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Alonso upbeat despite slow start
March 15, 2008 14:59 IST
Fernando Alonso [Images] did his best to put a positive spin on his disappointing return to Renault at the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.
After being near the front of the grid for most of the past four seasons, the former two-time world champion had to settle for a place in the middle of the pack.
He qualified 12th fastest for Sunday's season-opening race but will start from 11th after Toyota's Timo Glock dropped back five places for changing a gearbox.
Alonso won the Australian Grand Prix in 2006 and finished on the podium in 2004, 2005 and 2007 but said he is setting his sights a lot lower this year.
"With the starting position, aiming for points will be our target," he told reporters.
"We have to be realistic. We are not quite ready yet but we will try to improve our position.
"It was not a great result but we'll try to do our best in the race."
Alonso won the world title with Renault in 2005 and 2006 before switching to McLaren last season but knows his prospects of a triumphant return to the French team this year are gloomy.
His team mate, Nelson Piquet Jr, qualified way back in 21st position but Alonso said there are still plenty of positives.
"In the second qualifying session, we were something like eight-tenths [of a second] behind the fastest team," he said.
"That was a little bit of a nice surprise because we are closer than we thought we would be.
"We still have a lot of work to do but we knew that. The good thing is that the gap is smaller than we expected.
"We have a double job tomorrow, to try to recover places and not lose any to people behind us."
Alonso was unlucky not to have qualified higher up the grid after posting a fastest lap time around one minute 26.0 seconds in the second qualifying session.
That would have been enough to get him into the top ten and the last qualifying section but the lap was not counted because of an accident.
"When I crossed the line and I saw the display, I thought I was in but they cancelled the lap because there was a red flag 100 metres before I crossed the line," he said.
"It's disappointing but I'm not using it as an excuse... the result has been bad because we were not competitive.
"It has been a hard weekend for the team. We've had some mechanical problems and it's a tricky circuit here in Melbourne but we will improve for sure for [the next race] in Malaysia."
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