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McLaren prepared for 'risk' posed by Baku weekend

After mixed fortunes for the team during the first three races of the season, McLaren admit that there is an additional challenge in store for Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

McLaren boss Andrea Stella is confident that the team have prepared for the "risk" posed by the upcoming Sprint race at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The Sprint will make its first of six appearances during the weekend in Baku, which will also see the introduction of a Sprint Shootout in place of Free Practice 2. This will determine the starting order for the Sprint, while Friday's qualifying will set the grid for Sunday's main race. While McLaren have had mixed fortunes in the opening races of the 2023 season, both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri scored points last time out in Australia, and Stella feels that the squad are in a positive frame of the mind for the Azerbaijan event.

McLaren prepared for 'risk' in Baku

"We come to Baku following a solid result in Australia, a short period away from track to refocus and with good spirits in the team so we're ready to go again for the first double-header of the season," Stella explained. "Whilst the result in Australia was positive, we know we've still got a lot of work to do and this time away from the track has actually been very busy at the factory." McLaren are set to bring an upgrade package to Baku, but Stella acknowledges that the new parts may not deliver immediate results. "We also bring some new components to the MCL60. Although, we recognise that in Baku we may not immediately see most of the benefits of these new spec parts, this is just one of many steps in a wider plan to push us forward in the Constructors' Championship," he added. "The team are also looking forward to the first weekend of the new Sprint format. At any street circuit, there is always more risk associated with events like this, but the team have prepared well and we look forward to going back to racing."

Norris and Piastri on new Sprint format

With the new Sprint format being used for the first time, Norris hopes that the change can provide good entertainment for the fans. "I'm looking forward to Baku and to go racing again. It's been a productive three weeks off with sim work and analysis with my engineers but also taking time to rest and reset ahead of a busy few races," Norris said. "I'm also excited that we’re at another street circuit and trying out the new Sprint format. It will be interesting to see how it works and hopefully it will make good viewing for the fans. "The track is narrow so it’s as important as ever to be on it as there are lots of opportunities for mistakes. This is even more important as we optimise and learn everything we can about the new parts we’re bringing to the track this weekend. Let’s get back to it." Like Norris, Piastri admits that the Baku City Circuit can pose a challenge. "It's a tricky circuit to get right from a car set-up perspective, given the long straight at the end of the lap, combined with the tighter sections of the track," the Australian added. "We've been doing a lot of work in the simulator to ensure we hit the ground running on Friday, especially given the Sprint format, which I'm looking forward to taking on for the first timein Formula 1. "I'll be hoping to build on the momentum from Australia where I achieved my first-ever F1 points. We still have a lot of work to do and a long way to go so I'll keep my head down and keep working hard."

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