Alpine’s Fernando Alonso says he expects to see “a few surprises” when teams finally reveal their true pace at Formula 1’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend.

Attempting to establish any kind of competitive order based on pre-season alone has proven to be a near-impossible task given the many permutations at play.

McLaren, Alpine and AlphaTauri all enjoyed a notably strong winter test and the midfield pack looks to have converged even more amid a carry-over of significant car parts and relatively stable rules, while Red Bull appeared to hold the edge over the field, including the dominant Mercedes squad.

Returning two-time world champion Alonso believes a first glimpse of the 2021 pecking order will begin to emerge on Saturday during qualifying in Bahrain.

“We covered a lot of mileage during testing, which is important as it gives you something to build on for the rest of the season,” Alonso said.

"We also completed most of our programme during the three days in Bahrain, so we are relatively pleased on that front.

“In terms of performance it’s too early to tell, and I think we won’t know the true pecking order of the grid until the first qualifying session on Saturday where everyone has low fuel, the fastest tyres fitted and full power from the engine. I expect there will be a few surprises.”

Fernando Alonso - Alpine F1 Team [2021]

The 39-year-old - who will race with titanium plates in the jaw he fractured in a cycling accident last month - said he has left no stone unturned ahead of his F1 comeback after two years away.

“Ever since I agreed to join Alpine F1 Team, I have put a lot of effort in to be both physically and mentally prepared for this season,” he explained.

“I learnt a lot in my time away from Formula 1, especially all the different styles of racing, but I’m now back in F1 and very motivated for what should be a challenging season ahead.

“It was fun to be back at the wheel of an F1 car for testing, but now I can’t wait to go racing."