Sepang: Fernando Alonso focused on the positives after he and McLaren team mate Jenson Button qualified on the penultimate row of the Malaysian Grand Prix grid on Saturday.
Teething problems with the new Honda engine have left the former champions with plenty of catching up to do yet, despite having to start from 18th place on Sunday, the Spaniard was delighted with the progress made since Australia.
"Our form today wasn`t unexpected but I think our performance so far this weekend has maybe been better than I`d have anticipated before arriving here in Malaysia," said the double world champion.
Alonso sat out the season-opening grand prix in Melbourne two weeks ago after crashing in winter-testing in Barcelona last month. Button crawled home 11th and last in that race while stand-in Kevin Magnussen failed to start.
"In fact, I`d say the progress we`ve made since Australia has been fantastic, we`re much closer to the cars in front now but we`re still under-performing and we still need to improve," added the Spaniard.
"However, the steps we`re taking with the car show a lot of progress, so I`m optimistic that I won`t be qualifying in Q1 for that much longer.
"This isn`t an ideal position from which to start the race, but I`m fully aware that McLaren-Honda is a long-term project: we want to beat Mercedes, and to do that you need time, and to be prepared to take your chances as they come."
Button echoed his team mate`s sentiments and admitted that the speed at which McLaren have closed the gap on the cars in front was a good sign.
"Before qualifying, I think we`d have hoped to be a bit closer to the cars in front of us, but this weekend has seen us take a massive step forward in performance," said the Briton, who will start from 17th on the grid.
"Also, I think our race pace and our consistency over a long run look like giving us a little extra. I`d like to think we could get closer to some of the cars in front tomorrow; that`ll be something to look forward to.
"There are a lot of positives to take from this weekend: we`ve made a big step forwards in terms of pace. There`s more to come from the engine and the aero package but we know what to do."