Alonso hails ‘fantastic’ qualifying as he sets out hopes for race in Jeddah

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Fourth placed qualifier Fernando Alonso of Spain and Aston Martin

Fernando Alonso proved his Thursday FP2 pace was no fluke as he grabbed a brilliant fourth on the grid for Saturday’s Saudi Arabia Grand Prix, firmly inserting his Aston Martin into the mix up front. That tops his sixth on the grid from last weekend – but having gone backwards in the race in Bahrain, how can he stop the same thing occurring in Jeddah?

With Lance Stroll also grabbing a berth in the top 10, Aston Martin can be pleased with their performance, the AMR24 clearly quick over one lap. But the battle behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen – again on pole – is incredibly tight, and Alonso knows he is in for a tough race to hold onto that fourth place.

READ MORE: Verstappen takes pole position for Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as he heads Leclerc and Perez

“It was fantastic for us, the one-lap performance in this car seems very strong,” he said after qualifying. “It was strong in Bahrain, it was strong in all the free practices. Here and now in qualifying we have confirmed we are now in the mix with McLaren, with Mercedes which is a bit of a surprise.

“In Bahrain we were strong on one lap and then finish in our natural position in the race, fifth fastest team behind the top four. So tomorrow we want to avoid that, we start P4 and hopefully we are not falling behind the Mercedes and the McLarens.”

Alonso warns he will be ‘looking in the mirrors’ on race day after ‘fantastic’ P4 in qualifying

Bahrain saw Alonso fall back out of the top 10 after trying a longer overcut second stint, before he recovered back up to ninth at the flag on fresher tyres than his rivals. He came home just ahead of his team mate, but had no answer to the pace of Mercedes and McLaren.

In Jeddah, he has a Red Bull alongside and a Ferrari just ahead of him – but is his race with those cars, or with the papaya ones just behind him?

“[My race is] in the mirrors unfortunately at the moment, we have to have our feet on the ground,” he admitted.

READ MORE: Ferrari super-sub Bearman says missing Q3 in quali debut 'hurts' as Leclerc looks to ‘surprise’ Red Bulls in Saudi

“Five days ago we were clearly the fifth fastest team and I don’t think could have changed so rapidly. We qualified extremely well in the last two events.

“Now, we did some set-up changes to improve the race performance, we will only have the answer tomorrow night after finishing the race. Let’s see, I think it’s a defensive race tomorrow.”

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Aston Martin AMR24

Stroll also made Q3, although he was perplexed as to where his pace went

The race is widely expected to be a one-stop, which might limit the options of pulling something out of the bag strategy-wise. But Alonso’s team mate expects degradation to be high – which could make things interesting when it comes to who can take care of their Pirelli tyres the best.

As for Stroll, he was left slightly frustrated by his qualifying, which unravelled as it went on – something he thinks was unusual enough to warrant an investigation.

HIGHLIGHTS: Catch the best of the action from qualifying in Saudi Arabia as Verstappen takes pole

“Q1 was very good – the car felt really positive. But then I think we might have had some issues in Q3, we need to investigate it. The car felt a bit tricky and then I lost some time in the final sector – which is basically just straights – on my last Q3 lap.

“We need to look into why we weren’t able to go any quicker after Q1 – we were much better at the start of Qualifying than at the end.”



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