Despite racking up his best result of the 2016 F1 season – and equalling his best since returning to McLaren last year – Fernando Alonso expects the Woking team to find itself in the thick of a scrap for points at this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix.
The Spanish veteran crossed the line in fifth place last time out in Monaco – equalling the result he took in Hungary in the midst of McLaren's 2015 reunion with Honda – and, with team-mate Jenson Button also scoring, it marked a rare double score for the former frontrunner, but Alonso insists that there can be no resting on laurels with other teams constantly snapping at the team's heels.
Force India finished ahead of McLaren in Monaco courtesy of Sergio Perez's podium, while Toro Rosso feels that it could have been challenging Alonso had things worked out better, and both teams expect to be in the hunt for top ten finishes at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
“There's really strong competition emerging at the front of the grid, as teams are getting stronger and pushing their development, and it's a really tight pack in the midfield,” Alonso noted, “A different team seems to have the advantage at each circuit, so it'll be a tough battle against our nearest rivals, both in qualifying and the race. The teams need to work hard to set up the cars to meet the demands of the circuit, and a lot can happen during the course of the grand prix, so let's see what we can do.”
Montreal is one of Alonso's favourite stops on the schedule, with a pleasant backdrop masking a tough on-track challenge.
“Canada is a great circuit – very demanding and requiring absolute concentration at all times - and, although it falls within the European season, the atmosphere feels quite European,” he explained, “Montreal is a completely different challenge to Monaco, so I hope we can quickly adapt our package to this circuit and maintain our recent form, but it will certainly be a tricky and unpredictable weekend.
“[The circuit] goes from very slow-speed corners to high-speed corners really quickly, which means a lot of pressure is put on the brakes and power units. It's a pretty tough circuit on the cars generally, so reliability will be the first thing we need to focus on, to make sure there are no gremlins or technical issues that could jeopardise our performance.
“Monaco was a positive result for us; to get both cars home in the points and to keep the chasing pack behind us was very satisfying, but we know there's still a lot of work to do. We're definitely making progress but, until we're fighting at the front, we still need to keep pushing and constantly developing.”