On a day where tricky weather conditions played with teams and drivers’ nerves all along, the Woking-based outfit managed to have its two cars in the top 10 in both free practice sessions.
In the wake of a season marred by reliability issues, Alonso takes special satisfaction from McLaren-Honda’s smooth running right off the bat.
“Things went well so we can enjoy the moment,” the double world champion said. “In Free Practice 3, we still have a few things to try because we didn’t have the dry conditions we needed to try them – brakes, ride heights and others.
“But the car had no issues and that’s a good start and a good sign. It was a positive day but [on Saturday], when it is dry, we won’t be as well placed in the timesheets as we were today. But so far things have gone better than expected.”
Racing director Eric Boullier confessed ahead of the 2016 F1 opener that McLaren was heading to Melbourne “with a number of unknowns”, as it had not had time to complete its setup work for Albert Park.
Alonso was pleased to find out that the delays did not hamper McLaren’s progress in the early stages of the season-opening race weekend.
“I’m happy to be back in the car, on a different track and finally at the moment of the truth. You can be for days in Barcelona running with the same set-up and everything is perfect and then get to another track and get a surprise. For us the surprise was a positive one so I’m happy with that.”
Alonso finished seventh and sixth respectively in FP1 and FP2, heading team-mate Jenson Button on both occasions.