Fernando Alonso has pinpointed McLaren’s early development push as vital to its Formula 1 2018 season ambitions as he ramps up the pressure on his team.

The two-time F1 world champion says “it’s up to McLaren” to make a telling contribution to its place in the F1 pecking order this year after three years of pain due to unreliable and underperforming Honda engines which left the team stranded to the rear of the gird despite having what was considered one of the best chassis packages in the field.

With its new Renault power unit deal helping Alonso deliver his best F1 result since the 2016 United States Grand Prix with fifth place last time out in Australia, the Spanish driver is eager to see the Woking-based team charge ahead with early developments to close the gap on the top three teams Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

Alonso feels if McLaren fails to maximise its full potential over the “next four, five or six” races it may have to reassess its targets for this season. When McLaren’s Renault engine agreement was confirmed last year Alonso said the team would need to aim for race wins having seen Red Bull achieve the feat on three occasions in 2017.

“I think it’s still quite a reasonable gap to close with the leaders, but I think it’s up to us now,” Alonso said. “It’s up to the team to deliver the performance in the next weeks, in the next four, five, six grands prix.

“If we are able to bring the performance to the track and close that gap and be within a reasonable distance with the pole position and the podium finishers and things like that, then it’s up to us to deliver the result that we can. I’d say the next two months are crucial for our hopes in this year’s championship.”

Alonso wants McLaren to have a pragmatic approach to its maiden year with Renault power and if it cannot consistently fight at the front then regular podiums will become the target. Last year, Lance Stroll’s third place for Williams at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was the only rostrum result to be taken from outside of the top three teams.

“Hopefully we can keep improving the car, keep putting on more performance,” he said. “If it’s not a world championship fight, we will have hopefully some podium positions through the year, or can be some regular top six, top five positions, not only in Australia because of the Virtual Safety Car and the two Haas retirements. Maybe P5 could become a normality.

“That’s something we need to discover and find out. It’s probably the first time in the last three years it’s up to us now to deliver the results.”

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