Alonso enjoyed a bright start to the 2018 campaign, enjoying five successive top-ten finishes including an impressive season-opening P5 in Australia. Those early performances suggested McLaren were perhaps heading in the right direction after a tough three-year spell with Honda power.
However, performances have declined of late with the two-time world champion suffering back-to-back retirements in Monaco and Canada. After failing to make it out of the first phase of qualifying for the first time this year, Alonso gave his verdict on the struggling MCL33.
“It is slow. It is the same car for the last three or four Grands Prix, so we are slipping back,” he said. “Every race seems less and less competitive.
“We were P15 in Canada in Q1 (with team mate Stoffel Vandoorne), so we were on the borderline already. Here we are one step back. Even in Canada with that performance and that car we were in the points until we had the exhaust pipe (problem) on Sunday. So the race is tomorrow and points are the target.”
Alonso added that he was not surprised by the team's struggles at Circuit Paul Ricard, given they predicted they would be near the Q1 drop zone ahead of the session.
“Nothing went wrong, the performance is what it is. Two tenths in front of the most talented young driver of the last couple of years in Stoffel. It’s a place we are. This morning in the meeting we predicted to be in between P14 and P15. It’s where we are.
“Our average position on Saturday is P13, so the level of competiveness is not at the point we want it. It’s not a big surprise. It’s definitely disappointing. We need to keep working. Nevertheless in the last seven races we were in the points every single race apart from mechanical issues. I think tomorrow is still a chance.”
Alonso’s team mate Vandoorne was even further back in P18, meaning McLaren suffered their worst qualifying result since the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
And the Belgian, who has been out-qualified by his team mate at every race this season, was in a similarly glum mood following the session.
“It’s a very disappointing qualifying for us to have both cars eliminated in Q1 - it was not what we came here for," he said. "There was nothing particularly wrong with the balance of the car .The feeling was OK. We just lack a lot of pace.
“I think we have lacked pace since the start of the season. There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes to investigate what is not working for us. I think we need to keep our heads down and keep working. Hopefully things will turn around.
“It was our poorest qualifying of the year. Definitely not good for us and we need to do better. Hopefully tomorrow we can reverse this result with a good race.”
While McLaren will no doubt be concerned by their performance on Saturday, they remain in the hunt for fourth place in the constructors’ championship - they trail Renault, who are leading that race, by 16 points.