Australia will be McLaren's 'lowest level' of F1 2018 - Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso reckons this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix will prove to be McLaren’s “lowest level” of 2018, as it bids to move up the Formula 1 grid.

McLaren has targeted a return to contention, having embarked on a new relationship with Renault, following the end of its fruitless three-year Honda partnership.

McLaren endured a troubled pre-season programme, amid a series of stoppages, but the operation has stressed that those setbacks have now been addressed.

Alonso, though, is wary the upcoming event will be a relatively low starting point for McLaren, but anticipates that the team will be able to out-develop its rivals across the season.

“This weekend will be our lowest level,” Alonso is quoted by the official F1 website.

“We will be the team that will [make the most] progress relative to other teams, just because the integration to a new power unit will require time.

“The chassis has been designed and the season programmed with many updates that will come very soon, in the first couple of races.

“What we see here is going to be important, yes, but we will be better and better. I expect the second half of the season, for example, a very strong McLaren.”

Alonso has also stressed that McLaren must put itself in a position to profit from any opportunities that arise, as he and the team strive to return to the podium after a four-year absence.

“It should be a good season for us, getting back to the positions we enjoy a bit more,” he commented.

“Hopefully 100 per cent [of the time] in Q3, regularly in the points, fighting in the top five, hopefully close to the podium in some races.

“We saw last year one Williams took a podium in Baku, the Force Indias were close to a couple of podiums in the year so we know the opportunities will come and in those opportunities we will deliver hopefully.”