Fernando Alonso says he is quietly confident McLaren-Honda can finally crack the final portion of qualifying in Russia after a positive first day of free practice in Sochi.

Though the Spaniard began ninth in the United States Grand Prix - the best starting position for the McLaren-Honda team since 2015 -, the truncated rain-hit qualifying session means neither her nor Jenson Button have partaken in Q3 for 23 consecutive events.

However, after Button and Alonso ended FP2 in eighth and tenth, the two-time world champion is positive about the MP4-31's potential over a single lap, though he is aware previous Friday efforts haven't translated to similarly eye-catching qualifying results since the team cannot 'turn up' the engine like rivals.

"I think to be close to Q3 would be good news for us and if we can get one car into Q3 that would be even better. I think it's possible, we know that results on Friday sometimes looks a little bit too optimistic for us and then Saturday when everyone turns the engine on we struggle a little bit more.

"The car felt good, not 100 per cent, I think there is still room to improve in terms of set up, so I think there is a little bit more to come from McLaren and let's see if that's enough to be in Q3."