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Alonso: McLaren chassis can be class of the field

23 Feb 2016

Fernando Alonso believes McLaren are on the cusp of having the best chassis in the 2016 Formula One field following his first day driving the team’s new MP4-31 in Spain on Tuesday.

Alonso said he was proud of McLaren’s winter efforts following the ‘pain' of 2015, and while he admits there is still a way to go to unlock the full potential of the Honda-powered car, he feels that in chassis terms they could be leading the way before the mid-season mark.

"I think the target to have the best chassis is reachable - is very possible - maybe by the European races,” said the Spaniard, who racked up 119 laps in Barcelona on Tuesday - more than he achieved in the whole of 2015’s pre-season testing.

Alonso explained that McLaren had spent the off-season successfully resolving many of 2015’s issues, allowing the team to hit the ground running in Spain this week and to start concentrating more on the pace of their car.

“We're happy,” he said of the start to testing. “Last year we did seven laps the first day, 25 the second, 30 the next... and then we went to Australia. By race five, race six, we were still discovering little things on the car that were hurting us a lot in terms of performance.

"That was the first priority this winter: to make sure we went through the problems and found solutions. We did, and I'm proud of the team, proud of the car.

"I think we need to wind up the performance in the car. There are some parts that are quite novel and new on our car - the others had these ideas in the past but for us they are quite new - so we need some time to mature the package. And in the power unit, for us last year was a lot of learning and pain - and now with a new design and philosophy, we still need a bit of time to understand it.”

Good chassis or not, Alonso also warned that McLaren shouldn't expect immediate success, noting that the strength of their rivals - in particular Mercedes - looked ominous.

"I think the Mercedes domination hasn't finished," he said. "I think they are very strong. With that amount of laps [the world champions have completed 338 in two days], when you add the potential as well, they are stronger than ever - more so than last year. So to win is not an easy task.”

Alonso inevitably conceded that it is far too soon to start making season predictions - that will have to wait until the first few races are run - but said that motivation is ‘very high’ within the team.

"Sitting here, or last week, in the factory, or even taking the plane to Australia, the ambition is very high,” added the former champion. “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."

Alonso on a very different start to testing from 2015