Fernando Alonso admitted that Aston Martin were not yet in a position to challenge Red Bull for victory in Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
He will start alongside the Mexican on the front row of the grid for tomorrow’s race in Jeddah, despite being pipped to second place in qualifying by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
That’s because Leclerc has a ten place grid penalty for taking an additional electronic control unit coming into the weekend. Starting from second means Alonso will have a chance to attack Perez into the first corner.
“All in all we have to be very happy with starting on the first row of the grid tomorrow,” he said. “To see us fighting in Q3 again is a positive sign.”
However Alonso feels it’s unlikely that they have the pace to pull off victory. “I don’t know, I think we are not in that position yet,” Alonso replied when asked if he had a chance of beating Perez.
“That’s not the target tomorrow, to fight for the win with Checo,” he admitted. “On pure pace, I think Red Bull is in another league and I think we have to concentrate more on the teams behind.
- Read also: Perez on pole in Jeddah after Verstappen driveshaft failure in qualifying
“I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but if we look at the pace in free practice, and in Bahrain, we have to be honest with ourselves and know that Red Bull is a little bit ahead of everyone.
“It is very tight between a number of teams so tomorrow will be an interesting battle for sure,” he said. “Ferrari will be very strong, Mercedes are strong, also Alpine; they are fast here.
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“I think our race is just behind us,” he explained. “But F1 is not exact mathematics, you know, anything can happen. And today Verstappen was P15. These things happen sometimes.
“So even if we focus on our mirrors and try to keep the people behind, if anything happens in front, we will try to take the opportunity.”
“It’ll be a very tight race I expect, and I think that it will be defined by small details,” he suggested. “One will be the start, one will be the tyre management.
“The other one will be the strategy, and probably the final one will be luck,” he added. “We have to nail all of these points. As a team, I think we are ready to take care of everything that is in our hands.
“Our strength in this package has been on the long runs, so hopefully we can optimise this as much as possible tomorrow,” he added. “It seems very easy on tyres, so let’s try to maximise our strengths and hopefully be lucky.”
Alonso’s team mate Lance Stroll will also have a good starting position tomorrow, lining up in fifth place.
“The team delivered a really strong qualifying performance today and we have put ourselves in a great position to fight for a good haul of points in the race tomorrow.
“We weren’t 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’s all to play for.”
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