Alonso: McLaren will be in a better position next year

First time around it was the clash of egos, be it a brilliant rookie teammate who caught him (and everyone else) by surprise or team boss Ron Dennis. Second time around it was a mixture of poor engines, poor chassis, internal politics and questionable management.

Next year, McLaren will have an all-new line up, with rookie Lando Norris joining Spaniard Carlos Sainz, while Fernando Alonso returns to Indianapolis for the Indy500, this time with a full McLaren works programme behind him.

After the disappointment of the previous three seasons, things looked to be improving this year, when, now powered by Renault, the Spaniard put together a string of five points finishes, including a fifth in the season opener. But then came a long, lean spell that saw the two-time world champion add only 18 more points to his tally, while suffering a string of DNFs.

Increasingly disillusioned with the direction the sport is heading, Alonso finally called time on his F1 career to seek pastures new – including a certain Triple Crown for which he has to completed just one more task… albeit the little matter of winning the Indy500.

However, ahead of what may well be his last ever F1 race, the Spaniard insists that things will improve for the Woking team.

“I think the car is definitely going to be more competitive next year,” he tells the official F1 website. “From July, we’ve been testing experimental parts for next year. I think there’s a lot of optimism in the team with the direction the car took in the last couple of months. We understood our problems.

“We know that last year, the car was very competitive on the chassis side. We know that, we have the GPS to compare, we have our speed in the corners. We lost some of that competitiveness this year, we understood why. I think next year, the team will be in a much better position and I’m happy for them.”

Asked where it all went wrong this year after such a positive start, he said: “It’s a private thing in the team, but definitely we took some directions in this project that were not giving the results we expected.

“Some compromises were made in the car for a lot of hopes on performance,” he added. “They were not coming, so we only took the downside of those decisions. So next year should be much better and the lesson is taken.”

Despite the lack of results – or indeed further titles – Alonso insists that the trials and tribulations have helped make him a better driver.

“This year has been my best year by far in terms of qualifying battles,” he said. “I think it’s 19-0 now… it’s something I’ve never reached in my career, so I feel I’m competitive and I’m fast.

“Probably testing the IndyCar and my World Endurance Championship programme this year, I feel like I’m a better driver, or more complete driver, as I understand the behaviours of the car, the driving techniques, other ways of saving energy, saving the tyres.

“You have more information from the outside, the engineers, their point of views. It gives you a better or wider view of motorsport, so when you jump in an F1 car, you have an extra opinion, even if it’s not totally useful in a F1. The overall concept of philosophies help you as a driver.”