Fernando Alonso believes McLaren-Honda has trimmed up to 1.5secs off its lap times relative to its rivals in the break between the Australian Grand Prix and the Malaysian Grand Prix, labelling the car as a 'a big step forward'.

Getting his first track time in the MP4-30 since the accident in pre-season testing that ruled him out of the Australian Grand Prix opener, Alonso was quickly up to speed in the Honda-powered car at Sepang, out-pacing team-mate Jenson Button in both FP1 and FP2.

Indeed, the Spaniard says he is delighted to be back in action and was equally impressed with the reduced margin to the front, which stood at less than three seconds after FP2. Though he doesn't expect that remain the case in qualifying, he is nonetheless confident McLaren has found more than a second since Melbourne.

Related Articles

"[The car is] Much better," he said. "The experience that we had in winter it was a lot of problems after four or five laps, but today we ran 45 laps with zero problems, everything went as we predicted.

"I am curious to see tomorrow if we have a dry qualifying how much we improve. In Melbourne we were 4.6secs behind pole position, here I think we are in a window of 3 or 3.5secs, so it is 1sec or 1.5secs to gain in two weeks, so good progress."

Adding that the car is easy to drive and gives him confidence to 'push to the limit', Alonso is particularly impressed with the reliability in such challenging conditions, even if he accepts there is a larger margin for improvement at this stage in the development process.

"My last experience was in testing, where we did 7 laps, 9 laps or 11 laps and something would go wrong. Today we completed a completely normal programme and nothing happened to the car. It was much more competitive than in Australia, so overall it has been a very good Friday for the team. We know that we are so far off that it is very easy to improve at this early stage."