Fernando Alonso is optimistic McLaren and Honda will use the opportunity of next year's overhaul in technical regulations to make a definitive step towards the front of the field.
In the wake of its worst F1 season for more than 30 years last season, McLaren-Honda has enjoyed an upturn of form in 2016 but remains seventh overall with a best finish of fifth from Fernando Alonso at the Monaco Grand Prix.
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However, with F1 set to undergo a raft of changes for the 2017 season, Alonso senses it as the opportunity for McLaren to make significant headway in its quest to return to the front of the field.
“A regulation change opens a little bit of hope for us, not only at McLaren but for everyone because everything is new. I think let's go step by step and let's hope that if we have a competitive engine then on the chassis side we are also competitive a little bit thanks to the new rules which will open things with new ideas and new philosophies.
“It can be very good and if you understand it well and have a good approach to the new regulations then you can become very competitive … or it can be the opposite and our philosophy for the 2017 car is completely wrong and we are even less competitive than this year. You don't know, but I think that question mark for next year offers hope and we are optimistic.”
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Indeed, though the Honda engine has long been considered McLaren's Achilles heel, Alonso believes the team will be well prepared to capitalise on the shift towards emphasising the chassis.
“The team is strong, the technical people we have are united and I think we have a good balance in the team, in the staff, in the design group. It's probably the best team I've been in in my career. We are not competitive because we have a lot of problems to solve from last year and the project was not ready to compete at this level.
“We have to make sure that the reliability is in place, the power, the driveablity, the aerodynamic philosophy, it all had to change a lot and find a new direction. But in terms of the team and the structure, organisation, this is definitely the best group that I have been working with.”
After 12 rounds of the 2016 F1 season, Alonso is 13th in the standings, nine points shy of the top ten.
POINTS: Check out where the F1 drivers and constructors' stack up after 12 races