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Alonso: We were in the middle of no one's race

Alonso: We were in the middle of no one’s race

Alonso: We were in the middle of no one's race

Fernando Alonso admitted Aston Martin were in the middle of no one’s race during the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix, finishing ninth after qualifying sixth.

Aston Martin were a bit of an unknown entity after pre-season testing, but it was evident that they were not as good as they were at the start of the 2023 Formula 1 season, when they started second best behind Red Bull.

But in qualifying on Friday in Bahrain last week, Fernando Alonso dragged the AMR24 to sixth on the grid in an impressive effort, but the race on Saturday painted a different picture for Aston Martin.

Alonso, feisty as he can be, could not manage to finish higher than ninth, placing Aston Martin at the bottom of the top five teams – Red Bull first, following by Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren too close to call yet, then the Astons.

However the 2005 and 2006 F1 Champion insisted the result was not a surprise for Aston Martin, he said: “Today [Saturday] I think is exactly what we expected.

“Our simulations were saying that we were around P9 with not much fight in front of us. The top four teams a little bit too much ahead and with comfortable gap behind. And [it] is exactly like that. I think I had the McLarens 18 seconds ahead and the Saubers 28 seconds behind. So we were in the middle of no one’s race,” he explained.

Alonso also claimed his qualifying result was not a real indication of the AMR24’s actual pace as it was an exceptional lap that he delivered.

“We are lacking pace for sure,” he declared. “I think yesterday [qualifying Friday] laps is something to study – why we were so fast. So, I think the race was normal. What was exceptional was yesterday’s lap.”

Aston Martin had a flying start to their 2023 F1 season, but then faded away with every race as Mercedes, Ferrari, and McLaren out-developed them, while a late-season upgrade for failed to improve the AMR23.

But Alonso claims the team are having a different approach in 2024, targeting to start with a decent package but making sure it is developed properly over the course of the season.

A different approach for Aston Martin in 2024

“When I went to the factory in Christmas, and in January, the expectations were very realistic,” the Spaniard said. “We knew what kind of step we were making over winter. But I think we changed completely the philosophy of how to approach the championship with a good starting point, but then a very continuous progress during the season.

“Last year we put everything I think at the beginning and then we were not able to react to the fast pace of the top teams. So, we have more hopes this year in the second part of the championship, let’s say.

“Obviously, we need to reconfirm that in a few weeks time and a few races time. But I’m confident. I’m happy. I’m what I expect it to be, to be honest, four or fifth fastest team as we finished last year. So we start at the same point as we finished in Abu Dhabi.

“Now it’s up to us to do a kind of McLaren 2023 step you know and become a stronger team in the second part,” he added referring to McLaren’s major upgrade in Austria in 2023 that positively transformed the Woking squad’s season.

Asked about his predictions for the second F1 race in Saudi Arabia this week, Alonso said: “Let’s see. I think it’s gonna be interesting, very different circuit characteristics.

“Obviously this year’s car we only tested here in winter and now in the first race, so it’s going to be the first compare on a different track. More or less a part of Aston [Martin] I think the strength of the cars are very similar to last year.

“Ferrari second fastest, it was second fastest last year as well, just like Leclerc’s battery last year [in Bahrain] prevented a podium from them. And and this year, they got the podium.

“So in Saudi it was more Aston and Mercedes a little bit ahead of Ferrari, so let’s see if, for us and for Mercedes, we are ready with the stronger. But I expect Red Bull to keep dominating,” Alonso concluded.

(Reporting by Agnes Carlier in Bahrain, Writing by Jad Mallak)