For all McLaren-Honda's woes in 2015, Fernando Alonso insists that he is happy to see racing get underway again, as the 2016 F1 world championship kicks off in Australia this weekend.
The Spaniard endured his worst season for a long time last year, littering it with 'memorable moments' such as referring to his engine as only being good enough for GP2 and taking time to watch the action from a deckchair following yet another mechanical failure, but is keen to see what improvements the winter has brought from Woking and Japan.
“It's been a very long winter – the longest I can remember without F1 – so I'm really looking forward to getting back in the car," the double world champion commented, "[Melbourne] is always exciting to drive, partly because of its street circuit nature – tight run-off areas, a bumpy surface and low grip, but also because everyone is impatient to go racing again."
Having had just four days of pre-season testing to get used to the new MP4-31 and its reworked Honda V6, Alonso heads 'down under' with a lot still to learn about his mount and how it matches up to the likes, not only of pacesetters Mercedes and Ferrari, but potential midfield rivals Toro Rosso, Force India, Sauber and Renault. Add to that subtle rule changes governing topics as diverse as radio communication and tyre strategy, and the 2016 season looks set to bring a number of other challenges to the teams and drivers.
“This year, it'll be interesting to see how everyone's tyre choices play out, and the strategy each team picks, but it's only on Sunday afternoon that we'll get to see where we really are," Alonso admitted, having selected just one set of Pirelli's mandatory soft compound for Albert Park and pair it with multiple sets of the soft and supersoft Italian rubber.
"On Friday and Saturday, we'll be working hard to predict the track's characteristics on race day, and focusing on setting up the car in its final specification," he continued, before adding perhaps the most important nugget of all, "It'll also be interesting to see how the improvement in the power unit deployment pans out on this tricky circuit.”
With all 22 drivers no doubt sharing Alonso's desire to get back into battle, however, the Spaniard is aware that a cool head could bring early reward in what looks set to be a tough year.
"Usually everyone is eager and it's quiet common for there to be some drama off the line in the first race," he noted, "The important thing is to get a good start..."