The overriding storyline ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix concerns the return to the cockpit of McLaren driver Fernando Alonso after missing the opening race in Australia.
The double world champion has been passed fit for duty after being hospitalised following a crash in the last days of winter testing and it’s great news for him and the sport that Alonso is back.
Speaking ahead of Formula One’s second race of the season, Alonso was in jubilant mood.
“I’m one of the happiest people in the world,” he said. “I have a challenge in front of me. A tough challenge, clearly. I understand we are too far back and will be heavily criticised and that will be fair.
“It is difficult but it is going to taste better when we do it.”
Alonso is correct in his assessment that McLaren are too far back after a winter of discontent in which their new alliance with engine makers Honda has caused the car’s promising performances of last season to deteriorate alarmingly.
Teammate Jenson Button was last of 11 finishers in Melbourne as McLaren struggled to get enough power from their Honda unit, though they were not alone in a weekend of acute teething troubles for F1’s teams.
Now Alonso returns to one of his favourite circuits, where the Spaniard is a three-time winner, the generic early-season unreliability could end up playing into his hands, especially if the forecasted rain arrives in Kuala Lumpur.
Precipitation, especially for the inexperienced drivers, is always a factor which can help bridge deficits, as those best able to cope with conditions prosper, while others either drive to cautiously or even spin.
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