Why is Fernando Alonso downbeat with Aston Martin performance?

The Spanish driver will start the race fourth at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit but doesn’t expect to finish anywhere near there in the 2024 Saudi Arabian GP

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Fernando Alonso produced a masterful performance throughout qualifying for the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to put his Aston Martin fourth on the grid, just half a tenth off a front-row start with Max Verstappen, but he believes it’s a false position for himself and the team.

The 42-year-old, who has only ever been beaten in qualifying over a season by Lewis Hamilton, delivered a 1:27.486 to out-qualify Lance Stroll by a massive 0.726s but he feels as though he will shuffle back down the order to be around his teammate in the race.

That’s because Aston Martin appear to have a much stronger one-lap performance, as also evidenced by the 2024 Bahrain GP, than their race pace which sees them clearly ranked as the fifth-best team, leaving the Spaniard downhearted for Saturday’s race.

“We are still surprised about the performance of this car over one lap,” Alonso said to media following qualifying. “So, I think it’s not our natural position to be on the second row of the grid.

“We saw in Bahrain, we were very strong in free practice and qualifying and then in the race, we fell back to our more natural position as the fifth-fastest team behind McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes.

“Today, it’s more or less the same story. We are ultra-competitive over one lap and the car is responding well but we are still very concerned about tomorrow.”

Alonso threw away a front-row start

As a gamble to give himself the best shot at a surprise pole, Alonso deployed a smart bit of trickery by using all of his years in the sport to take advantage of Hamilton in the rival Mercedes.

In order to maximise his top speed Alonso went very slowly through the final sector as he waited for a car on a push-lap to come thundering down the back-straight, and eventually Hamilton came flying through.

Fernando Alonso during 2024 Saudi Arabian GP Qualifying | Aston Martin
Fernando Alonso during 2024 Saudi Arabian GP Qualifying | Aston Martin

By then, the 42-year-old was waiting in the entry of the final turn and went very wide in order to cut back and get a tow down the main straight as his old McLaren rival pushed to the line to set his own time.

But despite the apparent benefits of the tow, it actually cost him overall time and he was mournful of the driver error that saw him only capable of qualifying fourth-best around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

“It wasn’t a coincidence how I negotiated the last corner, or maybe impede a little bit Lewis,” Alonso said to media. “Or I let him go and I take the tow.

“But my tyres were ice cold for Turns 1 and 2. So overall, I lost half a tenth. I gained a tenth from the tow and I lost a tenth and a half in Turn 1 and 2 as the rear tyres were not super ready.

“So, it was not ideal the out-lap in general.”

That extra half a tenth would have put him 0.005 seconds behind Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari if it was exactly 0.050 lost and not anything more such as 0.056.

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