Fernando Alonso remains in an upbeat mood despite his and Jenson Button's early exit from qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Spaniard, making his return to F1 competition this weekend, failed to make it out of Q1 as McLaren continues to struggle for pace with his MP4-30, his 18th place grid slot marking his worst qualifying performance since 2010, also at Sepang.

Nonetheless, Alonso feels the car has made a big step forward compared with its results in Australia, both he and Button slicing six tenths off the margin on the lead car in Q1 and is optimistic it isn't an ignominy he will experience much more.

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"It was not too difficult or unexpected. We are struggling with the pace, but we are much better than we thought coming here to Malaysia. We are underperforming a lot and we need to improve but the steps we are making in the car show a lot of progress. I don't think I will be talking to you after Q1 for long.

"I think we need to learn so many things on the car. Running in the wet would be the first time we do it, so if it rains tomorrow it will be another learning session for us. The pit-stops, the starts, the formation laps, it will be the first time I have done it because in the tests I was unable to do it."