Italian Flavio Briatore, the flamboyant and controversial former Renault team boss, said Alonso was happy to be back at the misfiring former champions and enjoying the challenge.

"I believe at one point in Ferrari it was over, from both sides. I believe it was a good change," the manager said of the move. "McLaren is a serious team. Honda we know is a great company and we are there.

"I don't think the situation of (Australian Daniel) Ricciardo (at Red Bull) is better than that of Fernando. In Formula One at the moment you have one team and it's Mercedes. Whatever other team you are second, and second is the first of the losers."

Briatore, who was banned from Formula One after a 2008 Singapore Grand Prix race-fixing scandal but subsequently had the ruling overturned, felt Ferrari were still no closer to dethroning Mercedes even if they appeared to be more competitive.

"(In qualifying) Vettel was seven tenths from Lewis (Hamilton) and last year Fernando was fifth (on the grid for Ferrari) and seven tenths (off pole)," he said, speaking at during the race weekend at the principality.

"Between Ferrari and Mercedes it is the same distance. The problem is three or four teams are not there any more. With Honda and McLaren, we have a better future."

ENGINE TROUBLE

Honda have returned to Formula One this season to renew a partnership with McLaren that enjoyed rare dominance in the late 1980s when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were team mates.

They have, however, struggled with the complicated new V6 turbo hybrid power units that rivals had been using for a year already. Alonso won two championships with Briatore's Renault team, after replacing Button, and had an ill-fated year at McLaren in 2007 before returning to Renault and then on to Ferrari.

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