Half points awarded to those finishing in the top eight in Malaysia may flatter his sixth overall position in the world championship, and he fears for the outcome of the diffuser hearing in Paris this week, but Fernando Alonso insists that Renault can be more of a force as the Formula One season wears on.

Having seen what the Enstone can do to turn around a troubled start to a year, as it did in 2008 - leading to back-to-back victories in Singapore and Japan - the Spaniard is attempting to paint a brighter picture of the opening rounds of 2009. Although the R29 is not as woeful as its predecessor, Alonso has one points finish - fifth in Melbourne - to show for the team's efforts, having been hampered by an ear infection at Sepang even before losing control in the downpour that eventually ended the race. Team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr has yet to trouble the scorers, but Alonso is confident that work ongoing at home can transform the team's potential.

"Absolutely," he insisted, "I believe in this team and we saw last year that they know how to fight back and find performance from the car. It's still very early days and everyone in the team is working hard to develop the R29 so that we can be more competitive in the next few races.

"Obviously, it's difficult to change the car until we get back to Europe, but we have learnt a lot from the first two races and we certainly made progress in Malaysia. Now we need to take another step forward in Shanghai and hopefully score points."

Not capitalising on the mayhem in Malaysia was frustrating for the Spaniard, but he admits that the conditions made life tricky for everyone.

"I was disappointed not to score points in Malaysia, as my aim is to score points at every race this season," he confirmed, "I made an amazing start and was up to third from ninth after the first couple of corners, which showed the clear benefit of our KERS system. However, I was heavy with fuel and it was difficult to defend my position from the cars behind me. Then it started to rain and I went off the circuit before I could change to wet tyres. After that it was all about being on the right tyres at the right
time, but it wasn't easy predicting how heavy the rain would be. It was definitely the right decision to stop the race."

Technical director Bob Bell agreed that the team's performance in Malaysia had not lived up to expectation, but confirmed Alonso's belief that there was more to come from the R29.

"It was clearly below par," he said of Sepang, "We weren't running any new parts, so it was basically the same car we had run in Melbourne, and we saw a similar level of competitiveness. However, during winter testing, we have seen a higher level of performance from the car and so we know there is more to come. It's just that, at the moment, we're not extracting that performance from the car.

"I suspect there is something quite subtle and sensitive that we need to put right, but it's a case of understanding what that is and resolving the issue. There are definitely some changes we will make to the car for China to try and restore our performance to where we want to be, but it won't take us to the front of the field just yet.

"However, the whole team is extremely motivated and working very hard to improve the car. We have some interesting projects going on back at the factory that will add performance to the car, both in the aero and mechanical domains, and everybody is very positive and up for the fight."

Bell also confirmed that there was no plan to ditch the team's KERS system, something that Alonso has used to good effect - particularly defensively - in the opening couple of races.

"We haven't changed our fundamental view that our default position should be to run with KERS as opposed to without it," Bell explained, "There are certainly circuits where running KERS is a distinct advantage - and Malaysia was probably the first of those - although, as the year unfolds, there will be circuits where it may be debatable whether running KERS is an advantage or not. We need to evaluate its merits on a race-by-race basis, but China is definitely a track where we should see a benefit.

"Overall, the system is working well and it gives us the advantages we hoped for, such as making overtaking or defending a position easier, as well as clear benefits at the start of the race."

Piquet, meanwhile, admits that he still needs to raise his game, but is confident of matching the efforts of those back at Enstone.

"I need to make sure I improve my performance in qualifying, so that I can reach Q2 or Q3 and have a good strategy for the race," he conceded, "The team is very motivated and determined to do a good job in China. We improved the car between Australia and Malaysia and we need to continue in this direction to try and get more
from our package in China. I know the guys back at the factory are working really hard to prepare upgrades for later in the year and I'm sure we will continue to get stronger and stronger throughout the season."

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