Fernando Alonso says he cannot be disappointed with 12th on the grid for the opening round of the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship season, since the McLaren represents a big improvement on its predecessor.

Twelve months after the Honda-powered MP4-30 proved woefully off the pace and unreliable, the MP4-31 has proven a competitive mid-field package and might have stood to qualify higher had Alonso and Jenson Button not been caught out by the unpopular new qualifying format.

Sat in 12th position after one flying lap in Q2, Alonso watched himself be eliminated from the pit lane after McLaren ran out of tyres to send him back out to defend himself. Despite this, Alonso was delighted that - in the equal super-soft conditions of the first Q2 run - to be 10th fastest, just 1.2secs off the Mercedes'.

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With this in mind, he says he can probably fight for points in the Australian Grand Prix race.

"The car is fantastic, I felt very competitive and I felt good with the car all weekend. Quite comfortable and we seem more competitive.

"It is an obvious step forward. I am happy with the car and I enjoyed the weekend. I was able to enjoy driving in free practice, trouble-free weekend for us so far so it was a positive step. Coming back from last year in Mexico I was not able to participate in the race because we had a problem, in Brazil I was on that chair more times than the track.

"We came out of Barcelona not knowing the performance with this new car and we were happy and surprised. Still a long way to go and we don't want to be 12th and 13th, we want to be 1st and 2nd. For that it is the biggest step of all to find the last piece of performance. A long way to go but a starting point to make us happy."