Fernando Alonso believes 2016 was the third-best season of his career despite the struggles faced by McLaren over the past 12 months.

The Spaniard joined McLaren ahead of the 2015 season but endured a difficult year as an unreliable and uncompetitive Honda power unit saw the team finish tenth in the constructors’ championship. This year saw an improvement as McLaren finished sixth overall, and while Alonso ranks two of his Ferrari seasons a his best performances, he believes the last season was also a very strong one for him personally.

“2012 is probably my best season in Formula One,” Alonso said. “Then it could be 2014 my second best. Then probably this one will be on the final step of the podium so far. I felt very confident in the car in every condition. Even the last 10 laps in Brazil [in the wet] I felt really competitive with 40-lap old tyres, things like that.

“That confidence in the car gave me the opportunity to drive at the limit on many occasions. Jenson is an incredible driver. Last year I experienced that and saw that and this year I was able to be in front of him many, many times. Even in qualifying we are 13-5, or something like that, but in three qualifyings I didn’t participate because I had the penalty already with the engine and so I did only Q1. So that [difference] could be even higher than that.

“I consider this year on a very high standard from my driving part of view. So happy with the things that we’ve done, happy with the progress of the team as well, so a completely different taste… Twelve months ago we were disappointed, but sad, many things were going on in our heads last year.

“Instead this year everything is optimistic and everything is joy. We know there is still a long way to go to become champions, but the feeling is a lot happier than last year.”

INTERVIEW: Christian Horner on Red Bull rising

TECHNICAL: F1i’s review of 2016

2016 driver ratings: 12-1

2016 driver ratings: 24-13

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