Fernando Alonso says he was surprised by McLaren’s race pace before he was forced to retire from the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Alonso, making his return after missing the 2015 season opener in Australia, was running on the edge of the points when his race was brought to a premature end by an unspecified problem.
Despite the failure, the Spaniard admits he was pleasantly surprised by McLaren’s competitiveness, given the team’s early struggles.
“This whole weekend has been better than I expected,” he said. “The main positive to take away from today is the fact that we were able to run with other cars – Jenson and I weren’t simply fighting with each other. That was the first step we needed to take, and we’ve taken it already.
“Indeed, our race pace was surprisingly good; I was running with the pack, and I was even able to catch the Red Bulls before the pit-stops. That was a nice surprise.”
Alonso retired just before half distance, but says minor reliability problems are to be expected considering McLaren’s limited winter running.
“We still need a little more time to investigate the exact cause of my retirement,” he explained. “The team came over the radio to tell me to back off a little, to save the car, so I brought it back to the pits.
“For us, these are the sort of reliability problems you’d usually discover in pre-season testing, but, given our lack of running over the winter, unfortunately we’re likely to encounter such issues in the first few races of the year.
“Hopefully, we can take another step forward in China.”
Image courtesy of McLaren