Fernando Alonso says his strong start to the season should not mask McLaren’s need to improve its car after being unable to match the pace of the top three teams.
Alonso has yet to finish lower than seventh after McLaren’s offseason switch to Renault power units, and the team has duly delivered points in every race. Although he currently sits sixth in the drivers’ championship, the Spaniard says the lack of outright pace – with McLaren yet to reach Q3 and often fighting with the likes of Renault and Haas – is of bigger concern than the impressive final results.
“We know that we have to improve, no doubt,” Alonso said. “It’s not like we can hide that, but at the same time we are doing our job on Sundays and scoring as many points as possible for the team.
“[Seventh in China] is a great result for Sunday but we cannot forget that the pace was not there all weekend so we need to keep improving.
“I think on Sundays for different reasons we deliver the results, sometimes a little bit lucky, sometimes good strategy, sometimes good pit stops, so so far great Sundays. But as I said before we need to keep improving the car. We are not quite yet in the top group, we saw a Renault power unit winning the race so that gives us motivation as well.”
Asked if there is any disappointment in Daniel Ricciardo winning the Chinese Grand Prix with a Renault power unit while McLaren has not proven to be at the same level so far, Alonso says the result shows his team has no excuse from an engine point of view.
“Well I think it was a little bit too optimistic to think about the win but it showed us the potential of the power unit and gives us good motivation that with this power unit we will be able to fight if we do a good job on the chassis side. We are not quite there yet, we need to close that gap and we need to work harder on the chassis side and hopefully the next races bring us some updates.”
Having overtaken Sebastian Vettel late in Sunday’s race – in a move that saw the Ferrari forced off track and complain over team radio – Alonso felt the championship leader should have given up the fight earlier.
“Obviously it was not a fair fight because Sebastian had the damage on his car and I was a little bit quicker in the corners.
“I think [it was clean]. Unfortunately he had the damage on his car so he was running very wide in the corners, so at the first opportunity I saw the door open, I went for it. Eventually at one point the track finished, so he kept going until it was grass so you need to back off at one point.”