Fernando Alonso said he “had fun” on his return to Formula 1 racing, despite not being able to finish the race due to brake issues.
The two-time World Champion has come back into the sport this season following two years away, joining the newly-named Alpine, formerly known as Renault.
Nobody quite knew where they ranked among their midfield competitors during testing and it did not become much clearer following practice.
But Alonso showed his ability in the car during qualifying, as he claimed P9 in Q3, compared to his team-mate Esteban Ocon who was eliminated during the first session.
Things did not go quite as well for Alonso on Sunday in Bahrain, though, as he was forced to retire from the race on lap 34.
Speaking in the paddock after the season opener, Alonso explained: “Apparently there were some debris on the brake cooling duct, so that’s a little bit unlucky because there’s a hole of this size (a small shape) and to get some debris there is a bad casualty but apparently that is what happened today.
“But we have to take it and learn, and until that point it was fun. It was a fun race to be out there and have some battles with my colleagues and hopefully in Imola we will be ready and try again.”
Renault last season finished P5, behind rivals McLaren and Racing Point, and it looks like it will be another tight battle in the midfield in 2021.
AlphaTauri seem to have made progress since last year, with the team looking strong during pre-season and the opening race weekend, despite Pierre Gasly’s DNF, while McLaren also look good with their new Mercedes engine.
There is still not a complete picture, though, of how the teams compare to each other, and Alonso recognises that his team have some work to do ahead of the next race in Imola in three weeks’ time.
He told Formula1.com: “I think we still need to improve, I think it’s very close in the midfield, a couple of tenths change a lot of positions.
“So we will have to fine tune things and execute to perfection every race because more mistakes can cost a lot of positions in qualifying and in the race, so it’s going to be a very interesting season I think for you to watch.”