Fernando Alonso insists that it is too early for McLaren to turn its attention to next year's F1 world championship, despite another tough season for the Woking giant.
Although the latest MP4-31 has shown signs on improvement over its predecessor, McLaren's reunion with Honda continues to be a struggle for both Alonso and team-mate Jenson Button, but the Spaniard admits that, while it is prudent for the team to turn some of its resources over to preparing for the next 'brave new world' posed by the latest changes in regulations, it cannot abandon its 2016 ambitions entirely.
“It's a little bit of both…,” he explained, “We want to be fighting for the world championship, but we are not in that position this year. We are making progress and moving in the right direction to achieve that goal in the future, but there's still a long way to go for us, so we need to think on next year's car, next year's project, to put some focus on that and try to be more competitive next year.
“But, at the same time, we cannot forget 2016 just yet as we are only in June with many races to come. [There are] many good possibilities to score points, to go a little bit higher in the constructors' championship, and to have the progress and steps that we can bring this year will be quite useful for next year, especially on the power unit side. So we're still working on both projects, and we're still very motivated to score many points this year.”
McLaren's plight was highlighted by an exchange of banter with fellow countryman Carlos Sainz, when the pair was asked who they expected to come out on top in the drivers' standings. After his protégé had given the view from the Toro Rosso camp, Alonso responded positively on behalf of McLaren, albeit with the obvious limitations of fighting for a midfield championship position.
“Obviously I will be happy if Carlos is ahead this year and I can fight for the world championship next one,” the two-time champion grinned, “It's not a huge satisfaction to finish ninth or tenth or whatever, but I will definitely be ahead of Carlos at the end of the year – I missed two races this year and we are equal (on points) so…”
Alonso also suggested that he may have missed a trick when he surveyed preparations for this weekend's Baku race earlier in the year. While noting, positively, that temperature was a lot more amenable than it had been during his previous visit, certain sections of the street circuit, notably the long straights, may not be favourable to McLaren.
“Every circuit has its own unique feature and this one has the longest straight on the calendar, the longest straight on any circuit in the world, so that will be challenging in terms of set-up on the car,” he smiled ruefully, “We have to see if it will be flat out from turn 16 but, for some teams, it will be more painful, probably for us in terms of distance on the straight .... maybe I should have made a few modifications when I came here in March!”