McLaren driver Fernando Alonso says he had to do a “record” amount of fuel saving in the F1 2017 season opener in Melbourne, admitting it is looking like a big obstacle for the campaign ahead.
The Spaniard, who retired before the flag in Melbourne, stressed that several issues with the Honda package are holding up progress.
“In Australia, it was a record for us, the fuel saving,” he said. “So it’s going to be difficult for us this year, as long as the engine doesn’t improve.
“It’s not power, it’s many things, it’s reliability, it’s fuel saving, and there are a lot more implications in the driving that we cannot drive normally, because we need to drive around the engine.
“It’s quite difficult, it’s quite hard now, to drive the car. But we are doing our best to help the team.
“It’s difficult in the way that you cannot do any mistake for the whole race, because any mistake in one corner, you brake late, you lock up, whatever happens in the next straight, they will overtake you with the speed difference. You need to do zero mistakes.”
Teammate Stoffel Vandoorne echoed Alonso’s sentiment, saying that he also had to focus on saving fuel, despite ending up two laps behind winner Sebastian Vettel at the flag – that in a race already shortened due to an extra formation lap, which gave all drivers a small fuel bonus.
“We had to do a considerable amount of fuel saving,” said Vandoorne when asked by Motorsport.com.
“It’s definitely some of our limitation, let’s say. It’s not something ideal. I don’t know exactly how much the leading teams had to fuel save.
“I think Melbourne was also one of the most severe tracks on the calendar. We’ll have to wait and see how much we’re going to have to do this weekend.”
McLaren “not in a position to set targets”
Alonso remains open-minded about prospects in Shanghai, despite the premium on engine performance.
“Definitely we need to be ready for a difficult race, a tough race,” said the Spaniard. “It’s difficult to predict, because you have some races where you have a lot of expectations and you don’t deliver on Sunday – and the opposite, some races they look difficult on the paper, and everything goes well.
“I don’t think we are lacking deployment, compared to the opposition, it’s just we have less power, so our time on the straights is much longer than the rest.”
Shanghai newcomer Vandoorne said it was hard to predict the team’s form: “First time here, it’s a very, very different venue to Melbourne. A lot of big straights, a lot of fast corners, long corners as well. It’s difficult to say what exactly to expect.
“I don’t think we really in a position to set ourselves any targets this weekend. We’ll just have to wait and see. Whether it will be better or not or worse, its difficult to say. Let’s wait for practice and see what is happening.”