Fernando Alonso may have left Albert Park with a clutch of points in his pocket, but both the double world champion and his Renault team openly admit that the first grand prix of the season had fallen far below expectation.

Both also point to the quirky nature of the Melbourne parkland circuit, however, explaining that its seldom-used tarmac and unusual layout may have helped exacerbate shortcoming in the R29 package that may not be so apparent on this weekend's trip to Malaysia.

Alonso moved up to fifth place once Jarno Trulli's time penalty had been confirmed by the stewards, but had struggled to make progress in the race having missed the cut for the final phase of qualifying, and only been able to start from tenth once the luckless Toyota team had been demoted to the back of the grid for a technical irregularity.

"Considering how our weekend went in Australia, we have to be happy to have come away with some points," the Spaniard admitted, "I lost a lot of positions at the start of the race as I had to avoid the first corner accident in front of me and, from then on, I was at the back of the field and fighting to recover the lost ground.

"As usual, the first race of the year was quite eventful, however, and, in the closing stages, we were able to take advantage of the incidents to move up into fifth position. But, although it's nice to have the points, we know we must work hard to improve the car - and we have the belief that we can do that."

Sepang 2008 came at the wrong time for the Renault squad, with Alonso having to help bring the R28 up to speed, qualifying ninth and gaining only one position at the chequered flag. Last season, however, showed just what Renault could do in turning around a miserable start to the campaign, and the Spaniard is confident that it can do the same in 2009 - and at a quicker rate.

"Sepang is totally different to Melbourne, so I expect our car to be more suited to the circuit," he pointed out, "It's a special track for me as I've won there twice and it's probably my favourite circuit, so I always enjoy racing there whatever.

"There are lots of fast, sweeping corners and it's a circuit where you can really appreciate the performance of an F1 car. In terms of our competitiveness, I hope we will be stronger there but, as we saw in Melbourne, all the teams are very closely matched and we will have to fight hard to finish in the points.

"In Australia, we struggled in qualifying - and our race suffered as a result. We need to make sure we qualify well so that we can have a strong race. We also need to make sure we get the most from our KERS system at the start of the race as there is a long run to the first corner, where it should make a big difference. We must also concentrate on understanding the tyres because Melbourne showed that the two compounds play a major role in determining the performance of the car. This will be particularly important in Malaysia."

Despite the quick turnaround between events - the teams arrived to set up at Sepang on Tuesday, technical director Bob Bell shares Alonso's optimism that the regie can be more of a factor this weekend.

"I don't think we lived up to the expectations that we set ourselves before Australia," he conceded. "We thought we would be more competitive than the performance we actually delivered, although I suspect part of that is due to the nature of the track. Albert Park is a circuit that didn't really suit the characteristics of the car, so we suspected we might be in for a difficult weekend. We now have to work to try and understand why that was the case and rectify it as best we can in time for Malaysia.

"It was a surprise [to see] a group of teams behind the Brawn cars that were particularly closely matched. That's surprising as we expected the new regulations to spread the pack out a little bit more, which is what normally happens. Normally, you only get such parity when the regulations have been in place for a year or so, as it allows the teams to converge on the optimum design solutions.

"It's just surprising how close it was in Melbourne and it will be interesting to see if this continues in Sepang this weekend."