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.