Alonso believes Aston Martin is “moving in the right direction” with latest F1 upgrade

Photo Credit: Aston Martin Aramco F1 Team
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Fernando Alonso believes Aston Martin is “moving in the right direction” with the upgrade package introduced this weekend in Japan. 

Alonso was the sole Aston Martin driver to progress to the final segment of qualifying—where he propelled himself to an admirable fifth on his second flying lap—following Lance Stroll’s unexpected Q1 exit. 

Alonso, who ran upgrades on his AMR24 on Saturday, said he noticed a clear improvement compared to Aston’s previous outing at Suzuka last September. 

“I think it’s difficult to know for sure, I think the team is analysing everything now.

“Yesterday I had the old package, today the new package, so I guess tonight we will have the data to confirm that and to quantify the improvement, but everything felt good in the qualifying.”

Alonso admitted that he was positively surprised at how competitive he was in qualifying: “A little bit unexpected to be that competitive to be honest. Just a couple of hundredths from Ferrari, Leclerc behind us, Piastri behind us, and Mercedes.

“When we were here six months ago, 1.5 seconds from pole position and now we are four tenths, so definitely we are moving in the right direction.”

Regardless, Alonso anticipates it will be difficult to maintain his fifth position, noting that Aston Martin’s qualifying performance has generally been stronger than their race pace so far this season.

“I tend to be conservative on my guesses and predictions, and looking back at the first three races we are very strong on Saturday and not so strong on Sunday,” he said.

“We are maybe out of position being top five, so if I get overtaken by Oscar and the two Mercedes or something like that I would guess this is normal and we will fall back into our position. Let’s see what we can do, I’m very open to whatever the race brings to us. I’m extremely proud and happy of today’s job, and tomorrow is another day.”

He cautioned that although the field is noticeably closer in qualifying this year, their actual pace is realistically what they show on race day. 

“I think in qualifying it’s true that everything is so close,” Alonso said. “We saw Nico [Hulkemberg] and Valtteri [Bottas] today, they were three tenths away or something, which is incredible. Then in the race you see the real pace of the cars.

“This is something we are struggling with a little bit as well—we are very competitive on Saturday and not so much on Sunday—so our true pace I think is the Sunday’s pace.”

However, he noted that this might lead to a few surprises down the line, particularly on tracks where starting position is key:  “On Saturday, I think because of the grip of the tyres, because of everything maybe you mask some of the problems. So it’s very tight, it’s going to be interesting in Monaco and some other circuits where qualifying is everything and we will see surprises.”