Alonso wants McLaren to "forget" midfield, target Red Bull
Fernando Alonso believes McLaren can aim to "forget" about its midfield rivals and target Red Bull instead in the next few Formula 1 races.
Alonso finished fifth in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, splitting the Red Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen in what was McLaren's first race with Renault power.
However, the result was aided by a well-timed safety car, along with tough breaks for McLaren's midfield rivals, with both Haas cars retiring while running ahead of Alonso and Renault's Carlos Sainz struggling with over hydration amid a water pump issue.
But while the McLaren MCL33 was only the sixth-quickest car in qualifying, Alonso believes the Woking-based team can already look at taking the fight to Red Bull – the fastest of the three teams powered by Renault.
"Definitely it's going to be better and better [for McLaren]," Alonso said. "There's a lot of potential in the car still to unlock.
"It's the first race with this combination, McLaren [and] Renault power unit, so a lot more to come.
"Hopefully from Bahrain we [will] see another step forward and Red Bull will be the next target."
McLaren is hopeful of significant gains in Bahrain, where it'll bring some of the updates initially planned for Melbourne, which Alonso had expected to be McLaren's lowest point of the season.
Queried further on the likelihood of McLaren taking the fight to Red Bull in the near future, Alonso responded: "I think right now they're still clearly ahead of us. They're in that exclusive group of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
"But McLaren is willing to enter that group and I think in the next couple of races hopefully we forget the middle group and we look forward to [joining] that privileged three top teams.
"There is potential in the car, I cannot see any reason why we should not be there in the next coming races."
Alonso stressed that McLaren's Australia result was particularly encouraging given the late nature of the team's switch from Honda to Renault engines.
"We cannot forget that we decide to switch engines very late in the season so we had to redesign some of the parts that we already made at the rear end of the car," Alonso said.
"I think the integration between McLaren and Renault still not at hundred percent, and in the next coming races we'll see more and more potential."
His sentiments were echoed by teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, who finished ninth in Australia.
"I'm very optimistic," the Belgian said. "We know there's a lot coming from us.
"The partnership with Renault is still very new. This was our first race. We know that the next couple of races there's new parts coming on the car.
"We feel that there's some margin for progression. We know the next couple of races are crucial for us, hopefully we can bring some upgrades and improvements to the car and deliver some more performance."
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