Fernando Alonso is confident McLaren will be in a position to “taste the champagne” on a regular basis during the 2018 Formula 1 season, following the team’s switch to Renault power.
McLaren ended its tumultuous relationship with Honda at the end of the 2017 in favour of Renault engines for the upcoming season, following three disappointing campaigns hampered by unreliability and a lack of competitiveness.
The Woking-based outfit last graced the top step of the podium at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix and heads into 2018 aiming to end its barren run of almost four years without a podium appearance, with the last coming at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix.
“In terms of results, it is always going to be difficult to predict,” Alonso said when asked for his predictions for 2018. “This is Formula 1, it is not mathematical that you know in advance. Anything can happen. Even the favourite ones, the champions, Mercedes cannot guarantee that in 2018 they will be fastest.
“But we are quite optimistic, we know what Red Bull is doing with the Renault power unit, they are maybe not the fastest in qualifying but they are quite fast in the race. They’ve been on a couple of podiums, they won two or three races, so with those kinds of results I think we will be very happy. If we are in the fight and if we can taste the champagne again.”
The Spaniard, who collected 17 of McLaren’s 30 points in 2017, said the painful experiences of the past three years has made everyone in the team stronger, leading him to believe that, coupled with a Renault engine that won three races last year, McLaren is now ready to return to winning ways in 2018.
“I think in the last three years we all changed here in the team. We all had some tough moments, we learned things, hard lessons sometimes because we had some painful retirements. The team now is ready to perform at the best.
“The biggest thing I learned in the last three years was the speed of the team, they never give up, they were very united, very constructive, working flat out to bring even half a tenth for the next race even if we were fighting for 16th. That spirit in the team was remarkable, its something that I will keep for the long term.”