Alonso has been linked with a McLaren exit at the end of the season, with a possible Mercedes seat opening up as Valtteri Bottas is only tied down for one year. The 35-year-old has cut a disgruntled figure in pre-season testing, with the team suffering from repeated reliability failures, and despite an improved showing to qualify 13th for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, Alonso called on the team to make a quick improvement.
"I expect a big change in the team, a big reaction," Alonso said after qualifying. "We will not be 13th all season, or I will not be.
He added: "It's not enough. We are McLaren-Honda. If we are not in the top five, on the podium, the rest is losing time."
McLaren have concerns over the Honda power unit and its ability to challenge at the front of the field, given there has been little improvement during its two-year partnership with the British team. It’s led to suggestions that the Woking-based outfit are considering a switch back to Mercedes engines in the future, but Honda F1 boss Yusuke Hasegawa stressed that they are looking to add improvements as quickly as possible.
"After the winter test we are having strong pressure from the team and the driver, but we try to keep improving,” Hasegawa said.
"We didn't do a great job. So we need to do that.
"I cannot guarantee when we will get more power but as soon as possible we try to introduce a new specification for that."
After finishing sixth in last season’s constructors’ championship, McLaren went into 2017 with high hopes, but they soon diminished with the issues in pre-season and a serious gulf between them and the leading Mercedes.
Alonso was 3.237 seconds slower than Lewis Hamilton’s pole position time, while his new teammate, Stoffel Vandoorne, could only manage 18th position, a further 1.433 seconds slower.