FEBRUARY 24, 2016
Alonso says Mercedes stronger than ever
Fernando Alonso slammed a British journalist for having suggested that Tuesday was effectively 'D-day' in his formula one career.
London's Times newspaper had published a report suggesting the Spaniard would decide on Tuesday, when he drove the new McLaren-Honda for the first time, whether or not to retire.
"Yes, I read it and was very surprised," Alonso told Spanish reporters in Barcelona. "I think you should ask him about it."
It had been suggested that only a massive step forward by Honda would keep Alonso on board, but the Spaniard insisted that while the MP4-31 is better than its woeful predecessor, it is not yet ready to win races.
"The engine is still not fast," he said, "but it is no longer as it was last year.
"We have taken a huge step from last year, but it is true that last season we did a very poor championship. And now we are still a few seconds from the front."
Alonso, however, insisted that McLaren, at least, is not far from its goal.
"I think the target to have the best chassis is reachable," he said, "maybe by the European races."
As for the Times' report of his impending retirement, Alonso insisted: "I deny it, of course.
"I have a contract here for three years," he continued, this time to English-language media, "and I'm not thinking about anything else."
What he does admit to thinking about, however, is McLaren-Honda making "very important" progress in 2016, after the situation of 2015 that he described at one point as being "embarrassing".
"I am not here just to travel around the world, jump in the car and have some fun on a Sunday," said Alonso. "I am here to win."
But he knows that will not happen yet, particularly as Alonso joined the rest of the F1 paddock in amazement as Nico Rosberg put in an incredible day's work on Tuesday with 172 laps.
"The Mercedes domination hasn't finished," said Alonso. "With that amount of laps, they are probably stronger than ever."
Indeed, while Sebastian Vettel said he is happy Ferrari seems to have taken a "very, very big step forward" with its 2016 car, Mercedes is obviously not standing still.
The paddock was impressed on Tuesday when Mercedes debuted an odd-looking, Mad Max-style bargeboard, which Rosberg described as "futuristic".
"Our opponents are chasing us hard so we have to innovate to continue to be at the front," said the German.