Fernando finished a strong fifth in Australia but let’s be honest, it was down to a large dose of luck with the Virtual Safety Car. In qualifying neither car made Q3 and both Haas and Renault look to be quicker. McLaren is supposed to be bringing a sizeable update package for Bahrain, and with the team still learning about the Renault engine, Alonso thinks the team will be able to challenge Red Bull in the next few races.
“Hopefully from Bahrain we see another step forward and Red Bull will be the next target. I think right now they’re still clearly ahead of us. They’re in that exclusive group of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. But McLaren is willing to enter that group and I think in the next couple of races hopefully we forget the middle group and we look forward to [joining] that privileged three top teams. There is potential in the car, I cannot see any reason why we should not be there in the next coming races.”
“To be at that level we need to be better than them [in development], and we need to close that gap as soon as possible. And this will come with updates and clever ideas, and I’m sure we’ll bring those very soon.”
It seems ridiculous to think that McLaren can go from struggling to get into Q3 to challenging for podiums in just a couple of races, but Alonso says that the delay caused but switching from Honda to Renault engines means the car has more development potential than those of other teams.
“We cannot forget that we decide to switch engines very late in the season so we had to redesign some of the parts that we already made at the rear end of the car. I think the integration between McLaren and Renault still not at hundred per cent, and in the next coming races we’ll see more and more potential.”
Alonso previously said that Australia would be the team’s least competitive race, and whilst that might turn out be true, it seems a little optimistic that the team can challenge the top three by the end of the season, let alone within the next few races. Then again, Alonso always seems to be making outrageous claims – one of them has to come true sooner or later, right?