Fernando Alonso predicts that “big points are coming” for McLaren in the Australian Grand Prix despite missing out on a place in the final part of qualifying.
McLaren had a disjointed pre-season as a result of a number of reliability issues, and even lost out on some track time in FP1 in Melbourne due to an exhaust problem. However, the team has had a smoother run since then but was unable to progress to Q3 as Alonso dropped out in 11th place, one position ahead of teammate Stoffel Vandoorne.
While the Spaniard believes he didn’t maximize his own lap, he is confident the team will move forward during the race.
“Definitely there is a little bit more time but if you analyze everyone’s lap and you put every perfect corner, you make an ideal lap it’s quite difficult to get,” Alonso said. “I obviously could maybe be in Q3 but I am happy where I am – I deserve to be P11 today, it’s still a very good result in my opinion.
“The performance of the car has been going good all weekend long. You arrive from winter testing and you want to know where you are exactly in terms of pace compared to opponents. We discovered that the car was well balanced and competitive from FP1; especially in damp conditions this morning, it was quite competitive as well.
“This is a very, very good baseline for the rest of the season despite the result you can get today. It is good, the points are given tomorrow… big points are coming for us tomorrow, I’m sure. This is a very good start for a new season.”
When pushed on whether by “big points” he means around seventh or sixth place, Alonso replied: “Hopefully better.”
And Alonso says McLaren can make progress based on both performance and reliability even if overtaking proved very difficult in Melbourne a year ago.
“I think the race pace is a little bit better than the qualifying pace, that’s what we saw on Friday. And then maybe today our position is a little lower than the performance in the car because we didn’t optimize the laps. We’ll see.
“Last year we saw seven retirements here so I expect the nine cars in front of us… maybe not all of them will finish. There are some interesting battles there in front of us so we need to stay calm, stay focused, finish the race and with the performance we have in the car. If we need to deliver tomorrow, that’s part of the race.”