SPIELBERG, Austria -- Fernando Alonso believes the media has been unfair in its portrayal of McLaren's difficult French Grand Prix weekend, pointing out that the team is not the worst on the grid.
McLaren struggled last week in France, failing to emerge from Q1 and then finishing low down the order. That performance came amid U.K. media reports of a factory in disarray, which the team strenuously denied.
Making the final result worse for McLaren was the relative competiveness of engine supplier Renault's factory team and its other customer outfit, Red Bull.
When asked if the struggles at Paul Ricard made it difficult to remain confident McLaren could achieve its lofty pre-season ambitions of returning to competiveness, he said: "A weekend like that, the only problem is the media attention it attracts and the lack of normal conversation goes into the bad news or good news, and everything is exaggerated, especially in Formula One with all the polemics and all the things you need to sell every week.
"We had a quite poor weekend in terms of performance, uncompetitive on Friday, uncompetitive on Saturday, uncompetitive on Sunday. We are the first ones to know that, and we want to improve that. At the same time, we are not last. We are not getting worse and worse. We are not the worst team in the paddock. We are not these things that we've been hearing for the last three days.
"We are fifth in the constructors' championship, I'm eighth in the drivers' championship. All the other ones that are doing a perfect season, they are behind us, so maybe they are not so perfect and we are not so bad. We understand we have been uncompetitive, and we are the first ones that we want to improve that."
Alonso was in an agitated mood and later in the session cut a journalist short when he started to remind the Spaniard of McLaren's proclamations that its previous Honda engines had been ruining the fact it had the best aerodynamic package on the grid.
"We had zero points last season, and now we have fifth in the constructors' championship and eighth in the drivers' championship. So again, the situation changed a lot and improved a lot. We are not where we want to be, and we want to improve.
"We want to fight for podiums, we want to fight for championships. We were thinking this year could be that transition to be close to the podiums and close to the Red Bull performance, and we are not. We realise that, and we accept that we need to improve. If this was the season to improve, yes, it was, and we did improve massively. 400 or 500 percent more points than last year, so we are doing what we can."
Alonso has actually underestimated that figure. This time last year, McLaren had just two points -- the team's current points tally is 40, which is an improvement of 2,000 percent.