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Fernando Alonso: Red Bull’s Malaysia win increases 2018 pressure on McLaren

Red Bull’s Malaysian Grand Prix victory with the Renault power supply McLaren will use next year puts the team under pressure to win in 2018, according to Fernando Alonso.

Max Verstappen turned in a dominant win in Sepang and, though both Ferrari’s encountered trouble during the weekend, it was a victory on merit for the Milton Keynes team. Renault is still behind Mercedes and Ferrari in terms of outright power, meaning Red Bull’s recent step forward in performance is largely based on the strength of its chassis.

Throughout its struggles with Honda, McLaren has rated its chassis as one of — if not the — best on the grid each year, but the huge power deficiency has made a proper comparison or judgement impossible. McLaren is set to take Renault power next year and Alonso says Red Bull’s Malaysia triumph means his team will have no excuses for not doing the same at some point in 2018.

“We saw in Monza a very good performance from Red Bull, which was at a power circuit, so we were already quite happy with that Red Bull performance,” Alonso said. “In Malaysia it was another step forward and they beat the Mercedes without rain, without any different strategy, without anything, so that was good.

“At the same time that puts some pressure on McLaren because I think that car is quite efficient right now and is quite powerful at the moment from a chassis point of view, so we need to make sure that we do our job on the chassis side because the engine can deliver wins as Red Bull proved. So we have to match that performance on the chassis and that is a challenge, for sure.”

McLaren’s switch from Honda to Renault was only confirmed ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix, timing which left it two weeks behind schedule for next year’s car. However, Alonso does not think that will hurt the team’s chances of a return to the front of the grid.

When asked if it was realistic to challenge Red Bull next season, Alonso said: “Yeah, I think so. I think the challenge is how can McLaren be in front? But McLaren should never be afraid of matching any other team because McLaren should be better than any other team.”

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