Alonso “feeling good” after topping FP2, but maintains that he’s not targeting pole on Saturday

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Photo credits: Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team

Fernando Alonso sure gave Aston Martin something to smile about after a strong showing in Friday practice at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Alonso finished both sessions in the top three, accompanied by the Red Bull duo, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. He topped FP2 with a best time of 1:30.907, 0.169 seconds ahead of Verstappen.

Speaking to the media after the session, Alonso said: “It feels good to drive. I will lie if I say that it’s not feeling good.

“Obviously it is good to see the times that we are competitive, after testing there is always mixed feelings as to where you are.”

He confirmed that the team is continuing to work on the car, fine-tuning the setup to extract maximum performance. “At the moment we are just concentrating on ourselves. Still a lot of things to improve in the car, the balance was not completely perfect today.

“We have to be proud of the steps that we have done,” he added, highlighting that he was very impressed by the “knowledge and talent that this team has.”

Despite the obvious performance leap from last year to this year, the seasoned driver remained level-headed amid the growing hype surrounding Aston Martin: “The first three races are very different circuits, Bahrain, Jeddah and Australia.”

“We have to keep our feet on the ground and the target has to be fighting for the championship in the long term — I don’t think in this year yet.”

Alonso was visibly amused when asked if he will be disappointed should he fail to take pole position tomorrow, clarifying that it’s not an immediate goal. “No, no, no — not at all. I’m not thinking that high, to be honest. Actually, I don’t know exactly what position will be a good one for us.”

He stressed that the aim was to avoid making mistakes: “After testing we were thinking to be in Q3 with both cars, score as many points as possible in the first couple of races and try not to make mistakes. It’s very easy to make a mistake. (…) I expect that we will, unfortunately, make some mistakes. I may maybe make some mistakes. It’s a completely new team, new procedures.”

Lance Stroll’s struggles, however, didn’t go unnoticed. At one point during the second practice session he was instructed by his race engineer to try and “have a better line in turn two,” to which Stroll replied: “I can’t man, I can’t, with the hands.”

While this raised some understandable concerns, Stroll insisted that he expects to take part in qualifying and the race on Sunday.

“I’m feeling alright. A little stiff, but it was overall okay in the car today.”

“I was just protecting it [his wrist], it feels a little more comfortable. I feel like I can definitely drive, no problem.”

Buoyed by Aston Martin’s strong showing, Stroll praised the progress the team has made: “Incredible. It’s looking amazing, and it’s feeling great in the car, too. [An Aston Martin front-row lockout] would be awesome. We’ll try!”