Fernando Alonso believes that McLaren has actually started 2018 well amid what he deems unrealistic expectations on the squad.
McLaren has lagged behind the big three of Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull Racing in terms of race pace so far in Australia and Bahrain.
Significantly, the Woking outfit now has the same Renault power units as Red Bull after three shocking years running Honda engines.
However, both Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne have scored points in each of the first two races, and the Spaniard is convinced that McLaren’s start to the season is indeed cause for optimism.
“Not really, we didn’t have any big surprises,” he stated when asked if McLaren’s performance so far had been a surprise.
“We’re third in the constructors’ championship, fourth in the drivers’ championship. Maybe not on performance.
“I don’t know exactly what the people were expecting, from one season to another, when the regulations stay the same, and there are three teams ahead of everyone last year.
“This year they keep ahead of everyone.”
Alonso drew particular attention to how much more reliability McLaren has exhibited this year compared to the start of 2017.
In the first three races of last year’s campaign, the team recorded three DNFs and a DNS when Vandoorne failed to take the start due to an engine issue in Bahrain, a race in which Alonso was classified 14th having made 90 percent race distance despite his car also failing late on.
“Last year in three races, zero points,” he noted.
“Bahrain last year, Stoffel didn’t make the start. On the grid, he was pulling the car into the pit lane.
“This year, two races, four cars to the chequered flag.
“As I said, look at the facts, not the feelings or the wishes or the dreams. If we see the facts, this is a very good start.
“There are things to improve, like everyone else. We had an integration from the power unit, and the chassis in winter testing, some things to deal with in that Barcelona test, we solved them. We didn’t have any mechanical failure, we didn’t have any operational failures.
“I think we’re the only team now – with pit stop problems for Ferrari and Haas, and Red Bull retirements – now it’s only one team remaining with no issues at all, that’s only McLaren.
“Even Mercedes changed their gearbox a couple of times.
“Only McLaren (has not had reliability problems) – this could change quite quickly – but so far, the start of the season is very positive.
“I understand the expectations are difficult to meet when we’re talking about McLaren and a championship fight.”
Practice for the Chinese Grand Prix begins today at 1200 AEST.