Fernando Alonso says he remains convinced McLaren-Honda is becoming increasingly competitive ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, but is losing out in a tight mid-field pack when it matters in qualifying.

The two-time world champion had hoped to lift McLaren into Q3 for the first time since 2014 in Sochi, but admitted prior to qualifying that free practice pace didn't always translate because rivals are able to turn up their power units for a quick single lap.

And so it proved, Alonso in the mix but left 14th on the grid, while team-mate Jenson Button starts in 12th place. Nevertheless, the Spaniard is keen to point he was simply on the wrong side of a slim gap covering the mid-field pack fighting over the bottom end of the top ten.

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"Q3 was a target rather than a hope and it is a hope for those coming races to get close to that target. I think we have been more competitive this weekend. We are a tenth and a half from Q3 and P10, the unfortunate situation is we are not 11th or 12th, we are P14

"We are definitely [seeing progress]. I think we have been more competitive this weekend. Unfortunately in qualifying it was very tight and two tenths can mean Q3 or 14th and we are the 14th guy.

Indeed, Alonso believes points are in McLaren's sights for race day around the Sochi Autodrom, but admits it may take some fallibility from cars ahead to help the team out a bit.

"We are definitely more competitive race after race and I think the points will be a possibility. We have been a bit unlucky with some retirements. The race we took some points [Bahrain] from the top guys so we took advantage. In China we were competitive but 22 cars finished the race so we need some help in the race."