Formula 1: Alonso predicts 'big points' for McLaren in Australia

Fernando Alonso says he goes into the 2018 Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix hoping for a top five finish despite McLaren only being 11th and 12th in Melbourne qualifying.

Alonso was eighth in both Friday practice sessions, ahead of McLaren's first F1 race with Renault power, among the frontrunners in the damp part of final practice, seventh in Q1 and then in the same spot early in Q2.

But he was shuffled back to 11th and missed the top 10 shootout as others put in superior final laps.

He insisted he was "happy where I am" and very optimistic for the race.

"I deserved to be P11 today, which is still a very good result in my opinion," said Alonso.

"The performance of the car has been quite good all weekend long.

"Obviously you arrive from winter testing and you want to know where you are exactly in terms of pace compared to your opponents and we discovered that the car was well balanced and competitive from FP1 - especially this morning in damp conditions.

"I think this is a very, very good baseline for the remainder of the season despite the result today.

"Big points are coming for us tomorrow I'm sure and this is a very good start of a new season."

Asked to quantify his prediction of 'big points' and whether he might around sixth or seventh place, Alonso replied "hopefully better".

Alonso admitted he had not got everything possible out of the car in qualifying, and said it was always likely to be quicker on long runs anyway.

"I think the race pace is a bit better than the qualifying pace, that was what we saw on Friday," he said.

"And then here today our position is a little bit lower than the performance we have in the car because we didn't optimise the lap.

"I think last year we saw seven retirements here, so I suspect that the cars we have in front of us may not all finish.

"There are interesting battles there in front of us, so we need to stay calm, stay focused, finish the race and with the performance we have in the car that will be big points."

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