Fernando Alonso is braced for a trying start to the 2017 F1 season in Australia after McLaren-Honda’s pre-season testing was blighted by a spate of reliability issues.
Honda had revamped its power unit over the course of the winter to close the gap to rivals, with the Japanese manufacturer ditching its ‘size-zero’ philosophy for a concept that mimics F1’s current benchmark Mercedes.
However, reliability issues left McLaren drivers Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne stranded in the garage for longer than what they would have liked, with the Woking-based team completing the least laps of all in pre-season testing.
Honda was also forced to turn down its engine, with Alonso admitting that it was making less power than it did last year.
Given the situation McLaren-Honda finds itself in, the Spaniard is keeping a lid on his expectation from F1’s season-opener.
“After a difficult two weeks of testing we’re prepared to face a difficult weekend in Melbourne.” Alonso said. “We’ll do our best with what we have and there’s a lot of hard work and collaboration happening within the team, but the lack of time before the first race means you have fewer options for big changes.
“The first step will be to work on reliability before we can make any assumptions or predictions about performance, and we will try to enjoy the weekend as much as we can.”
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier also admitted that the tough circumstances makes it impossible to predict where his outfit fits in the pecking order at the start of the season.
“It’s no secret we at McLaren-Honda had a more difficult two weeks of testing than we’d anticipated, and we’ve been working together closely since returning from Barcelona to address the issues we’ve faced in time for the first race of the season,” he said.
“As a team, we’re very excited to be going racing again, but aware of the unknowns that face us as the lights go out to start a new era of Formula 1. We don’t yet know where the formbook lies, so until we hit the track on Friday morning it’s impossible to predict how the weekend will unfold.
“It’ll be interesting for us all to see the pecking order emerge as each session goes by, as well as where our own strengths and weaknesses lie, and we’re prepared for a challenging weekend ahead.
by Rachit Thukral