McLaren-Honda on Tuesday vowed to overcome a worrying start to their new Formula One partnership and challenge champions Mercedes when the season starts next month.

The British-Japanese team managed only 79 laps in pre-season testing last week as a series of glitches cast concerns over their performance at the season-opener in Melbourne.

But Yasuhisa Arai, chief officer of Honda’s motor sport division, said the team should prepare to vie with Mercedes, who won the 2014 drivers and constructors titles.

“As long as we participate in the race, we should prepare to be competitive with the top team Mercedes,” Arai said, as he showed off an exhibition model of the new MP4-30 car with drivers Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso in Tokyo.

“Other than that, there is neither significance nor meaning,” he added.

Alonso said: “There is a very challenging time for all of us, but… we are ready for some victory hopefully soon.”

Honda is returning to Formula One this season as an engine supplier to McLaren, in a bid to revive a partnership which conquered F1 from 1988 to 1991 with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at the wheel.

The Japanese automaker pulled out of F1 after the 2008 season, ending an involvement that began in the 1960s, to cut costs during the economic downturn.

Ron Dennis, head of McLaren Technology Group, said: “We will have success because history shows that Honda always succeeds and Honda-McLaren partnership of the 80s is something that we intend to reproduce.” – Agence France-Presse

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