SEPANG, Malaysia (AP) -- In the days leading up to the Malaysian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso justified his decision to move from Ferrari to McLaren by saying he needed to go to a team that was capable of challenging Mercedes.
As the Ferrari team partied in the paddock after winning Sunday's race, and as Alonso pondered a season ahead in a distinctly uncompetitive McLaren, he could have been excused for second thoughts.
His first race for his new team -- he skipped the season opener due to injury from a preseason crash -- ended predictably in retirement as another of the myriad problems with the Honda engine emerged. This time is was a cooling system failure.
Alonso had been braced for a tough start to the season as returning engine supplier Honda plays catch-up to its established rivals, but his comments in the days leading up to the race suggested he believed Ferrari was incapable of challenging for race wins, let alone titles, this season or in the short number of years he has left in F1.
"I could wait and achieve some nice results, yes, but after 14 years of Formula One and two championships, a podium or fourth place or fifth place is no longer a nice result," was Alonso's perspective in a pre-race press conference.
Even after the calculation was proved wrong by Sunday's win by his Ferrari successor Sebastian Vettel, Alonso was accentuating the positive long-term future.
"This whole weekend has been better than I expected," was Alonso's rose-colored post-race assessment.
"Our race pace was surprisingly good. I was running with the pack, and I was even able to catch the Red Bulls before the pit stops. That was a nice surprise."