Fernando Alonso set the third-fastest lap time at the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix but will be starting on the front row in P2 for the main race as Charles Leclerc will take a ten-place grid penalty tomorrow.
The Aston Martin driver admitted that their qualifying pace was their point of weakness during the season opener earlier this month, so starting at the front behind the Red Bull of Sergio Perez has been quite a factor of confidence and motivation for the team.
In a post-qualifying media interaction, the two-time world champion said:
“Qualifying was our weak point in Bahrain but today the car seemed to perform very well [here] so let’s see what we can do. Obviously, Charles has a penalty so we’ll start on the first row on the grid so this is just amazing. We are confident, the car felt very strong. The strongest part is the long-run pace so it should be better on Sunday than Saturday.”
Given that Fernando Alonso is confident about Aston Martin’s race pace, it will be interesting to see if he will be able to challenge Perez up front, whilst also defending from reigning world champion Max Verstappen, who is expected to charge to the top despite having suffered an issue during qualifying. The Dutchman will be starting the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in P15 on Sunday.
Fernando Alonso’s energy ‘infecting’ all Aston Martin members, says team boss
Fernando Alonso replaced Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin this year and has already breathed life into the team that was visibly struggling for several years. He kicked off his first season with the team with an incredible podium finish at the Bahrain Grand Prix, leaving the team with energy that has “infected” all members.
F1 pundit Martin Brundle described the Spaniard as “animated” and “energised” when he saw Alonso walking around the paddock. Speaking to Sky Sports F1, Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack reacted to Brundle’s comments, saying:
“Yeah, this is true. And it’s infecting all of us to be honest. It’s like we are riding on the wave it feels like and him especially. And I think you heard lots on the radio during the race [in Bahrain], you know how he was putting himself into this mode. And it’s very good for us.”
“He is very inspiring, he pushes the team forward like that. And everybody is just really flat out trying to do as much as possible.”
Fernando Alonso currently stands third in the drivers’ standings, behind the two Red Bull drivers, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. As a result of this, Aston Martin find themselves second in the constructors’ standings after the first race of the 2023 F1 season in Bahrain. The two Aston Martins will be starting the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in the top five on Sunday.