Fernando Alonso feels McLaren-Honda has made an improvement with both the performance and reliability of its power unit in 2016 and has learnt from some of its mistakes from last season.
The two-time F1 world champion endured a hellish year upon his return to McLaren as its reuniting with Honda turned into a disappointment as the Japanese manufacturer failed to produce a reliable and fast power unit within the complex V6 Hybrid regulations.
Under those regulations McLaren used over double the amount of permitted engines for a season and racked up farcical number of grid penalties as a result. The unreliable and under-performing engines rarely allowed Alonso and team-mate Jenson Button to challenge in races and between them they only managed a handful of points finishes.
Reflecting on the 2016 power unit at pre-season testing, Alonso says it is a vast improvement on last year's effort and is confident it is reliable enough to last the season, but still has questions about its outright performance against the Mercedes and Ferrari engines.
“It's a step forward. The engine feels better than last year,” Alonso said. “But if it does feel better than last year, there is something really wrong. I am happy with the step that we did over the winter.
“We had two main issues last year: the performance and the reliability and at least the reliability I am happy with. We cannot forget that last year we used 11 or 12 units to complete the championship, so that's unacceptable for us. We had to redesign a little bit the power unit and I think the answers from these two weeks are quite positive on that thing.
“In terms of performance, I am a bit on a standby because it's difficult to read the time during the winter. It's always changing. Some days some of the top times they seem reachable, some other days they seem unreachable. A little bit confused with the performance of everybody else and ourselves as well.”
Alonso says he will postponed his judgement on where McLaren will slot into the 2016 grid until after qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix when all teams will unleash its full potential for the first time.
“We wait for Australia, 5pm,” he said. “Everyone on track, same fuel load, same tyres for everybody and we get the answers. But I think there is still a lot of work to do. Hopefully we are much closer than last year also on the performance side.”