Fernando Alonso declared himself 'happy, but I could be happier' after opening practice for this weekend's curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne – fearing Renault is not quite quick enough to fight at the front of the pack and anxious to avoid a mid-grid starting slot.
The Spaniard lapped respectively tenth-quickest in the morning and twelfth in the afternoon around Albert Park – leaving him twelfth on the overall timesheets, just over a second shy of the leading pace. He conceded that it is 'not the perfect position from which to fight for podiums [and] wins'.
“I think I'm happy, but I could be happier,” reflected the man from Oviedo. “Pace-wise, it's difficult to understand. It's only Friday, but we were tenth in the first session, twelfth in the second, so obviously it's not the perfect position from which to fight for podiums [and] wins.
“Obviously the first day is always difficult, starting the championship with many things to discover in terms of the car. It is also the first time we have tested in warm conditions after being in winter in Europe, so [we always get] useful information on Friday. We [will] try to analyse all the information tonight and tomorrow and hope to have a better car. That is quite normal between Friday and Saturday; we will test a couple of things overnight.
“Tomorrow we need to find some more performance from the car to be a little bit quicker – we cannot afford to start the race in the middle of the pack if we want to score some good points. Expectations for qualifying are more-or-less the same – we will try to start the race in the top six [or] top eight. I don't think we can be too happy if we start behind those positions.”
Alonso affirmed that there had been 'no big difference' between the performance of the R29 Down Under and in pre-season testing, when the Régie's
challenger demonstrated increasingly impressive speed and consistency. He was dismissive, however, of the benefits of the newly-adjustable front wing – but acknowledged having used Renault's KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) technology 'every lap'.
“I think every track is a bit different,” the 27-year-old explained, “and you need to adapt the set-up a little bit to the track and also to the conditions. Today it was very windy and we expect some windy conditions for tomorrow and Sunday, so we need to accommodate a little bit to that and we need to make small set-up changes.
“It was the same in the winter from Portimao to Barcelona to Jerez – always different tracks. Some of them [are] a little bit bumpy, some of them have slow-speed corners or high-speed corners, so small things mean you are always adapting to the track and today we tried to work on that.
“We came from a set-up more-or-less similar to what we thought was the right one from the last test in Jerez and regarding last year's set-up here as well with last year's car, so between everything we chose our set-up and now we are just tuning a little bit.