Alonso return takes focus off Mercedes

Wed Mar 25, 2015 3:02am EDT
 
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By John O'Brien

SEPANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - Formula One rolls into Malaysia this week for the second round of the championship at the Sepang International Circuit, where talk surrounding the utter dominance of Mercedes will for once take a back seat to the belated arrival of Fernando Alonso.

The season-opening Australian Grand Prix bordered on the farcical as defending world champion Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two ahead of Nico Rosberg in a race where only 13 of a possible 20 cars were racing by the end of the first lap.

Mechanical failure, under-prepared cars and injury accounted for most of the withdrawals but double world champion Alonso was unable to even make the trip to Melbourne following a pre-season crash at Barcelona last month on his return to McLaren.

Sitting out the race in order to minimize the chance of suffering sudden-impact syndrome, Alonso will be keen to get reacquainted with a team where he spent an unhappy season in 2007 but judging by McLaren's performance in Australia, any joy is expected to be short-lived.

Struggling for pace and reliability with the new Honda engine, McLaren team mate Jenson Button crawled around Albert Park to cross the line last of the 11 finishers, while Alonso's stand-in Kevin Magnussen failed to start the race due to engine issues.

The Spaniard will be hoping the team have been able to make significant improvements since Australia two weeks ago and can at least make the car competitive enough to keep pace with the back-markers, something that was out of reach in Melbourne.

"I watched the weekend in Australia very closely and I was in touch with the team from the moment they arrived," Alonso said of the season-opener.

"It's clear we have a lot of work ahead of us but Jenson's result in Melbourne was encouraging from the point of view of reliability and data collection, which are extremely important."   Continued...

 
McLaren's Formula One driver Fernando Alonso of Spain gestures to the media as he leaves a hospital where he has been hospitalized since Sunday, in Sant Cugat, north of Barcelona February 25, 2015. REUTERS/Albert Gea/Files