Fernando Alonso says Ferrari are 'definite title contenders' in F1 2017
Spaniard left Scuderia at end of 2014 to return to McLaren
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 07/04/17 3:01am
Fernando Alonso says Ferrari are genuine contenders to be champions in F1 2017 - and has described McLaren-Honda's latest problems as "difficult to understand".
The Spaniard's assessment is significant because he left Ferrari at the end of 2014 after losing faith in the team's ability to build a title-winning car. "I saw nothing change for five years," Alonso said at the time.
But in the wake of Sebastian Vettel's victory at the season-opening Australian GP, and Ferrari's table-topping pace in pre-season testing which Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton described as "spectacular", Alonso believes Ferrari are finally capable of ending their decade-long title drought.
"Definitely it seems that they are contenders," Alonso told Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz. "They were strong in winter testing and in the first race they had the pace to win it. Let's wait and see - but hopefully we will have a more interesting championship with not only Mercedes."
Alonso's remarks are also significant because of McLaren's previous insistence that they would be the first team to beat Mercedes after reuniting with Honda for the 2015 season.
After then-team boss Ross Dennis said "I honestly believe that the next world champions after Mercedes will be McLaren", Alonso told Sky F1 in May: "It's quite possible. Red Bull are a top team but not having a big engine manufacturer in this F1 is tough and Ferrari will always be competitive but always maybe missing the last bit."
However, since then McLaren's own prospects have plummeted, with Honda's latest engine possessing neither reliability nor power and Alonso himself warning after the season curtain-raiser in Melbourne that the team are currently last on performance.
"I don't have much info," Alonso told reporters when asked about Honda's plans ahead of this weekend's Chinese GP. "I don't have clear news on where we are or what we are doing, but let's hope for the best."
Alonso's three-year deal with the team expires at the end of the season with Sky F1's F1 Report: China Preview show this week suggesting that one option for the Spaniard in 2018 could be a return to Ferrari.
"I need a reaction from the team," Alonso added. "I understand in the first year project all the difficulties and we also understand in the second year how we grew up together and performed better and better. In this third year, in terms of the engine, to take a step back and have more problems than last year, for McLaren-Honda it's difficult to understand."
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