Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Albert Park, 2018

McLaren can target Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull now – Alonso

2018 Australian Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

Fernando Alonso wants McLaren to target F1’s top three teams in the coming races after finishing fifth in the Australian Grand Prix.

Although Alonso was able to keep Max Verstappen’s Red Bull behind following the Safety Car restart, Daniel Ricciardo in the other RB14 pulled away by 20 seconds over 27 laps.

Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Albert Park, 2018
2018 Australian Grand Prix in pictures
“Right now they are still clearly ahead of us,” Alonso admitted. “They are in that exclusive group, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.”

“But McLaren is willing to enter that group and I think in the next coming races we will forget the middle group and look forward to that privileged three top teams. There is potential in the car so I cannot see any reason why we should not be there in the coming races.”

Alonso finished fifth in the season-opening race behind one Mercedes, one Red Bull and both Ferraris. But Alonso admitted that doesn’t reflect the team’s true position in the competitive order.

“Obviously today we got lucky with the two Haas retirements, Carlos [Sainz Jnr] had a problem in turn nine and then with the Safety Car we overtook Verstappen. So let’s say that four or five places were just because the conditions were in our favour.

“But we did no mistakes, we capitalised on everything and perfect job from the team.”

As I said on Thursday this is probably our lowest performance of the year,” he added. “I think it’s going to be better and better with the races.”

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up

2018 F1 season

Browse all 2018 F1 season articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

37 comments on “McLaren can target Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull now – Alonso”

  1. They also jumped Hulkenberg. In Melbourne they were the 6th fastest team, there is plenty of work to do. I personally think they will be in a direct battle with Renault throughout the season, with both teams out-developing Haas (FI could get back in that mix!)

    This is the sort of comment that fans and the press dig out at the end of the season, they should be wary of that and shouldn’t be surprised when compared to a higher standard, even if it is not a realistic one

    1. @johnmilk

      In Melbourne they were the 6th fastest team, there is plenty of work to do. I personally think they will be in a direct battle with Renault throughout the season, with both teams out-developing Haas (FI could get back in that mix!)

      Totally agree with you. They were indeed the 6th best team in Melbourne (although it has to be said that the differences between Haas, Renault, and McLaren were small to virtually inexistent), and Alonso is clearly aware of that.
      I’m also expecting Force India to join that ‘middle group’ (the fight for P4, as I like to call it) once they get their car sorted out and updated to version 2018, instead of 2017.5. Haas’ development remains to be seen, but I’m also rather seceptical as to whether they’ll be able to keep pace. I interpret their vehement reactions to Alonso’s ‘Ferrari replica’ as a quasi-confirmation that he isn’t completely wrong, and that doesn’t bode too well for the latter stages of the season.

      But of course I’m intrigued by his optimism. Does he really believe that the car has such enormous potential, that Melbourne wasn’t going to be a representative showing because the start of the season arrived a tad too early for McLaren? I certainly wouldn’t mind if they joined Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull as a top-tier team. But we’ll have to wait and see.

      1. Yes, first of all mclaren looked 6th in qualifying but 5th in the race performance, jumped renault, however I don’t think they can aim for red bull yet, they first have to become the 4th best team, haas is faster currently.

        1. Are they though? Haas has been fast at Melbourne every year and then they gradually drop back. I think they struggle to develop in season being such a small team AND Melbourne tends to flatter their car kinda like spa always did force india, if spa was the first race of the season each year we’d all be convinced that jordan/force India were going to be a threat for the championship but that is obviously never the case.

          I think mclaren will be the 4th fastest team with Renault biting their heels as both pull up toward the top 3 and maybe challenge for a couple of podiums

  2. So McLaren complete a race with no mistakes and luck out for a 5th place finish. Without everyone else’s problems, a ‘no mistake’ race would have put them 11th… Sixth best team. I like Alonso but they have a lot to do to catch the ‘big three’.

    1. I suspect if Alonso came out after the race stating “We actually didn’t do that great, I made no mistakes but the best I could do was 5th after other teams had issues” you’d be the first person to jump on him for being critical of his team.

      Alonso’s only choice here is to find the positive (which it was) and use it for motivation going forward. The Alonso haters are just as bad as the Hamilton haters. I’m not particularly fond of Hamilton, but he and Alonso seem to be constantly ripped on for _everything_ they do, good or bad.

    2. That’s Alonso for you, he’s consistently optimistic. I don’t know whether it’s niavety or ignorance.

      Regarding alonso’s comment that the car has potential, having potential is great when your 12 years old.

      McLaren need to deliver on that “potential”, this year is the acid test. NO MORE EXCUSES.

      1. Neither naivety or ignorance but pressure imo.

        1. @spoutnik

          If you cant cope with pressure you break down or underperform. Unlikely, when he pays a sports psychologist good money to help keep this exact frame of mind. Drivers like Alonso need to keep fired up. Mere mortals would go insane with what he’s been through.
          They are all different, but mentally coping with a challenging season is a very hard part of their jobs.

          1. @bigjoe Indeed. Pressure is needed anyways. McLaren are good but understandably lost a bit of edge in recent years. He’s there to keep everyone sharp. As McLaren result in Melbourne is a lucky one he’s got all the reasons to push the team.

      2. “It’s only the starting of the race and you are already losing energy!”

  3. This is Alonso whipping on his team. Exactly what a lead driver should be doing.

    1. @krommenaas Yep. He’s not just relentless when he’s driving.

  4. The car certainly has potential. Just look at that wet weather pace they showed in free practice.

    I have a feeling they’re developing a major aero update which didn’t get manufactured in time for Australia. I think they’ll bring it bit by bit from next race onwards. Alonso must know what it’s worth over the current spec. I hope we can have a big four very soon.

  5. The thing with Alonso is that if his car his half reasonable and finishes the race, he will almost certainly finish in the points, maybe even the podium. Remember the latter half of 2008 in the fourth best car, or 2012 in a car that was written off before the start of the season. He has reasonably quiet races, overtakes when it matters, rarely makes mistakes and is always fast. If his car can finish the race, I’d expect him to finish in the top eight more often than not and improve that as the car does.

    1. @ben-n By who was the 2012 written of ?. Here is my problem with you Alonso fans, you always exaggerate. The car was not written off by no one, the car was bullit proof and fast. Alonso was lucky the have a 43 points lead due other’s misfortune and still managed to lose the WDC. Alonso is good but better than Hamilton, Verstappen and Ricciardo.

      1. @NoName

        The car was not written off by no one

        A double negative, but glad you agree…

  6. Vettel fan 17 (@)
    26th March 2018, 16:29

    I don’t think the McLaren has the pace to challenge for the top six, but then they do have Alonso.

  7. McLaren have a monster on their hands and they have no where to hide. They’ve appeased him over the last 3 seasons, now is the time to deliver and Nando is hammering that message home. He wants McLaren to mixing it with Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull every race, but based on pure pace McLaren were 6th quickest in Melbourne. They have loads of work to do to meet Nando’s targets, it will be fun to see what happens if they don’t….

  8. I’m a little concerned about the Haas cars now on behalf of Mac, but yeah why shouldn’t they at least make the top 3 the target. No harm in that. Just nose to the grindstone and go for it…nothing to lose really…they’re not going to win the WDC, but they can try to win most improved from last year to this.

  9. About this 20 seco ds gap I wonder if it’s a case of doing the bare minimum to keep Verstappen behind while preserving the engine as overtaking Ricciardo was unrealistic. Did he just do like Hamilton in the end, backing off?

    1. Good question, I’m not sure, but if you consider that red bull is much faster than haas and haas is a little faster than mclaren and renault I don’t think 7-8 tenths behind red bull is unreasonable for mclaren.

  10. I think it’s a good assessment from Alonso, and it’s a clear message to Mclaren that they need to raise their game. He’s always over delivering, with intelligent and solid drives, and now that he can proper defend from attacks, I expect him to always be on the front of the middle teams, capitalizing on any mistakes from the big 3. For me, he’s still great as a driver.

  11. He’s brilliant off the track, too. Fernando has identified that there are no fatal flaws in the McLaren-Renault package, and is now motivating the team to close the gap to the front of the field. Given the team’s resources, I see no reason why his signals should be anything other than highly aspirational.

  12. McLaren and all associated with them try and put spin on anything to associate themselves with the top teams but its been 6 years since they won a race, 20 years since a constructors title. This equalled their best Honda result and they did not progress from there. I am sure they will take it but it was not on pure speed just like the other great team Ferrari it involved a lot of good fortune this weekend, where Vettel was low key after winning and Ferrari gave the impression they know they are not in contention if McLaren had lucked into a win this weekend with Alonso he would be looking at beating Schumachers 7 titles and we would all know about it.

  13. Go home, Alonso… You’re drunk!


  14. Somehow I was expecting them to vault up the ranks with the new engine and new chassis. Maybe I bought into Alonso’s hype about how the data show they are so fast in the corners. They really didn’t seem far ahead of where they were. On the other hand, look at where STR is now and maybe that is where McLaren would be too, or a little ahead.

    1. Yes, actually they don’t seem that much improved, in qualifying 11th on pace? Not much better than australia last year, but he said this is the base performance, it should get better from here, and I sure hope it will, considering we’re talking about mclaren. They have to be the 4th best car, anything under that is a disaster!

      1. Josh (@canadianjosh)
        27th March 2018, 1:19

        But they have a Renault strapped into their car and similar resources that a Red Bull have so they should definitely improve throughout the year.

  15. Alonso may well be shown to be wrong, but he isnt just showing bullish optimism.
    The car is underdeveloped, which is as planned. They do have upgrade schedule in place, and they do have figures for theoretical improvements. Alonso is optimistic only in that he is presenting those theoretical figures, but there is no doubt they are the projections as presented to him.
    Given just how underdeveloped the car is, its not too much of a stretch to see them gaining a second on those around them. It may fail to meet expectations, but it’s not pie in the sky without any foundation

  16. I think McLaren is about to spring a big surprise starting next race. What I think they are doing is making sure that their calculations for the years car is perfect. They have tested last years aero and possibly a large part of past years mechanics in testing and a race to make sure their calculations and understanding of last year’s car is accurate. I think they will bring a substantial update next year or roll out updates to key parts starting next race.

  17. Don’t say this too early. You only had one race so far.

  18. Mclaren still have a long long way to go. I like Alonso’s optimism though

  19. Old Mate Mick
    27th March 2018, 12:17

    Both McLaren’s were out-qualified by all four of the other Renault powered cars. Mclaren showed they are, at least so far, quite literally the slowest Renault powered team on the grid. I’m honestly baffled by the optimism of the Alonso/Macca fans. This to me just shows all those years of tooting their own horns about how great the chassis was, and how Honda was the reason for their poor performance, was nothing but hot air. Their claims of having a chassis as good or better than the top 3 have been destroyed this year, now they have an engine capable of running at the front (see RBR), and they’re struggling to qualify within 2 seconds of RBR.

    It’s truly sad to see as a long-time F1 fan, but McLaren are slowly slipping down the order to hang out with Williams. Both teams seem capable of doing ok at times, but it’s been quite a while since McLaren were genuinely competitive. What happens at the end of the year when Alonso likely retires? Will they be able to lure another top tier driver to the team? Unlikely. They’ll probably want a paydriver to recover some of that lost revenue from Honda taking their bags of money with them. What happens if another team manages to convince Peter Prodromou to leave the sinking ship? McLaren will seriously be screwed without Alonso and PP.

  20. Alonso you gotta beat the HAAS drivers before you can fight with those guys

  21. one Swallow does not make a summer.

  22. Kyle (@hammerheadgb)
    17th March 2019, 7:01

    This aged well.

Comments are closed.