Fernando Alonso feels he extracted the maximum performance from his McLaren during qualifying for the French Grand Prix but concedes his Q1 exit in 16th place is down to his car being slow.

Fresh from triumph at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Alonso has received a stark bounce back to reality with McLaren in Formula 1 as both the team’s cars failed to get out of Q1 with the two-time F1 world champion qualifying in a lowly 16th place.

Alonso says his starting position comes as no surprise to the team having initially predicted qualifying “between P14 and P15” as he admits it is purely due to a lack of one-lap performance from his Renault-powered MCL33.

“The car was working but it was slow,” Alonso said. “There was nothing wrong with the balance, it felt okay over the laps but the timed lap was not quick enough to get to Q2 so it was a disappointing day. Hopefully tomorrow we can recover and score some points.

“I think the performance has been so-so on Saturdays as the average position for our car has been P13 and we’ve scored points in every race we’ve finished so Sundays are normally better so hopefully that is the case tomorrow and it is one of those Sundays.”

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While Alonso is bracing for a tricky French Grand Prix due to “zero overtaking as this is Formula 1” at Paul Ricard, the two-time Formula 1 world champion fears a lack of development breakthroughs is starting to cause McLaren to drop down the pecking order.

“It is the same car for the past three or four grand prix so we know we are slipping back,” he said. “Every race seems less and less competitive and we were P15 in Canada in Q1 so we were on the borderline already.

“Here we are one step back but even in Canada with the performance of the car we were in the points until we had the issue on Sunday.”

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