Alonso, Button upbeat after reaching Q2 in Australia

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McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button both felt upbeat after reaching the second stage of qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

McLaren enters the new season looking to bounce back from a disastrous 2015 campaign that saw it score just 27 points across the course of the year.

Many of the British team’s stemmed from issues with the Honda power unit, but problems such as deployment and the level of power output appear to have been remedied ahead of the new season.

Alonso and Button qualified 12th and 13th for Sunday’s season-opener in Melbourne, and both were pleased with the performance of the MP4-31 car in the dry conditions.

“The car was fantastic today. I felt very comfortable and very happy with the performance of the car all weekend,” Alonso said.

“We didn’t expect to be too fast here because our car is still limited in performance in certain areas, but we were more competitive than we anticipated, have some new things coming for in the next few races, and we’re looking to be stronger in the future.”

Button was surprised by how well McLaren performed in qualifying, believing that the team will be stronger in race trim on Sunday.

“Twelfth and 13th on the grid is slightly better than we expected before we came here,” Button said.

“The car didn’t feel too bad, although I think people struggled with the drop in temperature between FP3 and qualifying. I enjoyed driving the car, although, at the end of Q2, we didn’t have any supersoft tires left, and weren’t quite quick enough.

“Winter testing was positive in terms of mileage, but less so in terms of pace, so we’re all positively surprised with how close we were to Williams and Force India.

“I actually believe we have a better race car than a qualifying car – which is a turnaround from last year – and our deployment is almost as good as anybody else’s, which will benefit us more in the races.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN from 12am ET on Sunday.

Malcolm Stewart sidelined from Supercross by knee surgery for ‘extended duration’

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The knee injury that kept Malcolm Stewart from mounting up for Anaheim 2 will require surgery and he will be sidelined for “an extended duration” of the Monster Energy Supercross season, according to the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team.

“I just wanted to give you guys an update,” Stewart said on Instagram. “It’s not the news you guys want to hear, but I took a spill last week and hurt my knee pretty bad to the point that we’re going to have to get surgery done.

“I’m definitely bummed out about it; I felt we were riding pretty good and were just now starting to get the ball rolling, but it is what it is.”

Stewart’s season started with high expectations until accidents in the first two rounds left him 15th in the standings.

He ended 2022 on a high note, finishing a career high third in the Supercross standings. He then missed the start of the Pro Motocross season with another knee injury.

The 2023 season appeared to live up to his expectations. Despite back-to-back accidents, Stewart contended for podiums at both Anaheim 1 and San Diego. He won his heat at San Diego.

“It was very tough to receive the news that Malcolm will need to undergo knee surgery,” Nathan Ramsey, Team Manager for the Husqvarna team said in a press release. “He has worked so hard to be in a position to win races this year and I truly believe he was ready.

“The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing program will support him in every way that we can through his recovery and we can’t wait to get him back on track and back at the races.”

Stewart joins 250 rider Jalek Swoll on the sidelines after he broke an arm in a practice session. Swoll will be relieved by Talon Hawkins beginning this week at Houston, Texas.

A replacement rider has not been announced for Stewart, which means the focus shifts to his 450 teammate Christian Craig, who currently sits 12th in the standings with three top-15s in the opening rounds.