Alonso notices improvements ‘in all areas' of new car

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Fernando Alonso says McLaren-Honda has improved “in all areas of the car” on the new MP4-31, but admits it will take time to know exactly how much progress the team has achieved.

The Spaniard managed to complete 119 laps on his return to Formula One action in Barcelona, though he only set a quiet ninth fastest time on the second day of pre-season testing.

Coming off a torrid 2015 campaign, Alonso was naturally eager to find out whether McLaren’s latest charger represented a genuine step forward from the troublesome MP4-30.

“Definitely yes,” he replied when asked if the new Honda power unit was better. “But this is an answer that I had no doubts about. We could not have any doubts because the starting point, all the power and the deficit we had last year compared to the top teams was just too high, so we did improve all the areas of the car.

“From the aerodynamics side there are parts that are quite innovative and new in our car at least – maybe the others had these ideas in the past – but for us they are new and we need a little bit of time to mature the package, and the power unit the same thing.”

Talking about his testing programme, Alonso explains the team focused first and foremost on reliability – one of its weaknesses last year – and admits it did not make up for the most thrilling day out on track.

“I enjoyed [this first day] but I think there is performance that we need to unlock and most of the work we did today were laps for aerodynamic study and reliability studies – brake temperatures, water temperatures – things that from a driver point of view were not very exciting because anyone can do those kinds of laps.

“I’m looking forward to doing some set-up change and soft tyre work and different fuel [levels] to really enjoy the driving as well.”

Alonso also dismissed the allegations that had surfaced about his potentially making a swift exit out of F1 if the new McLaren-Honda was not a contender right off the bat.

“I’m absolutely surprised by the rumours. But all week there have been some rumours. I think that when there are too many weeks or months without action on the track then there is a dangerous tendency to be creative on the news. It’s good now we are on track and hopefully there will be no more rumours.”

Jenson Button will be back behind the wheel of the McLaren-Honda MP4-31 on the third day of pre-season testing at the Spanish Grand Prix venue.

Vettel quickest on day two as McLaren completes 119 laps

GALLERY: Barcelona testing - Day 2

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