Fourth place, some regrets, but also confidence for tomorrow. Fernando Alonso’s Australian Saturday gave him a second row behind the two Mercedes, but ahead of the two Ferraris, one of the goals that the Spaniard had set himself before the start of the weekend.
The surprise was precisely the Stella, capable of placing its two single-seaters in second and third position respectively with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, thus capitalizing on a situation that played in their favor both in terms of strategy and the car’s potential.
With Sergio Perez’s Red Bull eliminated in Q1, Alonso was among the favorites to clinch that front row seat alongside Max Verstappen, who took pole instead, but it was the Brackley-based team’s drivers who prevailed.
A result which, however, Alonso is not surprised, partly because the AMR23 has shown that it has something less in qualifying than the race pace, partly because, with such small gaps, even a single tenth can make the difference by climbing positions in ranking.
“No, I’m not surprised. Within a tenth you can find yourself in different positions, but the Mercedes were very strong in Jeddah and they were also yesterday in FP2, so I think they will be fierce competition tomorrow,” explained the Spaniard from Aston Martin.
Overall, Alonso is convinced that Mercedes has a better car than it might appear from the outside. The W14 was presented in Australia without major news but, in the meantime, the German company has concentrated on set-up tests that could also guarantee some indications for the future.
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
“In Jeddah I think Sunday [i piloti Mercedes] they had a wheelbase one tenth less than us. Here, yesterday they were in P2 with Lewis in FP2. If you read their comments, it looks like they have a car out of Q3, but I don’t think it’s that bad,” added Alonso.
“It’s not as good as Red Bull – nobody has a car close to Red Bull – but they are improving and will soon be in contention for wins. They did it last year and won a race after a very bad start, so I think this year they are showing the potential they have. But in our case, especially with Checo [Perez] out of Q1, we will try to have a good race without mistakes. If we can get on the podium, great. If it will be P4, ok. If it’s P5, ok”.
Despite the fourth-place finish, Alonso believes that Melbourne was Aston Martin’s best qualifying performance this season, not so much in terms of positions, but in terms of gap from the poleman.
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23
Photo by: Lionel Ng / Motorsport Images
“In terms of performance, this was probably the best qualifying for us of the three. We are closer to pole position, so I feel fast, the car is easy to drive and I like it. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow: the Mercedes are were very fast in Q3 and they did a better job, but let’s see tomorrow if we can challenge them.”.
An important aspect confirmed thanks to this start to the season concerns the different approach that Aston Martin is beginning to adopt in the way it experiences the weekend, including in the choice of tires to be exploited. Attention is no longer shifted to the midfield teams, but to the top teams: “In Bahrain we were a bit surprised by the pace of the winter tests. It sounded too good to be true and we confirmed it in Jeddah and now we’ve confirmed it here.”
“Now we approach the weekends looking more at the top teams and that changed our approach in FP1 a bit, it changed our tire selections for qualifying, the laps you do in qualifying don’t need to be too crazy because you know that you will go through Q1 and Q2. Yes, it’s changed a lot and it makes things a bit easier, so I’m happy,” added Alonso.
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