Fernando Alonso accepts McLaren has a long development path to complete before it can consistently fight at the front with its Renault power units after a disappointing qualifying in Bahrain having been “too confident” with balance changes.

Both McLaren drivers exited qualifying at the bottom of the order in Q2 which means Alonso will start from 13th place and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne from 14th place at the Bahrain Grand Prix in a drastic turn of form after both drivers finished in the points at the 2018 season opener in Australia.

Having declared in Melbourne that McLaren’s targets in 2018 would be catching fellow Renault-powered team Red Bull, the Woking-based squad were off the pace in qualifying which the two-time F1 world champion fears may continue until its finds strong upgrades with its MCL33.

“On Sunday in Australia we were P5 nad it was the McLaren comeback and we may fight for championship this year,” Alonso said. “Now, out of Q3 again, is something that as I said we did not expect but we were afraid of looking at last year’s performance here.

“It’s a tough race, a tough circuit for us but tomorrow if we both are in the points again it will be a great result, and is what we are aiming for.

“We know our weakness, we know where we have to improve the car. I think the car that we have here in the track and the car that we are developing in the factory is different. That car is fixing all our weakness so we need to bring that car as soon as possible as some other teams have brought here and they make a huge step forward and we are missing that step forward.”

Pressed on where McLaren were lacking to its F1 rivals, Alonso conceded it was “probably a little bit everywhere” and its issues were compounded by the changing temperatures in Bahrain running practice during the day in the sunshine and qualifying at night under the floodlights.

“We know that we are not the strongest on the top speed and braking performance was also not great today,” he said. “With traction I think we struggling a little bit too much. Yesterday was fine, the long run pace was good.

“This morning was good also on the hot track and then probably we got too confident with that balance on the hot track and then with the cooler conditions in the evening we had some negative surprises.

“Unfortunately we are now in a position to start the race that is not ideal but we were not in Q3 in Australia either and then both cars were in the points on Sunday so hopefully we can repeat that.”

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