Mar.29 (GMM/ McLaren and Honda are working hard to make their new works collaboration gel.

Back together in 2015 after more than two decades apart, the British team hailed Honda’s return as simply the next chapter in an ultra-successful, title-winning tale.

But that was before the silver cars lined up dead last in Melbourne, and McLaren-Honda has only been spared a repeat of that ignominy in Malaysia because backmarkers Manor have been granted an exemption from the 107pc qualifying rule.

However, drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button insist the MP4-30 is now taking giant strides forwards.

“As a team we are now 90 per cent,” explained team boss Eric Boullier, according to the Spanish daily El Pais.

“The remaining 10 per cent is because we find two very different cultures that need time to fit together.”

The newspaper said one example was at the opening winter test at Jerez, where McLaren mechanics twice fired up the MP4-30 only to realise that no oil was in the Honda engine.

“Honda has recognised that it needs more help from our people; not so much on the engine itself, but in everything that surrounds it,” Frenchman Boullier revealed.

Meanwhile, another big talking point in Malaysia this weekend has been Fernando Alonso, and suggestions he must surely now be regretting his switch from Ferrari.

He is now in one of the slowest cars on the grid, while his replacement at Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel, is nipping the heels of the otherwise dominant Mercedes.

But the Spaniard insists he is “patient”.

“Many of the Japanese are new to F1 but we will grow up together,” said Alonso. “I am very happy to be back here.

“I knew that if I wanted to win again, I had to do something different, not just try to copy what Mercedes has done,” he added.