Despite not making it into Qualifying 3 in Australia, Fernando Alonso has been in a buoyant mood ahead of the start to the 2018 Formula 1 season.
Alonso qualified in eleventh, with his McLaren F1 Team colleague Stoffel Vandoorne perched behind him in twelfth. Thanks to Valtteri Bottas‘s crash in the final stage of Qualifying and resultant gearbox penalty, the Spaniard will move into the top 10. He believes that McLaren have the potential for “fun” this year, as they look to fight their way back up the Constructors’ Championship with Renault Sport power.
“After winter testing, you never know how the performance in the first qualifying will be,” said Alonso.
“So it’s some kind of relief that the car is performing well and we’re more competitive than the last few seasons. This year we’ll have fun.
“There’s a lot of potential to unlock in our car, and we haven’t yet been able to do this due to some little issues. I think McLaren will be quite strong in the coming races, which is a very positive start. “
Alonso acknowledged the winter changes, noting that McLaren are the only “top team” to have changed engine suppliers for 2018 – as Honda migrated to Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda after a nightmare three year return to supplying McLaren.
“Apart from Toro Rosso, we’re the only top team that has gone through an integration process of a new power unit,” he added.
“The chassis, the systems and the set-up, so there will be performance that will come for free once we’ve adapted more to the Renault power unit.”
“We will go for the attack mode”
The two-times world champion will start his 292nd Grand Prix, as he looks to equal Rubens Barrichello‘s record of 322 starts by the season’s end. He remains optimistic about McLaren’s race pace, even after a troubled winter testing period saw them complete the least amount of laps of any team. Furthermore, the 36-year-old warned that Australia would be McLaren’s “lowest level” in the run up to the weekend.
“I think our race pace is probably better than our qualifying pace, so we’re in a good starting position – P11 or even P10 due to Bottas’ problem – so definitely some good points are the target.
“Tomorrow will be probably one of the first races in the last couple of years where we won’t need to defend, and we will go for the attack mode. Also, the weather is still a factor for tomorrow, and if we have some showers it’ll be a great show.
“I’m very positive and very optimistic about this season.”