Alonso nearly made it into Q3 at the Circuit of the Americas 12 months ago - no small feat in light of his team’s annus horribilis - but found himself on the back foot right from the start when he was hit by another car at the first corner.
Undeterred by the setback, the Spaniard then drove a cracking recovery race and fought his way up to fifth until engine reliability gremlins left him outside the points-paying positions.
“It’s a grand prix in which you never really know what to expect,” Alonso said. “I would say that last year I had one of my favourite races because, despite having a puncture on lap two, we were able to push and make progress through the field, which was hugely satisfying from behind the wheel.
“The weather can always give us a few surprises and the track temperature often changes a lot from session to session, so I hope we can find a good set-up early on and improve our pace as the weekend progresses.”
Speaking about what makes COTA such a challenge for any F1 car, the 35-year-old added: “Each sector offers something completely different. The first section requires a lot of precision, as it’s a big climb up to the first corner, which you go into blind.
“The elevation changes put a lot of pressure on the car and it’s important to get good traction out of each corner. It’s a really exhilarating circuit to drive and you need to work hard at every braking point to keep good momentum around the circuit, as the rhythm is constantly changing along with the elevation as you go around the lap.”