Russian GP Preview: McLaren expect fight for constructors’ to be tight

Russian GP Preview: McLaren expect fight for constructors’ to be tight

McLaren remain cautious heading into the Russian GP, as their fight with Ferrari for third in the Constructors’ Championship continues.

This weekend’s Russian GP provides McLaren with the opportunity to extend their lead over rivals Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship. Scoring a huge haul of points at Monza propelled the team past the Scuderia in the standings, now sitting 13.5 points clear.

But while McLaren have now retaken the ‘best of the rest’ position, there’s no guarantee they will still be retaining it come the end of the weekend. After taking an early lead from Ferrari in the 2021 Formula 1 season, strong points finishes by Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have seen the position go back and forth between the pair of teams.

Sochi is a track that is likely to benefit both McLaren and Ferrari in different ways. The MCL35M has shown it is a strong competitor when given plenty of long straights in which to utilise its Mercedes powered speed, of which the Russian GP has two.

While the SF21 has the upper hand around slow speed corners, one of the MCL35M’s weaknesses. Ferrari are also set to debut a new updated power unit this weekend, with Charles Leclerc being sent to the back of the grid as a result.

As the two teams continue to release updates throughout the year, the fight in the constructors’ will continue to rage right up until the end of the season. With Team Principal Andreas Seidl acknowledging several key priorities McLaren will be working towards.

“There’s still a long way to go for us as a team through the remainder of the season,” Seidl said. “We will continue to keep our feet on the ground and our heads down as the battle in the Constructors’ Championship is still closely contested. Our key priorities remain the same: staying on top of reliability and parts management, extracting the best performance from our car alongside our colleagues at Mercedes HPP, and capitalising on every opportunity that presents itself.

“After a short break following the triple-header, the team is prepared and ready to head to Russia in the hunt for crucial points. The Sochi Autodrom is dominated by two long straights resulting in a high power sensitivity, however, the track presents relatively limited opportunities to overtake. Therefore, it’s key we maximise our results in qualifying to give both cars the best possible chance to fight higher up the grid on Sunday.”

A resurgent Daniel Ricciardo will play a big part as to whether McLaren are able to keep hold of third place. The team have largely relied on solid points finishes by Lando Norris up until recently. With Ricciardo contributing every now and again.

Currently sitting fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, Norris echoed Seidl’s sentiments, outlining what is required to retain the lead.

“We need to continue to put ourselves in the best position possible and maximise the car, pit-stops, strategy and everything in between,” Norris said. “Heading into Russia, the battle for third in the Constructors’ is still tight and looks set to stay that way until the last race of the season. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going from Italy and score some solid points for the team.”