Fernando Alonso says McLaren-Honda still needs to make a 'bigger step over the winter' if it is to re-establish itself as a formidable force in Formula 1 despite the solid rate of improvement shown in 2016.
Following a desperate campaign in 2015 as the renewed collaboration between the two companies yielded disappointing results and woeful reliability, McLaren-Honda has nonetheless enjoyed a solid upturn in fortunes this year and is now a regular point-scorer.
POINTS: The 2016 F1 World Championship standings ahead of the Singapore GP
With the latest engine update performing well at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza – identified as the team's weakest races of the year -, there are high hopes McLaren-Honda can show a notable gain at this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix around the more favourable Marina Bay Circuit.
However, Alonso admits the gap to the front remains substantial and that it is the Honda engine that is letting the team down. With this and the upcoming change in technical regulations in mind, the two-time world champion has warned it will still take a sizeable step for it to recover ground.
RECAP: Relive last year's surprising Singapore Grand Prix!
“We have a very different winter, this one coming, the regulations change will make a massive difference so I think we are happy and confident with the new regulations we can do a good job and close a little bit the gap to Mercedes. They have the best engine and also the best chassis so we need to close the gap. On the engine side it is a question mark, we are still a long way behind the top engines so we need to make a bigger step over the winter.”
Nevertheless, Alonso does praise the closer working relationship forged between McLaren and Honda since a new management structure was put in place within the latter.
“The philosophy changed a lot when the new boss arrived this year but we want to be world champions and in order to be world champions we need an engine that can fight with the best engines in the world. At the moment we are not in that position, next year hopefully we can be close to that.”
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