Fernando Alonso believes onlookers have had unrealistic expectations of McLaren this season after failing to significantly close the gap to the top three teams.
McLaren was talking up its hopes of scoring podiums in 2018 after switching to the Renault power unit, with fellow Renault customer Red Bull named as its benchmark. While the Red Bull has been by far the quicker of the two cars – showing race pace comparable to Mercedes and Ferrari – McLaren has been around a second a lap off the pace but has scored points with both cars in each of the opening two races.
Asked if he has been surprised by McLaren’s level of performance, Alonso replied: “Not really, we didn’t have any big surprises.
“We’re third in the constructors’ championship, fourth in the drivers’ championship. Maybe not on performance. I don’t know exactly what the people were expecting, from one season to another, when the regulations stay the same, and there are three teams ahead of everyone last year. This year they keep ahead of everyone.”
And Alonso says McLaren should be compared to its own performance from a year ago in order to see the progress it has made so far in 2018, with former power unit supplier Honda having suffered poor reliability and limited performance over the past three years.
“Last year in three races, zero points, Bahrain last year, Stoffel [Vandoorne] didn’t make the start. On the grid, he was pulling the car into the pit lane. This year, two races, four cars to the checkered flag. As I said, look at the facts, not the feelings or the wishes or the dreams. If we see the facts, this is a very good start.
“There are things to improve, like everyone else. We had an integration from the power unit, and the chassis in winter testing, some things to deal with in that Barcelona test, we solved them. We didn’t have any mechanical failure, we didn’t have any operational failures. I think we’re the only team now – with pit stop problems for Ferrari and Haas, and Red Bull retirements – now it’s only one team remaining with no issues at all, that’s only McLaren.
“Even Mercedes changed their gearbox a couple of times. Only McLaren – this could change quite quickly – but so far, the start of the season is very positive. I understand the expectations are difficult to meet when we’re talking about McLaren and a championship fight.”