Despite registering a brilliant fifth place finish at the Australian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso says that the McLaren F1 Team have “a lot more to come” in the 2018 Formula 1 season.
Alonso, starting from tenth after Valtteri Bottas‘s gearbox change promoted him from eleventh, drove well – holding off the late attentions of a fired up Max Verstappen. With Stoffel Vandoorne‘s ninth place, McLaren equalled their highest tally of points for a single race seen under Honda power in just their first race with Renault Sport.
The Spaniard acknowledged the pain and difficulty of the past few years and paid homage to the work his team have done over a winter of hope and relief, albeit with its troubles in official testing.
“It was a good race today,” Alonso said. “Especially considering where we started.”
“The last couple of years have been difficult, and I think the winter has been difficult as well. We switched to the Renault engine quite late and the team had to react very quickly to redesign some of the parts at the rear end, and now we’ve come here and both cars have scored points – one in the top five.
“We should be proud of that, but I think there’s a lot more to come from McLaren.”
Alonso had previously said that the Australian race would be McLaren’s “lowest level” in the season, and believes that the team didn’t reach the full potential of the car, but remains optimistic for a notable increase in performance once the relationship with Renault settles, seeing Aston Martin Red Bull Racing as their yardstick.
“We didn’t maximise the full potential nor squeeze everything out of the package today,” he revealed.
“This is only our first race together with Renault, and some updates will come in the next few races. We can start to look ahead a little bit and Red Bull will be the next target.
“As I said before, this race is probably our lowest performance of this season as things are going to get better and better.”
“We made no mistakes”
The 36-year-old, who was taking part in his second competitive race of 2018 after making his Rolex 24 at Daytona début with McLaren Group executive director Zak Brown‘s United Autosports outfit, did admit to taking advantage of some fortuitous situations.
Alonso profited from both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean‘s retirements in the space of two laps, following problems with the Haas F1 Team wheel guns. Additionally, Carlos Sainz Jr.‘s off-road excursion at Turn 9 and Verstappen’s need to let Alonso back past after a mix up under the Virtual Safety Car helped the McLaren up the field. But, fortune aside, he hailed “a perfect job” from his team.
“Obviously, today we got lucky with the two Haas cars retiring,” noted Alonso.
“Carlos’ problem in turn nine, and then overtaking Verstappen under the Safety Car.
“Let’s say four positions came thanks to some favourable conditions, but we made no mistakes and we capitalised on everything. A perfect job from the team.”