Alonso ‘very surprised’ by McLaren pace

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Fernando Alonso says McLaren-Honda’s performance in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix was a “nice surprise, with the Spaniard describing his MP4-31 as “fantastic”.

Having posted the third fastest time in Q1, Alonso clocked the 10th quickest mark on his single Q2 flying lap. Although he eventually slipped down to 12th due to a lack of fresh tyres amid the new qualifying shambles, the double world champion would rather focus on the positives.

“The car is fantastic, I felt very competitive and I felt good with the car all weekend,” Alonso said. “Quite comfortable and we seem more competitive.

“It was a nice surprise to feel the car that competitive. I was P3 in Q1 and P10 in Q2 when we all put the supersofts, Unfortunately we didn’t have any tyres and we had to wait and see. But I am very, very happy. This is better than we thought.”

Asked about his ambitions for Sunday’s race after such a positive start to the Melbourne weekend, the 34-year-old replied:

“I hope to maintain and gain some positions. Reliability will be key as it is the first race and there are many unknowns in terms of radio. The car felt good so why not tomorrow [as well]?

“Hopefully we can be in the points.”

In a 2015 campaign marred by poor engine performance and reliability, Alonso had to wait until round nine – the British Grand Prix in early July – to secure his first top-10 finish of the season.

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