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.