Fernando Alonso believes McLaren-Honda could have been in with a shout of the points during the Malaysian Grand Prix had he not been forced to retire with technical issues.

Making his high profile return to F1 competition this weekend, Alonso and team-mate Jenson Button started the race on hard tyres from 18th and 17th on the grid, but would make the most of the early safety car period to move onto the softer rubber.

Though somewhat out-of-sync with those around him, Alonso would prove relatively competitive in the mid-field, at one stage ascending to a high of eighth place, only for an ERS cooling issue to eliminate him on lap 21.

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Despite the unfavourable outcome, Alonso is pleased with the obvious step forward made by the team in race trim, even suggesting a points' finish was in the offing.

"The pace was surprisingly good, we were running with the pack and even catching the Red Bulls at the end before the pit stops," he said. "It was a nice surprise and hopefully in China we can make another step forward.

"We were out of sync with some pit stops with the others, but maybe tenth with one point was possible. The real positive thing is that we were able to run with everyone else and we were not the last two cars fighting with each other. This is the first step we had to do and it's good that we've made it already."