred one, but let’s see. Points are still the target, if we can manage a good strategy and start.”

Knowing it faced an uphill struggle, McLaren spent much of the three practice sessions in Russia towards the bottom of the timesheets as the Woking squad prioritised set-up work and race simulations.

Alonso said McLaren has made gains from its work and found some “solutions” to the problems that have plagued its 2018 challenger, though he conceded his MCL33 is still not fast enough.

“We did improve the car - definitely we found some solutions that made the car faster. But not fast enough,” he admitted.

“We are still quite down in terms of performance on this kind of circuit. We will have to wait for a better opportunity.

“Also, in Monza we were uncompetitive, and then we retired the car when we were P11. Close to the points, so tomorrow we still have a chance for points.”

The Spaniard reckons tyre degradation could help his cause and play into his team’s strategy, with drivers starting on Hypersofts expecting a struggle in the early stages of Sunday’s race.

“Before coming here we thought tyres would behave be very stable, but it seems not the case,” he said.

“It seems there is high deg, which could be the biggest help we could get tomorrow.”