Fernando Alonso says McLaren's improvements this season give a promising indication for a similar step in 2017 where he hopes this team can catch the world title contenders.
After enduring a nightmare 2015 with the return of Honda as McLaren's engine supplier, the former F1 world champion says the huge gains in terms of pace and reliability with its power unit has enabled the whole package to step up and be fine-tuned.
The results have corresponded with Alonso's comments as the Spaniard claimed just two points finishes throughout 2015 compared to a much higher strike rate of eight top ten results so far in 2016.
POINTS: The F1 Drivers' & Constructors' standings after the Brazilian GP
Indeed, McLaren looks set to secure sixth in the F1 world constructors' championship compared to ninth last season and Alonso is looking for a similar rate of improvement in 2017.
“After struggling a lot last year we found ourselves in a position that we are enjoying and competing with the midfield cars. Next year we want to do the final step and fighting for much more than this,” Alonso said.
“The last couple of races we will try to improve the car, learn about the car, especially for next year's philosophy of the cars so these are important races even if we are not fighting for anything in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, there are still some important things that we need to answer for ourselves.”
With the introduction of the new technical regulations as well as wider and fatter Pirelli tyres in 2017, Alonso sees it as an ideal chance for McLaren to use its considerable resources to get ahead of its rivals as it searches for a way back to the front of the F1 grid.
“I think we have a great opportunity with the new rules, because everything will mix,” he said. “If we are able to produce a quick car from race one we have a chance to do well.
“On the engine side I think we learn a lot this year, much more than last year because last year it was a weekend that with our power unit we had to survive to make it last until the chequered flag. It was down on power, down on batteries, down on reliability, down on everything, so it was difficult to learn.
"This year I think we are making a lot more fine-tuning with the engine so I think the knowledge this year will pay off even more next year with the power unit so.
“I'm quite confident on that so the big question mark is the new rules, the new aerodynamics and on that I am also confident because McLaren is a big team with a lot of resources, with a lot of possibilities so I think it's looking good for next year.”
McLaren's last podium results came in the 2014 Australian Grand Prix, the dawn of the V6 Hyrbird era in F1, where Kevin Magnussen finished in second on debut while Jenson Button gained a promoted third place after Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified post-race for a fuel flow infringement.
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