BAKU, Azerbaijan -- In the absence of a points-scoring finish, Fernando Alonso says the quality of his own performances is providing him with motivation this season.
Alonso has failed to finish higher than fifth since returning to McLaren in 2015, which has mainly been thanks to an unreliable and underperforming Honda engine. The Japanese manufacturer admitted to making a step backward at the start of the year and Alonso's only points-scoring opportunity of 2017 ended when his Honda engine expired two laps from the end of the Canadian Grand Prix.
But if you strip away the deficiencies of the McLaren-Honda package, Alonso claims to be driving at his very best this year and pointed to his six-zero qualifying record over teammate Stoffel Vandoorne as proof.
"I think everything is frustrating when you are not competitive," Alonso said. "On the other hand, I know that I'm very happy with this year's rules, I'm happy with this year's cars, I'm able to attack the corners and I've never had a start of the season like this year in terms of how competitive I felt in the car.
"I never started with a difference with my teammate as big as this year, ever, and it's a teammate that won in all the other categories, so... I've a very good reference, you know.
"I'm definitely at my best. In terms of keeping motivation and keeping hunger for success, despite the results, because you know and you feel that you are in a very good moment of your driving career."
Asked why he believes he is operating at a higher level now that at any point of his career, Alonso added: "I think you learn many things in your career. If I raced against me, myself 10 years ago, 15 years ago, I would be as quick as now probably but you will make little mistakes here and there.
"You will overdrive sometimes, but now you will know when is the time to push, when is the time to be a little more conservative. You know how precise you need to be on the pitstop now, fuel-saving techniques, starts, qualy preparation, tyre preparation -- you learn so many things during the career that you are a better driver."
Alonso said his Indy 500 experience earlier this year had also helped him develop as a driver.
"As I said, when I went to Indy, you again wake up some senses, when you drive a different car and different things, etcetera, you come back to the normal car and you are better. I think that's the only reason, it's not that the cars are different to drive or more complex to drive, it's just that you learn so many things that you put into the equation when you are jumping into the car now. When you are more prepared now, you are better."