Fernando Alonso making most out of his season despite McLaren’s woes

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Fernando Alonso doesn’t hide the fact he expected more from McLaren by now.

Still, he arrives for his home race in Spain happy with what he and the team have achieved so far.

“Definitely we are not in the position we wanted or expected at the beginning of the winter,” Alonso said ahead of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix. “At the same time, I think it has been a very positive start to the season. We are the only team completing the full four races with both cars. We did score points in every single race and we are fourth in the constructors’ championship.”

Alonso finished in the points in all four races and is sixth in the drivers’ standings, ahead even of Max Verstappen of Red Bull. Alonso started with a fifth place in Australia and was seventh in each of the next three races – Bahrain, China and Azerbaijan.

But that still doesn’t quite meet the high expectations McLaren faced after it made the switch from the troubled Honda engine to Renault. There were even talks about the team being able to challenge title-contenders Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

Yet the year began with McLaren not as close to the front-runners as it had hoped for, and it found itself in the middle of the pack fighting with several other teams just to be the best of the rest.

The car was not as fast as expected, especially in qualifying, and its top speeds were among the slowest on the grid.

“Still a long way to go for us, but at the same time we were here last year with zero points,” two-time world champion Alonso said. “So it has been a very good start, in a way. Let’s keep the momentum.”

Alonso’s teammate Stoffel Vandoorne is 14th in the drivers’ standings after scoring points in three of the first four races.

This weekend will mark the fifth anniversary of Alonso’s last F1 victory, which came in Barcelona with Ferrari. He said he has kept his motivation throughout the winning drought and had some of his best races in the series despite not being able to win.

” I did some better races in the last five years, even if the last victory was five years ago,” Alonso said. “I will never probably do a race as I did in Baku, and I finished seventh. It’s difficult to see from the outside but extremely proud and motivated every time you do a one-off performance.”

Alonso started 13th in Azerbaijan and dropped to the back of the pack after another car collided with him on the first lap. He barely made it back to the pits, arriving practically on two wheels, but gradually made his way back to the front to finish on the points for a fourth straight race.

Alonso is coming off a victory in the 6 Hours of Spa in the World Endurance Championship.

“Definitely felt good. It felt a long time not being on the podium and it has been a good preparation,” said Alonso, who will also compete in next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, where he said victory would mean more than a home triumph this weekend.

“Now that I have won a couple of times here in Spain, obviously for me it would be (more meaningful) winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans, because it’s the biggest race in the world,” he said.

Alonso said his results in the endurance championship would not directly affect his decisions about his future in F1, although he did say he wasn’t happy with the predictability of F1 these days.

“The biggest thing here is how predictable everything is,” he said. “We can put on a paper now what will be the qualifying here on Saturday, what will be in Monaco, in Canada and in Silverstone, so that’s something you need to take into account for future decisions. This is sad, in a way, for Formula 1, the direction in which everything went.”