The outcome of McLaren’s Monaco Grand Prix will likely depend on how the team performs in Saturday’s all-important qualifying session, says Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard returns to the Principality after skipping the race last year to compete in the Indy 500, and he’s expecting a big step up in performance from his MCL33 compared to last time he drove a McLaren on the streets of Monte Carlo.
“Definitely it’s going to be a big step, because in 2016 the pole position was 1m15s or something like that, I looked today,” he said.
“We will run significantly quicker than that time. So it’s a step of two years, and maybe 4-5 seconds in terms of lap time for me. It will be great, as long as you go forward and faster you enjoy the laps.”
McLaren introduced a revised MCL33 in Barcelona two weeks ago which satisfied Alonso, but a few sessions of development conducted by the team at last week’s in-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya further improved the car says the two-time world champion.
“There have been a few positive days of testing in Barcelona after the race, in those tests I think we identified other areas of improvement, and there are a couple of updates here and there will come more in the next races,” he explained.
“I think we are in a good moment of the year in terms of understanding the car, in terms of improving the weak areas that we as I said identified early on in Bahrain, in China, and we confirmed in the Barcelona test as well.
“I think we are improving those areas, every race, and we are feeling more and more competitive, definitely in the right direction.”
Tickets for a seat among the top-10 in qualifying in Monaco will be at a premium for Formula 1’s mid-field contenders, but that’s definitely where McLaren’s drivers want to be.
“This is a race that 99% is on Saturday,” insists Alonso.
“I think last year the car was quite strong here. Stoffel was P6 in Q1, P7 in Q2. So I think the P7 was possible last year.
“Around P5 to P10 should be our target, to be in Q3 with both cars will be I think the target this weekend, but it’s difficult to predict right now.”
Speaking of predictions, the 36-year-old isn’t making any bold prophecies for Sunday, expecting the usual suspects to race among themselves at the front of the field.
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“There’s always a lot of expectations in Monaco, but then there’s a Red Bull, Mercedes or Ferrari on pole position, and three of these six drivers are on the podium in the last editions,” he says.
“So I think it’s going to be quite similar this year again.
“I think it’s quite difficult to make a surprise, but it’s quite easy to make a mistake. So it’s a weekend that’s important in all the aspects, to execute it well.”
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