Fernando Alonso will make his long-awaited second debut for the McLaren team in Malaysia this weekend after being forced to miss the season opener in Australia due to the testing crash and the concussion he suffered at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain during pre-season.
The Spaniard, a veteran of 234 Grand Prix, was encouraged by team-mate Jenson Button completing the race distance in Australia, but understands there is a lot of work to do before the McLaren-Honda package becomes competitive. He also praised Kevin Magnussen for stepping into the seat when he was ruled out, even if the Dane was forced to retire before the race even begun.
“I watched the weekend in Australia very closely and I was in touch with the team from the moment they arrived,” revealed Alonso. “It’s clear we have a lot of work ahead of us but Jenson’s result in Melbourne was encouraging from the point of view of reliability and data collection, which are extremely important.
“I’d also like to say thanks to Kevin for his efforts over the weekend, and it’s a real shame he wasn’t able to get to the grid.
“The weekend will be tough, but I’m looking forward to getting into the MP4-30 for the first time in a Grand Prix and getting back to racing.
“I’ve spent some time in the simulator back at the factory with the team, and my focus will be on continuing the development of our package with my engineers, and working on our balance and race set-up.
“There’s a lot of potential in the car and we will keep pushing every race until we see results.”
Alonso admits he has been working hard on getting fit for the Malaysian Grand Prix, but says the Sepang track is amongst his favourite tracks of the year. He has won three times at the circuit, once for Renault, once for McLaren and once for Ferrari.
“I’ve been working hard on my fitness and I feel good and ready to go this weekend,” said Alonso. “The heat in Malaysia is always very tough for the drivers but I’ve been focusing on this in my training and I’m definitely prepared for all of the weather conditions that we can face in Sepang.
“This track has always been one of my favourites, it’s a really exciting circuit to drive and there’s the opportunity for good overtaking battles between the straights and the fast corners.
“I’ve won three times in Malaysia, including in 2007 with McLaren, and although we are a long way from the front, everyone in McLaren-Honda is working hard to develop the package and keep building momentum with each race.”