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Fernando Alonso Q&A: McLaren in good shape despite disrupted opening

18 Mar 2016

High winds and intermittent rain might have prevented McLaren from properly testing a raft of new updates brought in ahead of this year's season opener, but according to Fernando Alonso it wasn't a total washout. Indeed, the Spaniard says McLaren are in good shape heading into the first qualifying session of the year - even if they don't yet know exactly how they stack up against their rivals...

Q: Fernando, the season is finally underway, but it wasn't exactly the busiest day. How was it from your side?

Fernando Alonso: Well, it was a reasonable day for us. We've been able to run more laps than most other teams so I am quite happy. We've more or less been able to run our planned programme - but of course we are missing a bit of dry running so hopefully we can do it tomorrow in FP3. It is nice to be at another circuit after all those Barcelona test laps. It was a nice surprise running here today!

Q: McLaren came here with a lot of unknowns. What is the most important thing on your wish-list for this weekend?

FA: Of course everybody came here with the desire to find out where everybody stands - we are no exception to that. A lot will depend on the conditions in terms of when our questions will be answered. Of course we are aware that this is an important season for us as we have to consolidate some of the things that we've changed on the car and some things that we've changed in our project. And the aim is to win, but for sure we are not in that position right now. The most important change was that we've been able to improve the reliability - so let's wait and see where this gets us. I am sure we will significantly improve in the course of the season. 

Q: Tomorrow the new qualifying format will come into effect. Do you have a plan, or will you just go with the flow?

FA: Of course we have a pre-plan. Everything is quite organised - it has to be as you also have to synchronise our two cars to have the mechanics available all the time to change tyres because of the elimination time - so yes, there is a plan. But my guess is that at the first few races there will be mistakes, from drivers and teams alike. Hopefully we are not among them! (laughs)

Q: Today's conditions were pretty damp, and tomorrow the weather might be similar. Blue skies are forecast for the race though - so how do you go about preparing?

FA: Yes, today conditions were tricky with all that dampness as all the clutch settings and the preparations are set for a dry start, so we had a lot of wheel spin. What we see here is a typical Melbourne situation, which is what makes this race so exciting because it is one of those races were predictions always fail. It's the perfect season opener as it leaves much room for guessing!  

Q: What is also new this weekend is the limited radio dialogue with the team. Does that lead to higher risk levels than we had in 2015, for example?

FA: No, I don't think so. I don't think that this will be an issue. Probably restrictions are a bit extreme at times, especially in practice, which is there to get in the best possible preparation. In the race it is another matter: there we drivers want to make the difference. But in the end it is the same for everybody.

Q: You are heading into your 16th season. Is there still excitement left for the season opener?

FA: Oh yes. I think that most of the drivers on the grid made their F1 debut here in Melbourne - this is something that you never forget! With the way the whole city embraces Formula One it is the perfect start to a season - and a career. And with all the changes that a season opener holds it is guaranteed that the adrenalin level is pretty high!