McLaren’s racing director Eric Boullier says both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne will be aiming to break into Q3 in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix but anticipates a tough midfield fight.

Alonso narrowly missed out on the top ten pole position shootout at the 2018 Formula 1 season opener in Australia last month but starting from 11th the two-time F1 world champion charged to an impressive fifth place finish.

After a productive Friday practice in Bahrain, with both McLaren cars finishing FP2 inside the top 10, Boullier says the target to make it into Q3 in qualifying having failed to reach the objective in Australia.

“Qualifying is all-important and we’re under no illusion about the strength of our competition,” Boullier said. “We saw the midfield pack is very tight, so positions can be won or lost by the smallest of margins.

“We have work to do to ensure we give ourselves the best opportunity for Sunday’s race, but we will surely put up a fight here in qualifying in front of our Bahraini friends and colleagues.”

Alonso has echoed his McLaren team boss’s comments and has faith in set-up tweaks to his McLaren-Renault package to be able to fight for a Q3 spot.

“Our aim for qualifying is to be in Q3 – a target we missed in Australia – and we need to deliver and do a perfect lap, so that we can beat some of the cars in front of us,” Alonso said. “The weekend has started in a positive way and there’s nothing in particular to worry about.

“There is a lot of analysis that we need to do concerning some of the new parts we have on our two cars, so I think we need to put everything together now and find the best compromise.”