Fernando Alonso believes his fifth place in the Australian Grand Prix proves McLaren is able to enjoy “a different kind of racing” from the past three years.
McLaren ended its partnership with Honda at the end of 2017 after three years of struggle and switched to Renault this season amid vastly increased expectations. While the result matched Alonso’s best finish with Honda power, the Spaniard says the way in which he could hold off Max Verstappen following a Virtual Safety Car period highlights how McLaren has stronger tools with which to defend against faster cars.
“I think it was a good race,” Alonso said. “Like I said [on Saturday] I think we have potential; we took advantage of all the opportunities, as we always do, and we had no issues. At the start it was very tight for the first few corners but we avoided any contact, and from then on we had a good rhythm.
“At the end, with [Max] Verstappen, we had to keep him behind, as he’s always a driver very difficult to keep behind as he’s very aggressive. But the situation was always under control and this year we can defend our position, we can attack, so it’s a different kind of racing for us.
“I’m happy, it was a good start. We have a lot of potential to get out of the car; I hope we can extract it all and hopefully in the next few races we can fight higher up the field.”
Alonso had insisted he would score a significant amount of points after securing tenth place on the grid on Saturday afternoon, although he admits McLaren needed some fortune for his prediction to come true.
“It was an eventful race, full of battles. I overtook Carlos [Sainz] when he had a problem in Turn 9 and the two Haas when they had problems, so we also had a bit of luck – but you have to be up there to take advantage of it. I think it’s going to be a better year than the last three, so we can now have fun on the track.”
Stoffel Vandoorne backed up Alonso’s result by finishing in ninth place to give McLaren 12 points, a higher total than it scored in a single race at any stage in 2017.