Alonso too optimistic? “Only McLaren can beat Mercedes”

Fernando Alonso is convinced that only McLaren-Honda has the capacity to knock Mercedes off the top of Formula 1, even though it will take it at least until 2017 to do so.

Although the team has made big gains over the past 12 months, following a challenging 2015 campaign, it is under no illusions about the improvements that still need to be made.

On the back of a solid start to pre-season testing at Barcelona in Spain, Alonso knows that the team is poised to move up the order.

However, he thinks it will still take it another year before the full potential of team and engine partner are unleashed so it can gun for world title glory.

“Last year we were not ready,” said Alonso, speaking after his first day in the car. “This year we are going to take an important step forward, and let’s hope it’s a very important step.

“And in 2017 – I have three years of my contract – let’s hope the step is even bigger to beat Mercedes.

“I think only McLaren-Honda can beat them. I still think the same.”

Honda patient

Honda is upbeat that it has made progress with its Formula 1 engine for this season, but is equally aware that more is needed.

It has undertaken a management reshuffle ahead of the season, with F1 boss Yasuhisa Arai stepping down on March 1 to be replaced by Yusuke Hasegawa.

There will also be a new F1 project supervisor based in Japan.

Honda’s president Takahiro Hachigo made it clear in a speech following the company’s annual board meeting that he remained patient about its form in F1.

“We will work together with McLaren and strive for positive results by making steady progress while building on what we learned in the last season,” he said in Tokyo on Wednesday.

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