Australian GP: McLaren F1 team's result a 'big contrast' to 2017

McLaren's strong showing in the Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix was "a big contrast" to its initial struggles last year, according to the team's drivers

Australian GP: McLaren F1 team's result a 'big contrast' to 2017

Fernando Alonso's fifth place, in McLaren's first race with Renault engines, matched the best result the team achieved at any point in its three previous years with Honda.

Stoffel Vandoorne added two further points for ninth, marking a significant improvement for McLaren from 12 months earlier in Melbourne when Alonso retired and Vandoorne finished two laps down.

"The first race of the season and both cars in the points today is a great result for the team," Vandoorne said.

"Getting points here, it's a big contrast to last year. For an opening race we can be very happy.

"We started off a lot better. We we were fighting with Renault and Red Bull cars.

"To kick off the season like this with a new engine partnership is a very, very good start."

Alonso, who started 11th after missing out on a spot in the third part of qualifying on Saturday, said the performance was "more or less as expected" as McLaren anticipated it would be stronger in race trim than over one lap.

Having been particularly frustrated by the Honda engine's shortcomings in wheel-to-wheel battle in recent years, the Spaniard admitted racing with the Renault power unit in the car was "a different feeling".

"It was a good race and a good start," he said. "It's always much better for team morale to start on a good result.

"We knew yesterday that the race pace was probably stronger than the qualifying pace.

"It was great to see both McLarens in the points in the first race and also to be able to fight, wheel-to-wheel, with other cars.

"We are able to defend, we are able to attack, things that in the last couple of years we were not able [to do], so it's going to be much more fun this year."

While Alonso suggested a top five finish was a possibility after qualifying, he conceded his race result was fortuitous.

"Obviously today we got lucky with the two Haas retirements, and Carlos [Sainz Jr] had a problem in Turn 9, and then there was a safety car and we overtook [Max] Verstappen," said Alonso.

"So let's say that four or five places were just because the conditions were in our favour.

"But we did no mistakes, we capitalise on everything, and [it was] perfect job from the team."

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