Alonso revels in 'perfect' Spanish GP qualifying

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Fernando Alonso's Spaniard McLaren-Honda still suffered a major breakdown in the free practice of the Spanish GP today.

Instead, Alonso went from surprise to surprise, making the cut from the first session that eliminated the slowest five drivers, then surviving the second cut to reach the remaining 10 drivers for the first time this season. "It's a nice surprise", Alonso told Sky Sports.

Alonso's auto was lifted onto a recovery truck with oil and water pouring out from the back.

"What can you do?"

"It's not my career", Alonso said. "I will race in the Indy 500, one of the biggest races in the world".

Hamilton was fastest in 1 minute, 19.149 seconds, with Vettel only 0.051 behind.

"I didn't want to spend the morning on the sofa watching television".

"I don't think that 50 is enough", said Alonso when asked after qualifying if an extra 50bhp would allow him to be on pole. But that is what Fridays are for. The race is tomorrow, the points they give tomorrow, we need to maintain this position if possible and take some points home.

After failing to make Q2 for the fifth time this season, Stoffel Vandoorne was left perplexed as to where his McLaren's performance disappeared to during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix.

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"Yesterday was not a normal session", added Alonso.

Alonso said he would be open to offers for next year if by late summer he had not been convinced that McLaren-Honda could provide a winning auto. Alonso has already made a decision to try his luck at the Indianapolis 500 instead of the Monaco GP this month. Rumor has it that he could return to Renault, with which he won his two world championships over a decade ago, or that he could take Kimi Raikkonen's place alongside Sebastian Vettel back at Ferrari again.

With Mercedes sporting a new funky nose to its Silver Arrows, Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas led both the morning and afternoon sessions. "It was tricky for us", Hamilton said.

Vettel wasn't pleased coming in behind the Mercedes, and put the burden on himself to get more out of his vehicle that has given Mercedes its first real challenge in years.

Alonso, who has half his $40m (£31.1m) salary paid by Honda, has had engine issues in three of four races.

"I don't know what Mercedes was up to".

"I was expecting to do a bit better today but it looks like we lost quite a bit of performance and have no real explanation for it". "But I wasn't happy". The upgrades are working fine but I felt fine with the auto. "It is a question of getting it right".

"A gust of wind could be victory", Hamilton said.

Practice will resume on Saturday before qualifying for Sunday's race.