Fernando Alonso hopes this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marks the final time that he is not fighting at the front in Formula 1 after three tough years for McLaren-Honda.
Since Honda’s return to the sport in 2015, McLaren has failed to score a podium as the power unit supplier has struggled for both reliability and performance. This year the team is set to finish ninth in the constructors’ championship – ahead of only Sauber – and Alonso is keen for a new partnership with Renault to start in 2018.
“One race to go, another season is coming to an end, a season that, for sure, was complicated and hopefully it will be the last race in which we’ll have to race in these conditions,” Alonso said.
“We’ll see next year. Renault has been the best engine company in the last 15 or 20 years, if you see all their titles, so we are confident for next year.”
While Alonso prepares for life with Renault, Honda will switch to Toro Rosso next season and the Japanese manufacturer’s head of F1 project, Yusuke Hasegawa, doesn’t want to set his target only on catching Renault.
“With the current chassis downforce level it is difficult to tell, but I think we are closing the gap,” Hasegawa told RACER. “We just haven’t closed the gap yet, not enough.
“Obviously we hope we will be able to close the gap over the winter, but they are not staying where they are, either. But definitely we need to catch up with Renault and try to overtake them.”
Asked if catching Renault is Honda’s target ahead of 2018, Hasegawa replied: “No, much higher! Even higher. Yes [we set targets compared to other manufacturers] but at this moment we don’t want to disclose our plans.”