Fernando Alonso insists that he was surprised with how strong the McLaren MP4-30 was in race trim after running as high as eighth place in the Malaysian Grand Prix before retiring with an ERS issue.
McLaren arrived at Sepang on the back foot, after finishing two laps down at the previous race in Australia. However, after engine partners Honda turned up the power, the McLarens were able to fight with some of the teams in the midfield, to the surprise of Fernando Alonso.
“This whole weekend has been better than I expected,’’ said the two-time world champion. “The main positive to take away from today is the fact that we were able to run with other cars – Jenson and I weren’t simply fighting with each other. That was the first step we needed to take, and we’ve taken it already.
“Indeed, our race pace was surprisingly good; I was running with the pack, and I was even able to catch the Red Bulls before the pit-stops. That was a nice surprise,’’ he added.
Teammate Jenson Button was equally pleased with the progress McLaren have made over the last couple of weeks and was urged the team to close the gap further.
“I enjoyed it out there – we’re actually racing people. To be able to see one of the Red Bulls ahead of me – and so far into the race – was obviously a nice surprise,’’ Button was quoted after the race. “And we were able to mix it with the others a little bit more, too. Fighting in the pack is the most positive thing to take away from this weekend – hopefully, before too long, we can start to pick them off on a race-by-race basis.”
Honda’s motorsport chief Yasuhisa Arai revealed that both cars retired from the race as “a result of harsh use of the power unit within competitive race conditions” and not due to high track temperature at Sepang that pushes the cars to the limit.