Q: Fernando, it’s the first time in a long time that you’ve walked away with a big smile from qualifying...
Fernando Alonso: Oh yes, I am very happy! Both McLarens in Q3 - that is the first time since 2014! So yes, definitely a huge step forward this weekend. (Laughs) I think this track suits our car a bit better and that’s why we’ve been competitive all weekend. This afternoon I was enjoying the tricky conditions very much: finally something different going on in qualifying! In Q2 we were really, really fast - at some point even making the top spot of the timesheet! So yep, this weekend is looking pretty good - and now we have to finish the job tomorrow.
Q: With the cars in parc ferme, are they set up more for the dry or for the wet?
FA: They are completely set up for dry conditions. We were banking on dry conditions for the whole weekend - and then 45 minutes before qualifying there where first all those dark clouds, and then it started to pour - rather unexpected! I think there was this huge dark cloud just over the track! (laughs) This is summer in Budapest, so thunderstorms can happen any time. But the forecast for the race is dry conditions - hopefully!
Q: Can you talk us through your qualifying - especially Q3 and your spin?
FA: I was braking very late into Turn 6 and cut the chicane and clearly lost time there. I wanted to recover some time and was probably overdriving in Turn 8 and 9 and had the spin. That was a little bit of a frustration because I think we could have gained a couple of tenths. So I admit: it was my mistake. But I can live with P7 - it’s the clean side of the track. So far everything is looking good. I have been in P7 all weekend long - so why not step up in the race?
Q: You say that the spin was your mistake: what’s your guess where you could have ended up without that?
FA: Not much, probably we would have been able to get Carlos Sainz’s position (P6) - probably making up a row with Sebastian (Vettel). But that is only a guess. Going out on a pretty damp circuit with dry tyres you have to take a lot of risks, so it was very tricky. I think it was no time for other people to take these kinds of risks as they are eyeing on the championship, so it was a bit easier for us to be brave! (laughs)
Q: If you honestly believe that without your mistake you could have actually ended up in P6 - that is a huge step forward for McLaren as you’ve previously shown good performances on Fridays, but reality has always set in in qualifying and you’ve struggled. But today the reality stayed!
FA: Well, the conditions helped us. Every time the track got dryer and dryer we seem to be less and less competitive, so the perfect conditions for us were in Q2 - but this time Q3 was not a disappointment. The aero package that we are introducing is working - the engine side still has to be improved, but yes, I am happy with how it is going.
Q: Would you go for rain in the race?
FA: Mixed conditions are what would definitely help us. Then we should be in a good position to finish in the points - probably in the double digits. At least that would make a really good weekend for me. And if both cars could finish in the points - even better!