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Fernando Alonso Q&A: McLaren still uncertain of ultimate potential

04 Mar 2016

After seven days of pre-season testing, it is clear McLaren are in better shape than they were in 2015. Improved reliability has been the most welcome boost, but how significant is that progress - and how substantial are their performance gains? According to Fernando Alonso, the team still aren't sure themselves, and are reluctant to read too much into the 'confusing' pecking order during testing. Even so, optimism is high - and Alonso is allowing himself to dream once more...

Q: Fernando, McLaren have been able to do a lot of mileage in the last few days. Is that a sign that your reliability concerns are now in the past?

Fernando Alonso: True, it has been much better lately. We missed one day last week, but for this week it has been more or less trouble-free so far, and that is very promising. It was so important to put mileage on the car to get a better understanding as last week we brought some new concepts in terms of car design - while on the power unit we had to make some fundamental changes because last season we used 11 or 12 units during the season. That was unacceptable - we cannot repeat that! So I am happy with how things have developed this week so far. Of course what our level of performance is will become visible in Australia. Because right now you cannot say anything: every day you have different tyres and different fuel loads, so it is impossible to read the times properly. So I am waiting for the Melbourne race: four o'clock, same tyres, same fuel load - and then let's see where everybody stands.

Q: The main issues last season were performance and a lack of reliability - what can you say about these two issues now? 

FA: Well, we've been doing quite a number of laps - that shows that over the winter we've been working very hard, so the reliability at least should be massively better. At least I am quite happy with it. In terms of performance I am in a bit of a stand-by situation: sometimes some of the top times seem to be reachable, while on other days they seem to be unreachable. You get a bit confused with the performance of everybody else. I would assume that there is still a lot of work for us to do, and then let's hope that we are much closer also on the performance side. 

Q: If you say there is still a lot of work to do, what areas does that apply to?

FA: Well, the power unit side - and of course the next steps for the following engines that will come at the next races. And also on the chassis side we want to test a number of things like re-designing the back of the car. We are still in a process of learning how to best use the potential of that area. 

Q: Tyres in the last year have played a crucial role in the championship. Will that also go for 2016?

FA: There has not been a huge change on the tyre side. Yes we now have the ultrasoft tyres, but I pretty much expect the same scenario as in the last couple of years. 

Q: After running so little last year, did you have to prepare differently for this season - in terms of physical fitness, for example?

FA: I did a lot of physical preparations [over the winter] and worked big time with the team. I am very motivated. I may not fight for the championship, but I will do my best season - whatever position I will be fighting for.

Q: Based on what you know of the car so far, is it possible that you or Jenson Button might finally reach the podium again this year?

FA: That is difficult to say at this stage. But then again: why not? I am motivated and I am really looking forward to Australia to do some real racing again. The championship is very long at 21 races, and in the course of this marathon so many things can happen. We know that we have a chance - and this season we are ready to take every chance and maximise it. The car has huge potential. So if there is a podium within reach: go for it!

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