Fernando Alonso fears the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix could be a long race for Aston Martin unless they can control tyre degradation in a congested midfield around the Yas Marina Circuit.
Aston Martin trail McLaren by just 11 points in the constructors’ standings but Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris produced a strong qualifying performance and will start third and fifth, with seventh-placed Alonso predicting his team will need a chaotic race to claim fourth overall.
Norris could also be his biggest threat in the drivers’ standings, Alonso is level on points with Carlos Sainz in fourth but his compatriot was knocked out in Q2, Charles Leclerc starts second but is 12 points back with Norris only five behind.
“I expect a tough race, I think tyres are struggling more than what we thought,” Alonso told the media. “So I think tyre management is going to be the key tomorrow. The traffic when you are in a group of cars and you fighting, the tyres seem to struggle a lot more than when you are in free air.
“But there is no free air with the gaps that we have right now, we are all in the same time laps so I think it’s gonna be a very long race for us. Obviously, McLaren is the only target that we have.
“They are both starting in front of us so we need a little bit of chaos if we want to overtake them. In a normal race, they will finish in front of us and that’s not good enough.”
Alonso effectively starting ninth
Alonso added he expects to lose track position to at least two of Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz by the end of the race, the trio will start behind the Aston Martin thanks to track limits, traffic and pace problems.
Sainz complained he was held up on his final run in Q1 as he suffered a shock early elimination, but there were no such complaints from Hamilton in the next session, he admitted he just can’t get the most out of his Mercedes W14 as he missed Q3 by just eight-hundredths of a second.
Meanwhile Perez saw his competitive final run of the day deleted so starts ninth, but Alonso said the nature of the Yas Marina Circuit will allow them to power through the field. His Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll qualified 13th.
“It’s going to be difficult to follow just because of the tyres,” Alonso added. “They’re just struggling a lot when you follow cars but at the same time this is a track that offers two very nice DRS zones.
“And if you have more pace you overtake, so Checo‘s starting behind but just because it got deleted, he should be much faster than me and not really possible to keep him behind.
“Even Hamilton if you have the pace you overtake, so for us starting P7 is actually like starting P9 so we need to be careful with that.”