'There's still some pace to find' - Fernando Alonso
Despite securing a points finish at the Chinese Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso has admitted that McLaren struggled for pace all weekend and that the team needs to acknowledge this if they are to take steps forward.
At the Shanghai International Circuit, Alonso qualified in 13th place and had a strong start, moving into 11th by the end of the first lap after overtaking the Force India pair of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon.
Using a one-stop strategy to his advantage, Alonso pitted on lap 29, moments before the deployment of a safety car to clear up debris in Turn 14 caused by a tangle between Toro Rosso team-mates Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly some laps earlier.
When a solid eighth-place finish looked set to be on the cards, the opportunity for seventh manifested following a collision between Max Verstappen and former race leader Sebastian Vettel when the pair were battling for third position.
Extensive floor damage for Vettel meant that the four-time champion was slow in the closing stages of the race, and Alonso exploited this to his advantage, performing an aggressive overtaking manoeuvre on the Ferrari driver, attacking into Turn 1 on the outside before switching to the inside for Turn 2, forcing Vettel off the circuit on the entry into Turn 3 and taking away seventh from the championship leader.
“It was a surprise definitely you know when I saw Ferrari going not too fast I asked what was the problem. Apparently he had damage on his car so he was struggling a little bit on the corners," Alonso told Sky Sports post-race.
"We caught him and we saw the door open in one corner and we went for it and yeah, we made the pass.
"Obviously, there’s still some pace to find and we were not quick enough again in the race but at the same time I had a great result.
"I think P7 starting from P13 is good points for the team again so well executed race.
"We need to find more pace for the next round,” he admitted.
"It was a group race and yeah, we more or less take benefit from all of the battles so as I said, great result for Sunday but we cannot forget that the pace was not there all weekend so we need to keep improving.”
Through a seventh-place finish, Alonso holds sixth in the Drivers' Championship and is tied on points with Renault's Nico Hulkenberg.
A haul of 22 points in the first three races for Alonso marks the double champion's best start to a season since 2014, when the Spaniard was driving for Ferrari, while he has also exceeded his total points tally of the entirety of the 2017 season during McLaren's ill-fated engine partnership with Honda.