Bahrain – McLaren’s Fernando Alonso drove the MCL34 during the in-season test at Bahrain’s Sakhir International Circuit on Tuesday.
Alonso, who is officially on a sabbatical from Formula 1 this year, arrived in Bahrain after completing a two day Toyota Gazoo Hilux Dakar test in South Africa. Preparing for his Indy 500 attempt in May, the two time F1 World Champion has been enjoying his time away from the Formula 1 paddock as he tries out other forms of motorsport. However, with McLaren seemingly starting to find their feet this year, he agreed to carry out a tyre test on behalf of Pirelli, driving a second McLaren MCL34 alongside the team’s official test entry.
While Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz and McLaren could experiment with different setups and try out new ideas with his car, Alonso’s MCL34 was restricted to only being permitted to run a previously used race setup. The team were not allowed to make changes to his car, and the run programme was dictated by Pirelli.
He clocked up 64 laps over the day, a low figure due to the rain that affected running on Tuesday. However, his best time was 1:32.2, enough to officially place him P11 of 15 cars. It was the first time he drove an F1 car since the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the end of 2018.
“Today was a positive day in the car. It’s always fun to drive a Formula 1 car as they are the fastest cars in the world, so as a driver it’s nice to feel the speed and the adrenaline.” said Alonso.
Asked for his thoughts on the new car compared to the one he drove last year, he praised it by saying: “The car is a step forward in every aspect from last year. The car has more grip, it’s less draggy on the straights, the engine is a step better, so overall as a package the car is going in the right direction and we’re closer to the front. We saw in the first two races that there is still another step to make if you want to compete with the top three teams, but as a first step I think it’s a good baseline and there’s a good programme of development.”
McLaren looked competitive in Bahrain, the first truly fast showing from the team in quite some time. Alonso was quick to dispel any notion that he is looking on with longing from the sidelines: “It was good to see a positive weekend for us in Bahrain last weekend and hopefully this continues for the rest of the season. I have no regrets about my decision to stop racing in Formula 1 and I’m very happy for the team.”