Fernando Alonso says his final season in Formula 1 was "painful" due to McLaren's lack of development through the year, however he delivered a positive review of the team's 2019 car after getting his hands on the MCL34 during the recent test in Bahrain.
With McLaren having swapped Honda power units for Renault for 2018, Alonso began the year promising a return to the podium, following a fifth-place finish in Australia with a famous "now we can fight" radio message and claiming it would be McLaren's worst result of the campaign.
In fact, it proved to be their best result, with Alonso only scoring points in one of the final nine races of the campaign and Stoffel Vandoorne going through a 14-race pointless streak.
Although McLaren appear to have stepped up again, results have not borne that out, with Carlos Sainz suffering two DNFs, however Lando Norris scored a sixth place in Bahrain and has made Q3 in both races so far.
"Obviously it's a step forward in every aspect of the car," said Alonso, after taking part in Pirelli testing in Sakhir on Wednesday.
"I think the car has more grip, the car is less draggy on the straights. The engine is a bigger step better as well. Overall, as a package, I think the car is on the right direction.
"I think this year there is a good baseline and good programme of development, and I think it's going to be a much better season.
"I'm happy. Especially last year, it was a good start, but then we stopped the development probably in May or June, so that was painful until Abu Dhabi. I knew that it was my final season as well, so to run with the same car from Barcelona to Abu Dhabi was painful.
"Obviously we saw in the first two races [of 2019] there is still another step to do if you want to compete with the top three teams.
"But as a first step I think, [to be the] fourth team or leading the midfield together with Haas, that's the target. I felt that on the car as well."
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