Fernando Alonso: McLaren can forget F1 midfield and look to Red Bull

Fernando Alonso believes McLaren can "forget" about its midfield rivals and target Red Bull over the coming Formula 1 races

Fernando Alonso: McLaren can forget F1 midfield and look to Red Bull

Alonso finished fifth in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, splitting Red Bull duo Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen in McLaren's first F1 race with Renault power.

But that result was aided by Verstappen's early spin, a well-timed virtual safety car, plus tough breaks for McLaren's midfield rivals - with both Haas cars retiring and Renault's Carlos Sainz struggling with a drinks bottle problem making him sick.

The McLaren MCL33 was only the sixth-quickest car in qualifying too, but Alonso believes the 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.

How McLaren was found out in Australia

"It's the first race with this combination, McLaren [and] Renault power unit, so a lot more to come.

"Hopefully from Bahrain we see another step forward and Red Bull will be the next target."

Pushed further on the likelihood of McLaren taking the fight to Red Bull in the near future, Alonso responded: "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 in the next couple of races hopefully we forget the middle group and we look forward to 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 said heading into Australia that the first race would be the lowest point of McLaren's season - and revealed post-race that "some of the updates we planned for here will come for the next coming races".

He also stressed the Australia result was particularly encouraging given the late nature of McLaren's switch from Honda to Renault.

"We cannot forget that we decide to switch engines very late in the [2017] season so we had to redesign some of the parts that we already made at the rear end of the car," Alonso said.

"The integration between McLaren and Renault still not at 100% and in the next coming races we'll see more and more potential."

Team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne added: "I'm very optimistic - we know there's a lot coming from us.

"The partnership with Renault is still very new. That 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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