Fernando Alonso inspects the cockpit of the McLaren MCL32 Honda. (Photo: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic)
Fernando Alonso is upbeat about McLaren Honda’s prospects for the 2017 season – but at the same time conceded that the team has to be realistic about its ambitions given where it left off last season.
Honda has made a big step over the winter, but Alonso cautioned that it had a lot of ground to make up.
“We all realistic, myself first,” he said. “Knowing that if last year we were 1.5 seconds off the pace in Abu Dhabi at the last race, we need to recover a huge gap to win this year. The realistic approach, we need to be not pessimistic, but we need to be realistic, knowing that winning in F1 is extremely difficult. But winning arriving sixth in the previous constructors’ championship is something no one did in history. Probably Brawn GP in 2009. But I think that is the only example we have.
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“Starting from that basis, we need to work hard, cleverer than anyone else, and I think what we did until today has been into that approach. We started the 2017 car early enough, we put a lot of resources in this year’s car, even last year, that we stopped development a little bit [of 2016 car].
“We changed complete philosophy of the engine which is obviously risky, but needed if we want to win, because that engine we used the last two years was not good enough to keep fighting, or to keep developing.
“Now we need to put car on the track, we need to do a good winter testing. Many things to learn from the tires. We are one of the teams that could not run these tires [on mule cars]. Even two weeks ago some of these teams were testing in wet conditions, and we didn’t unfortunately so we have a little disadvantage there that we need to recover in the first couple of days of testing. Plus, all the new aerodynamic regulations that we need to understand, for the guys here at the factory to have a clear direction of where to develop the car in the next couple of months.”
Alonso said he’s beginning this season with a high level of commitment after a good winter break.
“I start this year with maximum commitment. I really enjoyed the break, I really needed the break until the 10th of January more or less. I was relaxing, charging the batteries mentally, surrounded by my family, friends, really in a quiet environment.
“Then from that moment, maximum physical work and preparation for this year. More or less the same of what I have been doing every single winter, but maybe a little bit more emphasis on the neck, on the shoulder, on the arms, to prepare for this year’s car. But nothing really that was too different compared to the past.
“I arrive now with a completely new motivation, a new challenge in front of me with this year’s car. I think that I can give something extra, compared to the rookies, or the people that didn’t drive the old cars. I’m really happy and motivated. It was a long break for many people and the fans especially from November 27th in Abu Dhabi until now, but I think for us and I think for in my case me it was the right time. Perfect timing, now I’m really, really hungry for jumping in the car and racing.”