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Fernando Alonso Q&A: McLaren must be ready to seize chances

17 Sep 2016

Fernando Alonso was hoping for more from qualifying at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, but with varying race strategies amongst the front runners, not to mention the potential for safety car interruptions, he still believes this could be a good race for McLaren...

Q: Fernando, it was a tough qualifying session for all the drivers today. How was it for you?

Fernando Alonso: It was tough. The pace was unfortunately not really great today. We struggled in Q2 with one car out and the other making it into Q3 but only finishing ninth. But that’s the way it is. My guess is that we can do something in the race by running a good strategy. But as I just said the pace was not really great so it will all not be very easy.

Q: On Thursday it looked as if McLaren could be the best of the rest after the three front-runners – but obviously that has gone up in smoke. What’s missing?

FA: Well, I think we are more or less in that position. Just that Toro Rosso is surprisingly good here. Or let's put it differently: they obviously have a car that is good for street circuits – with a lot of downforce. But aside from this particular Singapore track we should be ahead of them at every race that we go to from here. So the ambition is still there to be the fourth quickest team for the rest of the season and hopefully we can show that tomorrow in the race.

Q: What was the target today?

FA: Probably being in P7. So we just missed the target. But in the end it was important to make it to Q3 – that was achieved – and then finishing in the points in the race should make our weekend. Probably this street circuit is not the perfect fit for our car but there are other tracks coming with completely different layouts and that should suit us much better, that is my guess.

Q: Jenson (Button) mentioned that the race pace should be much better than this single lap speed – is that where you pin your hopes?

FA: Yes, definitely and as I just said with a good strategy there should be more in it for us than today's qualifying result. We know that this track is tricky and a safety car is rather normal than the exception, so you have to manoeuvre cleverly and be there if a chance comes your way. My guess is that the first corner will be crucial and a lot will depend on in which position you come out of it. That will also have quite a huge impact on the strategy that you will run for the race. The engineers will have to do some homework to develop scenarios for the race and come up with the best strategy for every different scenario. But whatever they will come up with one thing is for sure: it will be full attack.

Q: Do you expect to finish ahead of Toro Rosso tomorrow?

FA: That will probably be pretty difficult. They have clearly had the stronger weekend so far but the race is the race. So everything is possible - especially on a track like this.

Q: Yesterday you were rather pessimistic. But making it into Q3 is not the worst thing…

FA: Q3 was the aim. But what would have happened if Vettel didn’t have his issues? That would have been a pretty narrow thing. Yes, we changed some things on the set-up from yesterday and in my case it really worked.

Q: You said that you want to get good points tomorrow. To achieve that you have to be pretty smart here in Singapore. Do you think it is possible to get more points than your grid position would suggest?

FA: My prediction is that there will be a lot of action, especially in the first ten laps, so you have to indeed be smart and not get involved in any unnecessary action. Flexibility will be one of the key words tomorrow, to be able to react immediately to any new situation. The pit stop time will also be crucial so we have to study everything well tonight.

Q: So far every race here had a safety car. When you say that you have to study everything well, does that include the possible safety car?

FA: You cannot possibly think about a definite safety car - that would be reading the crystal ball - but what you can do is to make plans for your reaction when it comes: do you stop or not, which tyres will we put on in what phase of the race. As I said, a lot of thinking will go on tonight. Not only at our team. Probably you will see a lot of smoke over the paddock tonight from all the brains smouldering like chimneys! (Laughs)