Fernando Alonso has admitted that on the back of a host of reliability issues, it may be difficult for his team to get either car at the finish. While reliability improvements were obvious in free practice, the team has not yet completed a race distance, and are unsure if they are able to.
The Spaniard, who managed to exceed McLaren's expectations after an utterly troubled pre-season, says it was positive that he was at least able to push, even though that didn't mean he'd be competing at the front end of the pack.
“After the difficulties we encountered in winter testing, we came to Melbourne without a clear idea of where we stood. But we’ve more or less run through all the sessions without trouble – which is better than we’d expected.
“I had sufficient sets of tyres to be able to enjoy my laps in both Q1 and Q2. I was happy with the balance of the car and was able to really push it. That’s useful because, at the moment, we need to extract the maximum out of the package we have."
Alonso reckoned that starting from the middle of the pack will make things tricky, there is little chance to make it into the points, if at all he makes it to the finish.
“Tomorrow we’ll start 13th – in the middle of the pack – which is definitely not our target. Finishing the race is going to be tough. And, if we do finish it, to end up in a decent position we’ll need help from the weather and for other cars to encounter trouble.”
McLaren's racing director confirmed that 13th was all that was possible today.
“Fernando showed all his experience this afternoon", said Eric Boullier.
"He coupled it with his undiminished natural speed, to carve a perfect lap whose verve and fluidity deserved better than P13. But in truth that’s all our car is capable of delivering at the moment, and Fernando produced it all. Bravo."
With Alonso qualifying in 13th, team mate Stoffel Vandoorne was left disappointed as he only managed 18th following a fuel pressure issue that complicated his qualifying.
“Stoffel suffered a fuel pressure problem that caused him to have to abort not one but two runs early in Q1, but then kept his cool to post a very good lap in extremely frustrating and stressful circumstances. He’ll start tomorrow’s race from P18 – but, like Fernando’s, his lap was a lot better than that.
“We know we aren’t where we want or need to be, either performance-wise or reliability-wise, but we’re working through our problems together, and I’m massively impressed by the esprit de corps that exists within both McLaren and Honda. Well done, guys.
“Tomorrow’s race may be a difficult one for us, but we’ll pull together to get the best result possible.”