Fernando Alonso is expecting McLaren to make clear progress when it introduces a number of new parts that were not ready for the start of the new Formula 1 season.
As a fellow Renault customer, McLaren has publicly stated it wants to be close to Red Bull this season but started the year the best part of a second per lap off the RB14 in Melbourne. Despite the pace deficit and dropping out in Q2 in qualifying, Alonso finished fifth on a track that is hard to overtake on, while Stoffel Vandoorne secured ninth place.
With McLaren having to rectify a number of reliability issues after pre-season testing, a number of upgraded parts were delayed and Alonso says their introduction will see the team able to get more out of its new car.
“Obviously the team has been forced to work so hard the last three years and also over the winter,” Alonso said. “Because they had to change the engine from last year, they had to redesign some parts, the whole rear of the car, the gearbox, everything.
“It was tight and some parts we wanted for [Australia] weren’t finished in time, because even working 24 hours per day for many months, it was not enough. But we got there, finished with both cars in the points, so we have to be very proud and very thankful to the whole team.
“I think our race pace was more or less what we had expected – we’re faster in race pace than in qualifying, but as of today we cannot get everything out of the car because we’re still lacking some parts. I believe we are at the lowest point of our curve; there’s a lot of things we really have to improve, we need to bring the updates for the next couple of races to be close to Red Bull as soon as possible.”
Alonso says it should not be overlooked that McLaren is only at the beginning of its Renault partnership compared to the long-term situation at Red Bull.
“Definitely it’s going to be better and better. There’s a lot of potential in the car still to be unlocked. As we said [in Australia], it’s the first race with this combination: McLaren- Renault power unit so a lot more to come and hopefully from Bahrain another step forward – and Red Bull will be the next target.”