Fernando Alonso admits he is pleased to be able to focus on a new challenge in Formula 1 next season after another disappointing year for McLaren in 2017.
Having improved from 2015 to finish sixth in the constructors’ championship last season, McLaren slipped back to ninth overall as Honda struggled for both competitiveness and reliability with a new power unit concept this year. After months of negotiations, McLaren and Honda agreed to part ways at the end of 2017, with McLaren taking Renault power units from next season.
Alonso – who was often vocal in his criticism of Honda – says having a fresh start in 2018 is motivating for the team after such a frustrating year.
“Obviously every season when you arrive at the end and you didn’t meet the expectations, it’s kind of a good feeling because it’s turning the page and going for the next goal, the next target,” Alonso said. “Clearly for next year we have high expectations, different goals, different probably philosophy of getting into the car and designing the car also over the winter.
“Many things are ongoing; all of them make us quite optimistic. So it’s nice also the season finished now and we can concentrate fully on 2018.”
While not fully agreeing with Alonso’s outlook, McLaren racing director Eric Boullier insists there has been plenty of progress made behind the scenes that has not necessarily been obvious due to the on-track struggles.
“It’s not about being happy or not,” Boullier said. “It’s just the end of the season. We had a lot of positives as well this season – obviously not in terms of ranking or in terms of track results. We did improve the team a lot in many, many other fields. It’s very tiring.
“There is actually more work to be done now back in the workshop, and next year is another year, and as Fernando said there are targets. It’s not about being happy or unhappy. It’s just the end of the 2017 chapter and working on next year’s chapter.”
Following this year’s difficulties, Honda last week announced Yusuke Hasegawa would be leaving his role as Head of F1 Project, with a new structure seeing Honda Performance Development senior manager and race team engineer Toyoharu Tanabe taking on the newly created role of F1 Technical Director.