Fernando Alonso says data from qualifying at the Spanish Grand Prix can be used to show that McLaren's chassis is only second to Mercedes' and Red Bull's this season.
McLaren made it into Q3 for the first time since renewing its partnership with Honda at the start of 2015, but Alonso's lap was still only good enough for tenth and 1.981s off Lewis Hamilton on pole. Ahead of the start of the season, Alonso said McLaren could expect to have the best chassis on the grid by the Spanish Grand Prix even if Honda's lack of power still meant it was not the best overall package.
Alonso admits his prediction was a little bit optimistic, but believes said data from sector three (see sidebar) shows just how much progress McLaren has made with its latest updates.
"The third sector is quite a good reference and we are behind Mercedes today and Red Bull," he said "They seem very strong, but let's see in the coming races if we can improve our efficiency and mechanical grip.
"We are in front of many of our competitors, which is probably a surprise for many people but not for us. [We are ahead of] Williams, Force India, Ferrari in terms of chassis side."
Alonso played down the significance of making Q3 in Spain, saying it was just a small step on McLaren's return to the front.
"It's nothing really compared to our goals, which is being world champions. It's just a mini target, let's say, that we have to go through. So it's Q3, then regularly in the points, then close to podium positions - these are things you need to go through before becoming the team of reference.
"I think we are in the right direction, we keep improving and sometimes you can see it with results like this one. It's still a long way to go and still quite a long way from pole position. It's good to be in Q3 but I think bigger things are coming that hopefully we can see very soon."