Fernando Alonso admits he couldn't have expected to secure a seventh place finish from last position on the grid as McLaren enjoyed arguably the most competitive race of its latest Honda collaboration in the Belgian Grand Prix.

Like Lewis Hamilton, Alonso was the big beneficiary of the early safety car and eventual red flag, the stoppage coming just as he had risen to fourth as a result of those having pitted ahead. With the race 'reset' in the positions they were at the time of the red flag, Alonso essentially began the race fourth and made the most of its elevated position to dice with Force India en route to seventh.

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Indeed, though Alonso admits the red flag made a huge difference to his result, he insists the pace once there was still comparable with the likes of Force India - who finished fifth and sixth - and Williams, which Alonso kept behind him.

Coming on the weekend Honda introduced a major upgrade for its engine, though Alonso was blighted by reliability issues ahead of the race, he was impressed with the step forward in terms of raw pace, especially on a perceived unfavourable circuit.

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"It's always difficult to compare different years and for sure I had some good races here in the past that sometimes weren't rewarded with the results we expected. In the race everything went well, all the bad luck we had all weekend became good luck, I managed to avoid all the accidents, we were lucky with the red flag, as could get a free pit stop and put new tyres on.

"To start 22nd and finish 7th is a great result and for us to fight with Williams and other teams is a bit new, especially in a circuit that didn't favour our car. Getting into Q3 with Jenson yesterday and getting into the points with me today shows the team has done a good job.

"The progress of the team in the last months is just amazing. It would have been impossible to imagine this a couple of weeks or months ago. We are in the right direction. That is for sure."

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