Fernando Alonso is hoping that Honda's development team can find two-and-a-half seconds from its F1 power unit over the winter, believing that that sort of gain will be enough to turn the McLaren team back into a race winner.
The Spaniard has, on the whole, toed the party line when it comes to passing off quotes about 2015 being a 'development year' and the McLaren-Honda union 'working hard', 'sticking together' and 'being optimistic' for the future, but, with his Suzuka outbursts hinting at a hidden frustration, he knows what he wants for next season.
“Two-and-a-half seconds….,” he stated without hesitation, “If we improve by two-and-a-half seconds, we will win next year.”
Asked whether his request was realistic, Alonso fell back on the well-worn clichés, but insisted that he wasn't about to give up on the dream.
“It is realistic, but we have to work very hard, with very high discipline, all winter, and remain united because, in this new F1, everything is a package,” he claimed, “It is not anymore an engine, aerodynamic, mechanical side; it is all combined that makes a perfect car. So we are working on that, we have understood that and we are trying our best.
“It is a very big gap that we have to close and, also, we have to improve on the reliability side because, obviously, we cannot forget that we have used…. eleven? …. engines so far and this is something we cannot afford next year.
“There are many things we need to put in place but all the steps, all the actions, that the team has taken in the last couple of months are logical and quite good, so it's positive. But winning is another step, it is beating Mercedes and, right now, very big teams with things already in place cannot do it. So, for us, it will be a huge task to do it, but we are ready to try.”
Reiterating that Honda now has a vast amount of data to fall back on, having completed 15 race weekends that show the difference between, for example, dyno results and the reality of competition, Alonso is looking forward to getting a full weekend with the latest version of the Japanese V6 following its brief introduction in Sochi a fortnight ago.
“From the cockpit, it is difficult to feel these kinds of differences, but the data shows that the improvement on the engine is as expected,” he noted, “This is very good news because there is a little bit of a different concept on how the engine is built. It is a positive step and, hopefully, we can use it here and exploit the performance that it should give us.
“Obviously, with the weather conditions predicted, it will be a little bit of a question mark if we can maximise the improvement, but we are happy with the direction that we are taking and, more important than this step, is the philosophy for next year's engine that this spec has introduced.
“This is a good direction to go [but], with the weather forecast, there will be a question mark of how [good] the performance will be. If we are 17th, we don't know if we didn't use the track at the right time in the damp and wet, and, if we are seventh, maybe it is the wet conditions that helped us in terms of performance. So it is difficult to know exactly what the real step is on the engine, and also on the aerodynamic side, because we have some new parts here that are quite interesting. We have many things to discover this weekend, and with a the very limited running we will probably have on the track we will have to guess a little bit and pick out the best things.”