It has been a slow start in their relationship, but things are starting to move in the right direction for McLaren and Honda who are now edging their way into the top ten on a more consistent basis.
Starting at the very back of the field last season is not where the team wanted to be, which was even more of a disappointment than Red Bull were having with Renault. However, over time the mistakes of the original engine have been found, and 2017 is set to be the best so far in their renewed partnership. It is the third year of a three year contract for Fernando Alonso who is still looking for his third World Championship after ten years.
Talking in the Drivers Press Conference on Thursday, he said: “I think let’s say we are happy with the progress we made this year and definitely we are able to fight with some competitive teams there, like Force India, Williams, and now we finished now like four times seventh after the top three teams in the last five races.
“Definitely a step forward that we are enjoying, this process of starting to be competitive but I think looking for next year I don’t think we can see anything that is clearly positive or negative.
Next year is almost a reset, helpful in McLaren catching up with the leaders, “Everything will change massively so we need to work and to be very focused on next year’s car in a way now that is only theoretical – simulators and wind tunnel numbers and dyno numbers etc.
“I don’t think the performance of the actual car is a reference for next year. So that’s one thing. Yeah, we want to be more competitive next year. I think the biggest step has been done, from last year to this year, but we need another big step next year, which is going from the last Q3 spot and some points to fight for podiums and wins.”
Despite all the setbacks, he still has faith in the team, “I think it’s still possible. We have the potential, we have the facilities, we have the talented people.
“This project, as we have said many times, it’s a question of time that we will be able to win. Hopefully we are trying to make it as short as possible and let’s see. With the new engine, actually it’s just an engine that we fitted in Malaysia just for reliability issues more than performance. Also, we didn’t have engines to finish the season, so we chose Malaysia to fit new engines, to pay the penalty and then have the rest of the races without any more concerns.
“We plan to use that engine here but, as I said, the engine has exactly the same power, so we will fit the engine and we will try to do our best.”