Fernando Alonso is confident that McLaren can make big gains ahead of the 2016 Formula 1 season despite enduring a lacklustre first year with Honda power units.
The famed McLaren-Honda partnership was revived for 2015, but a number of issues with the power unit supplied by the Japanese manufacturer have left the team struggling towards the back of the field.
In Austin last weekend, though, the damp track masked many of the power deficiencies of the McLaren-Honda, allowing both Alonso and teammate Jenson Button to fight inside the top ten.
Button eventually finished the race in sixth position, and Alonso would most likely have scored points had it not been for an issue that caused him to drop down to 11th late on.
Looking ahead to this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, Alonso expressed his belief that McLaren is moving in the right direction and can lay good foundations for 2016.
“Well, I think the team is doing a good job and everyone is pushing to improve the situation,” Alonso said. “All the new parts that we bring to the races they seem to deliver what we expect from them.
“Definitely there is a very nice direction in the team this year. It has been tough; it has been frustrating at times. But we kept all united, we kept all moving in one direction, one team and for next year I think we are putting some of the problems we had this year in [their] place for next year.
“It was the case in Austin, where we felt more competitive in all sessions over the weekend. In the race as well, it has been probably the best race of the year for me, Austin. In the first 20 laps I think in nine of them was quicker than Lewis and this didn’t happen for the past two years and a half!
“So this was very good news and definitely I enjoyed the race and, as you said, zero points for an issue in the last ten laps but it was definitely a different feeling compared to the rest of the year.”
Alonso was quoted earlier this week as saying that McLaren could find as much as 2.5 seconds per lap for 2016, and the Spaniard explained how some of the major issues with the Honda power unit are easily fixable for next season.
“Well, I think the lack of performance we have in some areas of the car are quite fundamental issues that should have a not too difficult answer, let’s a say, or not too difficult a solution,” Alonso said.
“It’s just we need to copy the direction everyone has apart from us. It’s some of the time that we feel we will recover with not much penalty, because for the others they already have it in their package.
“So some of the performance gain we expect will come for free but it’s true that all the competitors will work very hard over the winter and they will recover a couple of seconds also, so we need to make an extra, but we are feeling optimistic, we feel confident of next year being very competitive.
“We are realistic at the same time. We understand that in Formula 1 there are no magic things for being one year out of Q1 and the next year fighting for the championship – that’s a very, very optimistic target but we will try our best.”