Fernando Alonso has admitted that he will only have second thoughts about his decision to quit Ferrari should the Scuderia land the F1 world championship title in November.
After five years at Maranello, Alonso stepped away from the Prancing Horse to rejoin the reformed McLaren-Honda combination but, with the MP4-30 under-performing after myriad teething troubles, the move is not looking like a particularly smart one – especially as replacement Sebastian Vettel won last time out in Malaysia.
While McLaren struggles to make itself competitive, Ferrari has marked itself out as the most likely threat to Mercedes, but Alonso insists that he has no regrets – yet.
“With Ferrari, I finished second [in the championship] three times and I didn't really want to finish second a fourth time,” he reasoned, glossing over the fractured relationships that helped usher in the end of an era that was supposed to have taken him to the culmination of his career, “Maybe, if they win the championship at the end of the year, I will have a different opinion, but, if they finish second, or finish third, I am happy with the decision [to leave].”
Claiming that ending his time in F1 as a McLaren driver would close a 'loop' that started with the home-built McLaren-Honda replica he drove as a three-year old, Alonso's current focus is on bringing the MP4-30 up to the level of its rivals – something he admits has no fixed timescale.
“There is not a day, or a grand prix, where we think that, from thereon, we will be competitive,” he conceded, “It's just a question of time. Being behind on testing is a high price to pay now, but the steps forward that we are taking are quite positive and, definitely, the direction we are going in is the right one. You can get lost when you are so far behind, but I don't think we are lost, so it's just a question of time. Hopefully, it will be sooner than later.”
Asked about his feeling for the weekend ahead, where he and team-mate Jenson Button will hope to improve their standing in the Chinese Grand Prix, Alonso insisted that reliability was as much a key as performance.
“Finishing the race is the first priority for us,” he explained, “When we find the solution to one problem, maybe another one will arrive because we are still in the learning process with our car. It's still early days but, if we can start finishing races and do some good performances, I think that's good news.
“I don't have a picture of how the weekend will unfold in terms of performance. We have many things to learn and many things to understand about the car, its characteristics, set-up changes... Obviously, we stopped both cars in Malaysia and we have some modifications on the car here just to avoid that problem, so there are many, many questions to answer this weekend.
“Our performance and final position remain to be seen as every weekend has been different for all the teams. It depends on the layout of the track, the temperature, how the tyres switch on, many things like that. We won't know until we get on track and will make no predictions. There are many things that we need to improve – on the power unit side, on the aerodynamic side, on the mechanical side – but, every lap, we learn things. It is a very interesting part of the season for us.”