Alonso expects McLaren to be at 'lowest level' in Melbourne
Fernando Alonso is braced for McLaren being at their "lowest level" of the season at the Australian Grand this weekend but expects them to make great strides in 2018.
Alonso threatened to quit if the team did not provide him with a winning car, as they failed to compete last year with Honda engines.
McLaren will start the new season with Renault power and Alonso is optimistic about their chances after what he envisages to be a difficult start in Melbourne.
The two-time Formula One world champion said: "This weekend will be our lowest level. We will be the team that will progress [the most] relative to other teams, just because the integration to a new power unit will require time.
"The chassis has been designed and the season programmed with many updates that will come very soon, in the first couple of races.
"What we see here is going to be important, yes, but we will be better and better. I expect the second half of the season, for example, a very strong McLaren."
The Spaniard added: "I understand that we are not at the level of Mercedes now or the level of Red Bull or Ferrari - or that's what we think after winter testing - so we are not in that leading group yet.
"But we should be there in a couple of races' time or in the second part of the championship or something, because we are McLaren so we should be there.
"In 2012 [Ferrari] were not in that group either and we were leading the championship in the last race so we will see what happens this year."