Fernando Alonso returned to McLaren-Honda duty in Barcelona on Tuesday, and the Spaniard enjoyed a trouble-free day as he logged a respectable total of 119 laps – in stark contrast to the form the team showed last year.
Alonso was in relaxed mood afterwards, and he made it clear that recent suggestions he might stop if the packaged was uncompetitive are wide of the mark.
However, he stressed that there is still much work to do for the team and its engine partner.
“It’s good to be back and good to complete a good number of laps which I missed last year,” he said. “We did seven laps the first day, 25 the second, 13 the third day, and then we went to Australia… I think by race five or race six we were still discovering little things on the car that were hurting us a lot in terms of points and in terms of performance during the year. That was the first priority for the team and for this winter, make sure that we went through the problems that we had last year.
“We put some solutions, and we did I think, at least on the reliability side. I’m proud of the team and proud of the job that everyone put together in this car. I enjoyed the day, but there is performance that we need to unlock in the car.
“Most of the work we did today were laps for aerodynamic study and laps for reliability study, temperatures, brake temperatures, water temperatures, many things that from a driver point of view were not very exciting, anyone can do those kinds of laps and those studies let’s say, and I’m looking forward to do some set-up change or some soft tyres or different fuels to really enjoy the driving as well.”
He was adamant that the power unit is better, but made it clear that it had to be, given its poor performance last year.
“Definitely yes, but this is let’s say an answer that we could not have any doubts, because the starting point or the power and deficit that we had last year compared to the top teams, it was just too high. We did improve all the areas of the car. I think on the aerodynamic side there are parts which are quite innovative and quite new, in our car, at least. Maybe the others had these ideas in the past, but for us they are quite new.
“We need a little bit of time to mature the project, the package. And in the power unit the same thing. For us last year there was a lot of learning, a lot of pain, but we learned many things, and now with a completely new design, or philosophy of power unit, we still need a little bit of time to understand and exploit the potential.”
Asked if the targets can he achieved Alonso said: “Honestly, I don’t know. There is not a crystal ball in F1 that you can bet or you can know more or less which direction the year will go after the first day of testing, or even after the two weeks of testing. I think we need to wait for Australia when we are all in the same conditions, with supersoft tyres and low fuel, same track conditions, and then we see. And even that I think we need to wait for two or three races to know for sure how the year will turn to you.
“Sitting here, or last week, in the factory, or even taking the plane to Australia, the ambition is very high. I’m not here just to travel around the world and jump in the car and have some fun on Sunday. I’m here to win. All the 22 drivers, they want the same, and for me it’s no different.”
Meanwhile Alonso joked about rumours that he will stop any time soon if the car is not competitive saying that with the long winter break there was a “dangerous tendency of being creative with the news. Asked if he will see out the season he said “of course, and the next one.”
Fernando did not want to comment on the Honda management changes, saying that he had only just found out about them.