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Vandoorne focused on ironing out one personal weakness


McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne is hopeful of achieving a good result in Azerbaijan next weekend, but a likely precondition is a better launch off the grid than usual for the Belgian.

Vandoorne concluded the first two races of the year in the top ten, but struggled in China following a poor start, a fruitless one-stop strategy and damage inflicted to the floor of his MCL33.

“Baku City Circuit is a pretty tough but also enjoyable track, and it’s quite challenging for the drivers,” says the 26-year-old.

“You literally drive through the historic centre of the old town which was a really cool experience last year, and overtaking is tricky on the narrow streets.

“Saying that, we saw anything but a processional race last year and hopefully we can take advantage of any drama that this track throws at us next weekend.

“Last year was tough as the only real overtaking opportunity is at the end of the long straight, and it’ll be tricky for us again, but we’ll see what’s possible with the MCL33.”

Since the start of the 2018 season, McLaren's race pace has typically been better than its qualifying speed, a difference that only underlines the need for the Woking-based team's drivers to deliver a flawless run off the grid, a weak point for Vandoorne.

“As well as making sure we set ourselves up on the right strategy, for me the start will be crucial on Sunday,” he admits.

“I’ve not had the best starts over the last couple of races and with overtaking tough in Baku we need to try to maximise our starting position.

“In China, we fought hard but I picked up some floor damage which made pushing ahead very difficult, so I’m looking forward to a tight battle in the midfield and progressing as much as we can in the race.”

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