All eyes on Alonso and McLaren in Jerez

Fri Jan 30, 2015 4:35am EST
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Local hero Fernando Alonso will be the center of attention when Formula One's pre-season testing starts up in southern Spain on Sunday but the McLaren driver has done his best to lower expectations.

As the Spaniard warned fans when the new McLaren-Honda MP4-30 was unveiled on Thursday, there are sure to be problems between now and the season-opener in Australia on March 15.

McLaren are starting a new era with Honda, after two decades with Mercedes, and much of the paddock buzz when the cars get out on track in Jerez will focus on how the new Japanese power unit performs.

"Our first target will be to learn the maximum from the car at the pre-season tests, understand the package, and extract as much performance as possible," said double world champion Alonso.

"That won't be easy or trouble-free, but we're ready for that," added the man who left McLaren under a cloud of controversy in 2007 and returns after five frequently frustrating years at Ferrari.

McLaren ran Honda's RA615H engine last November in a test that was plagued by gremlins.

"We don't expect to be pumping in 100 laps a day. It is going to be lots of system checks. Don't expect too much from us too soon. It is about working out the reliability aspects of the engine," said Alonso's team mate Jenson Button.

Others suspect McLaren could be more competitive than expected.   Continued...