McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh says performance takes priority when it comes to development their car.
Last year breakdowns cost the team race wins in Singapore and Abu Dhabi and a likely one-two-finish in Italy.
But speaking during a Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes phone in Whitmarsh said the team would continue to push the envelope of performance:
“I think with a new racing car you can never be as confident as you would like to be because if it’s stable and reliable typically you want to change it to make it quicker, lighter, more aerodynamic or something.
“So there’s always a challenge. I think we’ve been working hard with Mercedes-Benz on some of the issues we saw last year, and internally as well.”
Whitmarsh said McLaren are “constantly vigilant” about improving their car’s reliability. “But we mustn’t become so obsessed by the pursuit of reliability that we don’t change the car.”
“Clearly we’ve taken some risks in changing the car from last year. We finished the year, the last few races undoubtedly with the quickest car. It would have been very easy to have continued to develop that car, we’d have made it quicker still for the start of this year. Yet we’ve made a lot of changes to the overall package.
“We’ve done so in the belief, as was demonstrated by the case study that we’re talking about, you have to be competitive over 20 or, this year, 19 races. You’ve got to be able to develop it so we’ve given ourself a platform which is new to ensure that we’ve got development opportunity over the course of the season.
“In so doing it makes it more challenging after 5,000km [3,100 miles] of running to go into the first race as comfortable about reliability as you want to be.”
Carlos Sainz Jr. has been airlifted to hospital after a big crash during the final free practice session for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday morning.
Under braking at turn 13, Sainz lost the backend of his Toro Rosso car, causing him to hit the left-hand wall before slamming into the TecPro barrier at the end of the run-off area.
The session was immediately red flagged as medical crews tended to Sainz, taking 20 minutes to extricate him from the Toro Rosso car due to how it had pitched under the barrier.
FIA media delegate Matteo Bonciani told reporters: “The driver is conscious and is still in the process of being extricated. When we know something, we will let you know.”
After being extricated from the car, Sainz was taken away on a stretcher before being placed in an ambulance, giving a thumbs up to let fans know that he was okay. He is also reported to have been talking to doctors in the medical centre after the crash.
Sainz has now been airlifted to hospital for further checks, and is set to miss qualifying later today, with Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost telling BBC Sport: “To sit him in the car immediately seems a bit risky, but we will wait and see.”
The damage caused to the TecPro barrier has also caused the planned GP3 race to be cancelled, giving the track workers time to carry out repairs ahead of the F1 qualifying session later today.
Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET on Saturday.
Nico Rosberg set the pace in final practice for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday morning as the session was called early following a heavy crash for Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr.
With 25 minutes remaining, the session was stopped when Sainz slammed into the wall at turn 13, pitching in under the TecPro barrier at the fastest point of the circuit.
A loss of power on the car meant that Toro Rosso could not make contact with its driver, causing concern as the medical crew was sent to the crash site to tend to Sainz.
Replays showed that Spaniard lost the back-end of his car under braking coming into turn 13, causing him to hit the wall on the left-hand side of the track before travelling down the track and into the wall at the end of the high-speed straight.
After being extricated from the car, Sainz was shown on TV cameras to be moving around on a stretcher, giving a thumbs up before being placed into an ambulance.
“The driver is conscious and is still in the process of being extricated,” FIA media chief Matteo Bonciani told reporters. “When we know something, we will let you know.”
Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost added: “As far as I am informed, he is conscious. He is now with the doctor. I think that he is so far okay.”
With qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix due to start in just two hours’ time, it is unlikely that Sainz will be able to take part in the session, with Tost believing it to be “too risky”.
The amount of damage caused to the barrier could also result in delays across the course of Saturday’s running, with GP3 scheduled to race before the F1 qualifying session. The early sunset in Sochi could also cause problems towards the end of the day.