Fernando Alonso’s resurgence continued as he dazzled with Aston Martin in qualifying to secure a front-row start for the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, and with an eye on another podium, the Spaniard believes his AMR23 will be better suited to long runs than hot laps.
It might’ve been his first pole since 2013 had he been able to get the better of the pace-setting Red Bull of Sergio Perez. In the end, the Spaniard was P3 on the timing screens but will line-up second on the grid thanks to Charles Leclerc suffering a ten-place grid drop for a PU-related penalty the Ferrari driver will take in Jeddah.
Speaking in the Jeddah parc ferme immediately after the session, Alonso said: “Qualifying was our week spot in Bahrain but we performed very well [here] so let’s see what we can do. It is amazing. We are confident, we feel very strong. The strongest part is the long-run pace so it should be better on Sunday.”
Later, Alonso added in the team report: “All in all we have to be very happy with starting on the first row of the grid tomorrow. It is a very different circuit compared to Bahrain and to see us fighting in Q3 again is a positive sign.
“The track did evolve during the session, but maybe not as much as we anticipated, especially from Q2 to Q3. Our strength in this package has been on the long runs, so hopefully, we can optimise this as much as possible tomorrow.
“It is very tight between a number of teams so it will be an interesting battle for sure. But with both cars starting inside the top five positions, our main goal is to come away from this race with as many points as possible,” added Alonso.
Stroll: We have a competitive race car, and there is all to play for
In the sister car, Lance Stroll still recovering from his nasty biking accident also had a solid showing to finish P6 on the night; he reported: “The team delivered a really strong qualifying performance and we have put ourselves in a great position to fight for a good haul of points in the race.
“We were not sure whether the pace we saw in Bahrain would translate to such a different circuit here in Jeddah, but the car felt good and we were able to keep pushing the limits throughout qualifying.
“My final lap was going well, and I went purple in the first sector, but I made a small mistake at Turn 22 and lost two or three-tenths. Still, starting fifth is a good result; we have a competitive race car, and there is all to play for on Sunday.”
Aston Martin team boss Mike Krack summed up: “A strong performance by the entire team this week gives us a great opportunity and confidence for [the race].
“We will start from the front row with Fernando and fifth with Lance, and we will continue pushing hard to convert today’s speed into results tomorrow. The lead up to qualifying was pretty smooth: we did our homework on Friday and in final practice, and both drivers were happy with the car balance heading into qualifying.
“We expect a very close race tomorrow with the teams around us. It is usually an intense race here; it can be unpredictable, and you always have to be reactive and avoid mistakes. But we are ready to fight and we know we have a good race car,” declared Krack.