Chinese GP: Fernando Alonso says McLaren start to F1 2018 'very good'
"I don't know exactly what people were expecting from one season to another?" questions Alonso after opening two rounds
By James Galloway in Shanghai
Last Updated: 13/04/18 4:36am
Fernando Alonso has defended McLaren's start to the 2018 F1 season and urged people to judge them on the "facts" rather than "dreams".
McLaren admit they have work to do to improve the pace of their Renault-powered car after failing to make Q3 in qualifying in either Australia or Bahrain, but are nonetheless the only team other than Mercedes to have secured 100 per cent points finishes with both cars so far.
That means McLaren currently sit third in the Constructors' Championship - their highest placing since April 2014 - while Alonso is fourth in the drivers' standings.
And while conceding they do not currently have the third-quickest car heading into this weekend's Chinese GP, Alonso insisted: "I didn't have any big surprises. We are third in the Constructors' Championship, fourth in the Drivers' Championship.
"Maybe not in performance, but I don't know exactly what people were expecting from one season to another where the regulations stay the same and there were three teams ahead of everyone last year and this year they keep ahead of everyone.
"Last year after three races, [McLaren had] zero points. Bahrain last year Stoffel [Vandoorne] didn't make the start - on the grid he was pulling the car into the pit lane. So this year, two races and four cars to the chequered flag. As I said, look at the facts and not the feelings or the wishes or the dreams. If we see the facts this is a very good start."
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Although McLaren brought car upgrades to Bahrain, which Alonso said performed as expected, he admitted: "There are many problems to solve, that's true".
"The qualy pace and the pace in general - we are still far from the top three teams and Red Bull that has the same power unit," he explained.
"So no doubts we need to improve, we need to bring updates and find more speed. This is 100 per cent right. But at that same time, when we don't have that pace, when we don't have that speed, when we don't have that qualifying, we are still scoring decent points. So that gives us good confidence for the future."
He added: "We need to wait for a couple more grands prix to see an important package coming, but also the others will be improving."
The Spaniard also pointed out that the team had experienced no reliability problems since winter testing, when the MCL33 stopped on track five times.
"We solved them and, touch wood, we didn't have any mechanical or operational failures," he added. "I think we are the only team now. With the pit stop problems for Ferrari and Haas, with the Red Bull retirements, now it's only one team remaining with no issues in two weekends. That's only McLaren because even Mercedes changed the gearbox already a couple of times.
"This could change quite quickly unfortunately, but so far I would say the start of the season is very positive. I understand expectations are always difficult to meet when we are talking about McLaren and a potential championship fight."
Will McLaren be faster in China?
The MCL33 lapped 1.9 seconds off the leading pace when both cars were knocked out of the second phase of qualifying in Bahrain, a circuit McLaren have struggled on for a number of years.
However, Alonso is expecting the Shanghai International Circuit to offer a more favourable layout for their car.
"Difficult to know before free practice, but I feel confident it should be better than Bahrain," he predicted.
"In Barcelona [testing] we were better than Bahrain. In Australia we were better than Bahrain. Here it should be better than Bahrain.
"As I said last weekend, we found last year that for whatever reason in Bahrain it was one of the worst performances of the year. We arrived this year there and didn't perform well so it's just a one-off."
Will Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari make it three wins in a row or can Mercedes and Red Bull respond in Shanghai? Watch the Chinese GP exclusively live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Get Sky Sports F1.
How to follow the Chinese GP on Sky F1
|Friday April 13||Sky F1 digital live blog||3am: P1 LIVE! (Build-up 2.45am)||7am: P2 LIVE! (Build-up 6.45am)|
|Saturday April 14||Sky F1 digital live blog||4am: P3 LIVE! (Build-up 3.45am)||7am: Qualifying LIVE! (Build-up 6am)||8.45am: The F1 Show LIVE!|
|Sunday April 15||Sky F1 digital live blog||5.30am: Pit Lane LIVE||6.30am: On the Grid LIVE!||7.10am: The Chinese GP LIVE!|
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