Fernando Alonso describes the next two months as “crucial” for McLaren if it wants to fight near the front of the field this season.
McLaren started 2018 with a double points finish as Alonso secured fifth place in Melbourne and Stoffel Vandoorne came home in ninth. Despite the good result, the car was off the pace of the top three teams and benefited from both Haas drivers retiring, resulting in a Virtual Safety Car that promoted Alonso.
“I think there’s still quite a reasonable gap to close with the leaders, but I think it’s up to us now,” Alonso said. “It’s up to the team to deliver the performance in the next weeks, in the next four or five or six grands prix. If we are able to bring the performance to the track and close that gap and, you know, being in a reasonable distance to the pole position and the podium finishes and things like that, then it’s up to us to deliver the result on the weekend.
“I think the next two months are crucial for our hopes in this year’s championship, but hopefully we can keep improving the car, keep putting more performance and if it’s not a world championship fight, it will hopefully be some podium positions during the year or it can be regular top-six or top-five positions, not only in Australia P5 because of the Virtual Safety Car and the two Haas retirements.
“Maybe P5 could become a normality. That’s something we need to discover and to find out and as I said before, it’s probably the first time in the last three years that it’s up to us now to deliver that result, so we will try to do our best.”
While the gap to the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull is significant, Alonso says he has full belief that a podium finish this season is a realistic proposition.
“We were two places from that podium already in Australia. They were very close, the last ten laps, [Daniel] Ricciardo and Kimi [Raikkonen] fighting together so anything can happen in a race.
“I won two races in 2008 with that ING Renault. I was on the podium in 2009 with the introduction of KERS and that car that we were, I think, ninth in the World Championship with or something like that, and I was on the podium so anything can happen in F1. If you are close to that position, sooner or later that opportunity will come and we will be there to take it. I think it’s very possible this year.”