Alonso: ‘We have surprised ourselves’ at power tracks

Fernando Alonso says he and McLaren-Honda ‘have surprised ourselves’ at power-sensitive tracks so far this year, and hopes this bodes well for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

The longest venue of the season, Spa-Francorchamps features iconic high-speed corners and long periods of acceleration that prove demanding for the power unit.

Despite significant progress in that area this season, McLaren and engine partner Honda have generally kept a low profile before taking on a power-oriented track. But Alonso feels expectations in that realm have been surpassed.

“Spa is an incredible circuit that definitely deserves its reputation as a legendary place to go racing,” the Spaniard said. “You have to have a strong package there, in terms of performance and reliability.

“More than 70 per cent of the lap is spent at full throttle, which will be a challenge in itself, but we’ve shown over the past few races that, even on the circuits that statistically should be difficult for us, we’ve worked hard and surprised ourselves with our level of performance relative to our competitors.”

With McLaren-Honda scoring points in three of the four races held last month, Alonso hopes the Woking-based outfit can continue to improve towards the front.

“It’s a long lap [at Spa], with two very high-speed sections and a twistier section, so we have to find the right balance between the two to get the best car set-up. We’re seeing good correlation between the data back at base and in the car on track, so I hope we can continue our momentum and get the maximum out of the weekend.

“This circuit is always a tough challenge for car and driver but if we can pull all the elements together we can enjoy a positive weekend. It won’t be an easy race, but as always we’ll be pushing for points as hard as we can.

Alonso and fellow world champion Jenson Button have combined for 42 points so far this year, which is already 15 more than what they could achieve over the entire 2015 campaign.

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