Fernando Alonso has played down the potential for McLaren to make a big leap up the order at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

After blaming its car’s lacklustre performance over the past three years on former engine supplier Honda, McLaren made the switch to Renault power over the winter with the aim of returning to the front of the grid. The switch has provided a solid haul of 36 points in four races, but the car is still someway short of the performance of the top teams — especially in qualifying trim where the MCL33 has failed to break the top ten this year.

McLaren has brought updates to the car at each round of the season so far, but since the start of the year has pinpointed the Spanish Grand Prix for a major step. Alonso is hopeful the upgrade will bring a step in performance but believes rival teams will also make big gains at the first European round of the year.

“Obviously in Barcelona there is a new aero package coming but I think 95 percent of the paddock is bringing a new aero package to Barcelona so maybe the gap will remain as it is or we will recover it a little bit or just lose a little bit of ground, who knows,” he said. “I think it is up to us to make the package work and deliver to expectations and hopefully some others do not deliver. That is our hope.”

Racing director Eric Boullier also played down the impact of the upgrade but said it would signal the start of a new design direction for the car.

“I just want to add that we are bringing new parts to every weekend. There is a new direction starting from Barcelona but you can’t expect, like Fernando said, to jump everybody.

“Obviously everyone is bringing parts and packages, especially at the opening races. Anyway, Monaco there will be another upgrade and Canada there will be another upgrade and so on so — it is at every race.”

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