'I am one of F1's best', says Fernando Alonso ahead of 300th career start

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Fernando Alonso is set to start his 300th grand prix this weekend.

Fernando Alonso believes he must be considered as one of the finest Formula One drivers of all time on the eve of his 300th grand prix.

Alonso, 37 next month, will become only the fourth driver in history to reach the milestone here in Canada on Sunday.

“I am one of the best to have raced in F1,” Alonso said.

“I am probably not the fastest driver in qualifying. I’m probably not the fastest driver in the race, or in wet conditions, but I am a 9.5 in all areas, and I try to benefit from that.”

Along with Lewis Hamilton, Alonso is viewed as the greatest of his generation, but it has been more than five years since he won a race, while he toasted the last of his two successive titles in 2006. Remarkably, Hamilton has double the tally of Alonso’s victories: 64 plays 32.

Alonso’s career is rather a case of what might have been after a catalogue of rows, and ill-advised moves.

He was signed by McLaren from Renault as the two-time world champion in 2007, but he departed after just one season following bitter fall-outs with Hamilton and the team’s long-serving chairman Ron Dennis.

Alonso appeared to resurrect his title hopes with a move to Ferrari, but after he was beaten by Sebastian Vettel at the season-concluding races in 2010 and 2012, he was shown the door after the Italians grew frustrated with him.

Alonso opted for another term at McLaren, but his second spell has been disastrous. Alonso has got the very best out of an under-performing car, but he knows he may probably never win again.

“There are some opportunities missing,” Alonso added. “I could have won four or five championships, but at the same time I feel extremely privileged to have had 18 years in F1.

“I have a lot of good memories. There have been a lot of ups and downs, but winning my two championships was definitely the high point.”

Alonso will contest the Le Mans 24 Hours race next weekend as he bids to emulate Graham Hill’s ‘Triple Crown’ – which also includes the Monaco Grand Prix (a race Alonso has won twice) and the Indianapolis 500 (where Alonso excelled on his debut last year, before a late engine blow-up cost him dearly).

F1 has taken a back seat for the Spaniard, but despite three years of turmoil at McLaren, Alonso remained for another campaign in the hope that their divorce from Honda and switch to Renault would fire Britain’s most successful team back to the front.

But McLaren still remain a shadow of their former selves, and only Alonso’s brilliance has enabled him to collect 32 points and lie seventh in the standings.

“No, I’m not bored,” said Alonso, who will later this summer decide whether to extend his £20million-a-year-contract into another campaign.

“It’s obviously the top series in motorsport, and it’s where we all dream to come, but it’s true that in the last years it is so predictable.

“This is race seven – there are 21 races – and we all know what is going to happen. You can play basketball, and have a magic night and score 40 points with your team-mates and win the game.

“There are favourites for the World Cup, but you can’t guarantee Germany, Spain or Brazil will win, but here everyone can guarantee that Mercedes or Ferrari will win the race, and this is very sad for the sport.”

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Fernando Alonso refuses to commit to Formula One beyond this season

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Fernando Alonso speaks to the media ahead of the F1 Grand Prix.

Alonso is preparing for his home race here at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya off the back of his debut victory at last week’s World Endurance Championship race at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium.

But the 36-year-old Spaniard’s days of winning in F1 appear further away than ever before as McLaren’s troubles extend into another season.

Alonso, who last took to the top step of a Formula One podium at this race back in 2013, may be sixth in the standings after accumulating 28 points from the opening four rounds, but that tally says more about his racecraft rather than the speed of his McLaren.

The British team, having terminated their engine relationship with Honda at the end of last season, had expected to challenge at the sharp end of the grid this year.

But the move to Renault power has provided little joy with Alonso failing to qualify inside the top 10 at any of the four rounds so far.

It has been more than four years since a McLaren car last occupied the top three places, and Alonso, on the eve of what could be his final home race, hinted his future could lie away from F1.

“The biggest thing here is how predictable everything is,” said Alonso, who is dovetailing his F1 commitments with six World Endurance Championship events, including next month’s prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours race.

“We can put on paper now what would be the qualifying result here on Saturday, what it would be in Monaco, and what it would be in Silverstone. This is sad for Formula One. So that’s something you need to take into account for future decisions.

“I’m attempting two world championships at the same time. The F1 calendar is quite demanding.”

Alonso could leave McLaren at the end of the year but would give up his pay packet, estimated to be upwards of £20million.

McLaren have brought a series of updates with them to Barcelona in the hope of improved performance, but they will not be alone with the opening leg of the European season kickstarting the development race.

“Normally Spain brings a lot of updates for all the teams so hopefully we can benefit a little bit from that,” Alonso added.

“There’s still a long way to go for us but at the same time we were here last year with zero points and now we are sixth and fourth in the world championship so in a way it’s been a very good start. Let’s keep that momentum.”

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Fernando Alonso pours cold water on Honda's success in pre-season testing

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Fernando Alonso has doubts over Honda's successful testing.

Fernando Alonso has questioned the apparent success of the Honda engine during Formula One‘s pre-season testing even as the Japanese supplier expressed their pleasure at their budding partnership with Toro Rosso.

Honda infamously failed to provide Alonso’s McLaren with a reliable engine during their three-year partnership from 2015 to 2017, causing the British manufacturer to terminate their deal with Honda early and switch to Renault.

Ironically, the final week of testing ahead of the 2018 season saw McLaren-Renault struggle with engine issues, and they had to change their engine twice, while Toro Rosso-Honda got through the week using just the one engine.

But Alonso questioned the supposed success of Honda’s test.

“I have no problem with Honda,” he told Spanish radio Onda Cero. “They showed a good winter test, and if they finish in the top five, I’ll be glad.

“But I don’t think so. One test is not the same as 21 races with three engines.”

Meanwhile, despite McLaren’s struggles, Alonso said he has no complaints with the Renault engine.

“We are very happy with our work with Renault. Compared to last year, we are up to four seconds faster per lap,” he said, getting in another dig at Honda.

For their part, Honda seem to be happy having switched from supplying McLaren to Toro Rosso – whose senior team, Red Bull, remains a Renault customer along with McLaren.

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