Fernando Alonso says he is under no illusions that McLaren and Honda are working round-the-clock to bring its F1 project up to speed, the former champion praising it for the gains it has made in a relatively short space of time.
A year on from a dismal Austrian Grand Prix that saw both McLarens start at the back of the grid and retire within seven laps, Jenson Button qualified third and ran second in the early stages, eventually finishing in sixth position.
A measure of the gains McLaren has made over the last twelve months, Alonso has expressed his satisfaction at the way both McLaren and Honda have been working to bounce back from the constructors' worst F1 campaign in more than 30 years last year.
“Apart from punch them I cannot do anything more [to motivate them],” he joked. “I am aware of their hard work and I understand that they are doing their best. They are working 24 hours in Sakura, they are bringing all their knowledge from people, but unfortunately in F1 there isn't a magic button you can touch from one day to the other you can reach a certain level.
Indeed, Alonso says recovering from a poor starting point has been Honda's Achilles heel as it strives to recover ground on its rivals, but the two-time champion feels few teams would be as capable of making such improvements in the time given.
“If you can imagine we are in our second year, if you see the power we have, the deployment we have and the reliability we have, I don't think there have been many teams in this position in their second season, maybe Mercedes and we are maybe ahead of Mercedes in the second year.
“I am impressed with what Honda is doing with the little time they had. The biggest problem was the starting point, we were a bit behind last year.”