Fernando Alonso has hailed McLaren’s early progress in China, but insists he is remaining grounded, with the team eyeing the prospect of breaking into Q2 for the first time this year.
McLaren-Honda enjoyed its best day of running of the season, with Jenson Button and Alonso ending the day 10th and 12th on the timesheets.
After locking out the back row of the grid at both the opening rounds, McLaren’s improved showing in Shanghai has raised the prospect of the Honda-powered cars breaking into Q2 for the first time in 2015.
However, while Alonso believes the team is now heading in the right direction, with a series of successful upgrades debuting in Shanghai, he has dampened expectations ahead of Saturday.
“It’s been a very positive Friday for us – I enjoyed both sessions,” he said. “We completed our aero programme during the morning, and then focused on set-up work this afternoon.
“All the updates we brought here seem to be working as we’d expected, and they’ve put us closer to the mid-pack. It’s very encouraging to see that we’re moving firmly in the right direction – it’s a question of time as to when we’ll become competitive.
“Obviously, we began the season from a lower starting point than some of the other teams, so it’s been easier for us to make quick improvements, but the team is so focused and determined to improve – that’s very impressive.
“While it’s been great today to run in the middle of the pack – and I want to be able to maintain that sort of progress – we need to keep our feet on the ground: we saw in the first two races that the others tend to take a step forward in qualifying, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Button added: “We look reasonably good out there, but that can perhaps be explained by the fact that we seem to have been able to extract the maximum out of our car today, whereas perhaps some of the other teams haven’t.
“Still, the car feels nice to drive – especially when we’re running on the Option tyre. However, our one-lap pace seems to be better than our performance over a long run, which is a turnaround from how we went in Malaysia. But I think we can make some improvements in that area for tomorrow.
“Irrespective of today’s finishing position, the feeling with the car is good. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend nonetheless.
“There’s been progress today – hashtag progress!”
This article first appeared on Richland F1 – Images courtesy of McLaren