Fernando Alonso played down his early setback on the opening day of pre-season testing, suggesting some rivals had "big troubles", and insisted that the McLaren-Renault partnership has “huge potential”.
Alonso caused the first red flag of the pre-season schedule when a wheel nut issue sent his MCL33 into the gravel through the final corner, with the right-rear tyre detaching in the process.
Alonso spent the next few hours in the pit lane before returning shortly before the lunch break and wound up seventh overall, with a chunk of the afternoon session compromised by wet weather.
When asked for his thoughts about his off, Alonso said: “[I thought] that it was a good day for you guys [the media]!
“I thought exactly that because this is a very, very small problem, but very graphic, very obvious.
“A car in the gravel makes a big thing, but there are six teams in the garage with the door closed, with the car in pieces — but there is no picture of that.
“So there are a lot of teams in trouble, big trouble, and for us with a wheel nut it will make the thing of the day. So I thought about all of you!
“We didn’t plan to run in the morning much, we were on a different programme.
“When we had that issue we reverse the programme, we didn’t have as big a stop for lunch that we planned.
“We had a normal day in the afternoon, I’m the one who did the most laps in the afternoon. Others had a bit too many issues but [for us] it’s a very good start.
“The car felt very good here, good potential, also I think the performance side it is very early to say but everything seems to be in line with our expectations and the windtunnel and the data we had before coming to the team. So I think everything is quite optimistic.”
Alonso finished the day with 48 laps under his belt, and was lifted by the performance of Renault’s power unit, after three years of using Honda engines.
“Obviously it’s very early days but the car was running fine, the engine was running fine,” he said.
“I know a lot of people from Renault from my past, so 80 per cent of the guys in the garage, I know them.
“I know how hard they work, I know them, I know how good they work and how much attention they pay to driveability, to performance of the engine, so every nice was a good chat with them — both at the filming day and also here.
“Everything is running very smooth, quite good. There are a few things that we are trying to change and trying to adapt, but so far – on the engine side especially – extremely happy.
“I think there is a huge potential on the McLaren-Renault team.”
McLaren team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne will take over testing duties of the MCL33 on Tuesday.