Although the British team and its Japanese engine partner have made clear progress in 2016, the MP4-31 remains some way behind the front-running cars as the second year in the renewed McLaren-Honda alliance draws to a close.
While it has been efficient in low-speed corners, the car continues to struggle through high-speed sections and Alonso admits the characteristics of F1’s twilight venue will not play to the strengths of his Honda-powered machine.
“The faster first sector and the two long straights in the middle sector at Yas Marina mean that it isn’t a track that will naturally suit our package, but over the course of Friday we’ll work hard to dial in the car to make the most of what we have and extract as much performance as possible,” the double world champion said.
“It’s an interesting track to set the car up for, as although it’s in the desert, the track temperature cools a lot during the course of the race as we reach twilight, so the tyre conditions and grip levels are constantly evolving as we reach the chequered flag. It’s a really unique place and a great circuit to end the season at, and I hope we can push for a positive end to the year.”
Alonso adds that the 2016 season finale will be an emotional weekend regardless of the end result, as team-mate Jenson Button takes part in his final race before his sabbatical.
The Spaniard will also be two thirds through his current three-year deal at McLaren-Honda, with his future beyond 2017 still unclear.
“For McLaren-Honda, this race marks the end of a significant year for the team, and the last time I’ll race with my team-mate Jenson for the foreseeable future. It’s been a pleasure to work with him and I’ll miss him being in the garage next to me, but he’ll still very much be part of McLaren-Honda’s plans and I want to wish him all the best for the exciting things he has in store for the next step in his career.”