Fernando Alonso has a reputation for being a highly competitive team-mate but after finishing three places behind Sepang rookie Stoffel Vandoorne in last weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix, but he has conceded the Belgian simply did a better job.

Vandoorne has scored back-to-back seventh-place finishes, one of the best results McLaren can hope for with their current Honda engine, while Alonso has suffered a first-lap collision which forced him into retirement and only managed 11th place in Malaysia after being held up at the start.

After reports emerged the Spanish driver punched a hole in the wall of his driver room following his retirement in Singapore, from which a podium might have been salvageable from the first-lap chaos, Alonso was sanguine about his relative pace in Sepang.

“Stoffel just did better,” Alonso said. “Stoffel was better and maximised the car in qualifying, it was one-tenth-and-a-half but there were quite a few position in that and that had quite an impact on the first corner, meant I remained in groups behind the train of the leaders.

"So definitely not my best race, in terms of luck, in terms of position for the first corner, but overall in free practice, in qualifying and in overall race pace Stoffel was just better.”

Asked if a significant improvement could be expected at Suzuka, Alonso remained realistic about the team's chances.

"I think last year we came here with some hopes to do well but we ended up with one car out in Q1, one car out in Q2 and then we were quite bad in the race. We want to improve that performance, especially as it’s the last race with Honda here.

“After the last three years with all the difficulties and with all the lack of results I am still very proud of this collaboration, this project and it would be nice to finish it with a nice race here in front of our fans.

“We are a little bit more optimistic after Malaysia because to have both cars in Q3 there was unexpected so we are now a little bit more optimistic as I said, but we still have to be a bit concerned that the power sensitivity here is quite high and we will struggle, but hopefully not too much compared to Malaysia and we can repeat some kind of performance."

Alonso said that, despite frustrations and "starting from zero" each year with extensive engine rebuilds, McLaren's partnership with Honda had been special to him -

“It meant a lot. I always loved Japan from the past, I have a samurai tattoo on my back and to work in a Japanese organisation or a Japanese manufacturer was quite intense.

"It was special, it was a different way of working. We missed the results, we didn’t have the results we were expecting. We didn't succeed in our targets and deliver the results that everyone was hoping, and that’s a shame.

"We are sad for that, but I’m still proud of the work that the team achieved with all the difficulties we found in winter testing. We tried to overcome all those problems in as short a period as possible and I will always be proud of this project even if the lack of results will say the opposite and will be remembered as a bad time and frustrating time - which it was, it is now, but I really hope the best for McLaren in the future and for Honda, because both of them deserve it after the last three years.”


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