Fernando Alonso had his first run in McLaren's new MP4-31 on Tuesday, even though he admitted it wasn't really such a pleasant experience. He did however underline that the team's reliability so far has been very pleasing, enabling him to complete 119 laps.
“It’s good to be back and good to complete a good number of laps which I missed last year,” he said on Tuesday evening. “We did seven laps the first day, 25 the second, 13 the third day, and then we went to Australia… I think by race five or race six we were still discovering little things on the car that were hurting us a lot in terms of points and in terms of performance during the year. That was the first priority for the team and for this winter, make sure that we went through the problems that we had last year.
“Most of the work we did today were laps for aerodynamic study and laps for reliability study, temperatures, brake temperatures, water temperatures, many things that from a driver point of view were not very exciting, anyone can do those kinds of laps and those studies let’s say, and I’m looking forward to do some set-up change or some soft tyres or different fuels to really enjoy the driving as well.”
Although unable to focus on performance yet, the Spaniard was clear that the power unit had been improved considerably.
“Definitely yes, but this is let’s say an answer that we could not have any doubts, because the starting point or the power and deficit that we had last year compared to the top teams, it was just too high. We did improve all the areas of the car. I think on the aerodynamic side there are parts which are quite innovative and quite new, in our car, at least. Maybe the others had these ideas in the past, but for us they are quite new.
“We need a little bit of time to mature the project, the package. And in the power unit the same thing. For us last year there was a lot of learning, a lot of pain, but we learned many things, and now with a completely new design, or philosophy of power unit, we still need a little bit of time to understand and exploit the potential.”
When asked if the team's targets could be achieved in 2016, Alonso could not give a clear answer yet.
“Honestly, I don’t know. There is not a crystal ball in F1 that you can bet or you can know more or less which direction the year will go after the first day of testing, or even after the two weeks of testing. I think we need to wait for Australia when we are all in the same conditions, with supersoft tyres and low fuel, same track conditions, and then we see. And even that I think we need to wait for two or three races to know for sure how the year will turn to you.
“Sitting here, or last week, in the factory, or even taking the plane to Australia, the ambition is very high. I’m not here just to travel around the world and jump in the car and have some fun on Sunday. I’m here to win. All the 22 drivers, they want the same, and for me it’s no different.”
Jenson Button will be back at the wheel of the MP4-31 on Wednesday while Alonso returns on Thursday.