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Fernando Alonso predicts big McLaren performance gains

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Fernando Alonso says McLaren has a lot of performance to find in the opening races of 2016 and predicts the team will fight for podiums later in the year.

McLaren enjoyed a much more successful pre-season test than 2015, with both Alonso and Jenson Button reporting improvements with Honda's updated power unit in the second week. The team is confident it has solved the energy recovery system problems which saw it lack upwards of 160bhp on straights alone last season.

Alonso admits the main focus over the eight days of testing in Barcelona was reliability, leaving a lot still to be found on the performance side.

"I think reliability will be a huge step forward," he said. "We had to dramatically change some of the philosophy of the power dramatically to improve reliability. In terms of performance, I think we need to still unlock a lot of performance in the engine because we ran a little bit conservative now to have the reliability.

"We need to push a little bit the limits. There's always a balance -- to push the limits and to finish the races. We will try to find it now, in the first couple of races."

Alonso is happy to view 2016 as a marathon rather than a sprint and says he and McLaren are still holding on to a long-term outlook when it comes to winning championships.

"I think at the beginning of the year it will be difficult - after winter testing, we still miss a little bit of performance. But the championship is very long -- 21 races, 10 months. I am sure our developing will be quite high and I think a podium possibility will be possible -- but we want more than that.

"We go step by step but to be world champion is the final target with the team and myself. This year it seems that that will be extremely difficult but, you know, next year or whenever it comes, we need to work with that target in mind."