McLaren need to be at the front - Brown

10 January 2018 01:23:17 GMTPlus11

McLaren Executive Director Zak Brown believes it is imperative for the team to start challenging the front runners in Formula 1 in 2018.

Optimism is high within the McLaren camp for the new season after they ended their disastrous engine partnership with Honda and switched to Renault power units.

Their reunion with Japanese manufacturer Honda proved to fraught with technical difficulties, meaning lead driver Fernando Alonso often found himself just battling to avoid finishing at the back of the pack.

Despite not switching to the all-conquering Mercedes power unit, Brown believes that with a Renault engine in their cars then they have the tool needed to move up the grid.

"We are one of the big teams, we need to get back to the front," he told Sky Sports F1. "We haven't, and certainly won't publicly, set any expectations because that's dangerous.

"We are coming off ninth in the championship so I can promise you we'll be doing better than that but that's the ball park we need to be."

However, with Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull having been so dominant in recent years, Brown acknowledges it will be tough to see McLaren break in to the leading pack as they seek to end a five-year spell without a Grand Prix win.

"Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull are awesome teams that have significant budgets which hopefully will get addressed in the new deal [from 2021], but that's still a few years away," said Brown.

Two-time world champion Alonso is 4001.00 to win the 2018 Drivers' Championship and Brown says he is dreaming of seeing the Spaniard battle it iout with team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne for podium places this year.

"We think we'll have a competitive race car so I think you're going to see Fernando [Alonso] and Stoffel [Vandoorne] racing each other hard - which will be exciting as long as they don't take each other off! - and hopefully we're fighting for podiums. I hope that's the top step," said Brown.

Defending champion Lewis Hamilton is 1.002 to retain his Drivers' title this year, with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel 51.00.

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