Despite missing out on Q3 for the Australian Grand Prix, McLaren's Fernando Alonso expressed relief about the actual performance of his MCL33. The Spaniard was happy to see the expectations from pre-season testing confirmed.
“After winter testing, you never know how the performance in the first qualifying will be, so it’s some kind of relief that the car is performing well and we’re more competitive than the last few seasons", Alonso said.
The Spaniard said before the start of the Grand Prix weekend that he expects this to be McLaren's worst race of the season, as the team is still optimising the integration of the Renault power unit into the McLaren chassis.
“This year we’ll have fun. There’s a lot of potential to unlock in our car, and we haven’t yet been able to do this due to some little issues. I think McLaren will be quite strong in the coming races, which is a very positive start.
“Apart from Toro Rosso, we’re the only top team that has gone through an integration process of a new power unit with the chassis, the systems and the set-up, so there will be performance that will come for free once we’ve adapted more to the Renault power unit.
“I think our race pace is probably better than our qualifying pace, so we’re in a good starting position – P11 or even P10 due to [Valtteri] Bottas’ problem – so definitely some good points are the target. Tomorrow will be probably one of the first races in the last couple of years where we won’t need to defend, and we will go for the attack mode. Also, the weather is still a factor for tomorrow, and if we have some showers it’ll be a great show.
“I’m very positive and very optimistic about this season.”
Alonso's feelings will certainly also be boosted by the knowledge there was actually more in the car than the position appears to indicate. Somewhat bad timing for his final run in Q2 put him behind a group of cars and hampered him in making a good out-lap to get the tyres in their working temperatures. Having failed that, the Spaniard failed to improve on his time, mostly due to a scruffy first sector, in which he lost 0.4s.