Fernando Alonso: McLaren star makes OUTLANDISH claim about Mercedes in qualifying

Fernando Alonso: McLaren star makes OUTLANDISH claim about Mercedes in qualifying”

Meanwhile, Pierre Gasly will take a five-place grid penalty for Sunday's race after the team fitted his car's fifth control electronics.

Alonso did not head out in Q2, opting instead to save tyres in light of his impending 20-place grid penalty for power unit changes, but said his performance in Q1 demonstrated that for the first time in years McLaren could lay claim to having the best auto in F1.

More significantly, and surprisingly, his best lap was just 0.192s off the pace in Q1 set by Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, on the same ultrasoft tyres.

Although McLaren's problems with their Honda engines have been widely documented, two-time world champion Alonso is hugely encouraged by the progress that has been made in other areas.

"As of today, or at least today, we have the best auto", Alonso said.

"I did two laps which were identical".

Honda had planned to make changes on both cars for Mexico, where it expects to struggle, in favour of having fresher elements for the final two races of the season in Brazil and Abu Dhabi. "It's probably the best weekend of the whole season - a spectacular weekend up until now". Extremely happy with that.

"So all the improvements are thanks to the aero and a bit to the suspension parts we've brought over the past races". "The auto felt great today, very positive signs".

Despite the Q1 plaudits and promise of their chassis, the harsh reality for Alonso and McLaren is that they are facing another race in which they start among the grid's back two rows.

Speaking on Thursday, Vandoorne said: "We're taking some engine penalties this weekend, because we know it's a tricky weekend for us".

"But we are preparing 2018 as best as possible".

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