Fernando Alonso believes McLaren’s latest upgrade package, implemented last weekend in Spain, has brought the Woking-based outfit up to the same level as its top mid-field rivals.
McLaren brought several significant modifications to its MCL33, mainly centered around the car’s front end which received a striking new nose assembly.
Alonso qualified his updated P8, making the Q3 cut for the first time this year. The Spaniard finished the race in the same position, but despite the fact that he was outrun at the end of the day by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Renault’s Carlos Sainz the McLaren driver insists his team is on the same level as its nearest competitors.
“We knew that the upgrades would put ourselves in a better position in the midfield pack,” said the two-time world champion.
“We did a good step. We were eight tenths behind Renault in Baku, nine tenths behind in China, but we were the same in qualifying and in the race [in Spain].
“I think we caught up with Renault and probably with Haas as well, but the top three teams are still developing the cars at the same rate we do and unfortunately we’ve kept that gap.”
Alonso was the only top-10 driver on the grid to launch his race on supersoft tyres rather than Pirelli’s soft compound, but the commotion at the start induced by a spin by Romain Grosjean wreaked havoc on his plan to charge ahead and gain an advantage at the outset.
Set back after one lap, the McLaren then faced a barrage from Sauber’s Charles Leclerc for the better part of 34 laps before eventually gaining the upper hand over the young Monegasque, by which time both Magnussen and Sainz ahead were out of reach.
But Alonso was nevertheless satisfied with his result and his fifth consecutive finish in the points.
“Obviously we had a plan: starting with the supersoft tyre we knew that we had to overtake people in the first couple of laps and then stop early,” Alonso added.
“Unfortunately we found that we lost positions in the first couple of corners because of the incidents, so at one point I thought that points were impossible.
“But we did a good race, a good strategy with only one stop and it’s five consecutive races in the points.”