Fernando Alonso says his return to F1 after a two-year absence is proving more difficult than expected, but the Alpine driver's struggles haven't dampened his joy of driving an F1 car.
Since the start of his comeback campaign, Alonso has qualified only twice among the top ten in five races and finished in the points on two occasions.
The Spaniard has also been consistently outpaced by teammate Esteban Ocon, including in last Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix where the pair finished respectively P13 and P9.
But despite the relative hardship, the two-time world champion still gets his money's worth of excitement and thrills behind the wheel of an F1 car.
"I think honestly the amount of joy and the amount of excitement is probably higher than what I anticipated," Alonso told RACER. "I’m really enjoying every lap out there.
"And I’m enjoying the preparation, I’m enjoying the meetings about the setup of the car — I’m enjoying things that before, were the worst part of the weekend.
"Now I’m really enjoying even that about the weekend. Not only the track time, the off-track I’m also enjoying a little bit more than the past.
"So I’m surprised about that, because you cannot plan what you will feel when you come back.
"Then on the driving and the results… Maybe I found it a little bit more difficult than I probably anticipated," he admitted.
"It’s not that I took it for granted that the results were coming automatically. I
"I knew that the preparation was needed and the hours in the simulator and the 2018 tests in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi were needed, so I anticipated this, but I’m still struggling to maximize the potential of the car."
- Read also: Alonso irked by Sainz podium glory in Monaco
Interestingly, Alonso alluded to a historic trend at Renault that has typically seen the team's drivers struggle in their first year with the Enstone squad.
Such was the case with Daniel Ricciardo in 2019, while Ocon - who also undertook his maiden season with the team after a break from F1 - also required a lengthy period of adaptation.
"I think it has something to do with the Renault/Alpine philosophy as well," explained Alonso. "Most of the drivers that came here, in their first year they were struggling.
"So, there is something that, we think we have some idea what the cause of it is, but it needs maybe more time than when I signed last year to come back.
"I thought that within three or four races I would be at 100%, and I think it’s going to take eight or nine."