Aston Martin “need a little bit of chaos” in F1 Abu Dhabi GP to overhaul McLaren, Alonso admits

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The last qualifying session for the F1 2023 season saw Fernando Alonso secure seventh position. The seasoned Spanish driver faced significant challenges during practice, wrestling with the car’s set-up, but when it mattered most, Alonso delivered a commanding performance.

Photo Credit: Aston Martin Aramaco Cognizant F1 Team

Reflecting on the challenges leading up to qualifying where he placed P11 in FP2 and 14th in final practice, Alonso admitted they were concerned.

“After FP3, we were 14th and 15th, we had some concerns about the pace of the car and the setup, we were thinking what to do into qualifying.

“And even in qualifying, I only went through [the first session] P13, so I thought it was a tough Saturday for us, but then we followed track evolution, we got more confidence in the car. P7 is definitely the best result that we were hoping for.”

The competition proved to be exceptionally tight, with times within two-tenths across eight cars. Discussing the closely contested field, he added:

“I think the times were so close, within two tenths we saw today like eight cars, so it was just nail the lap and just hope you’re going through the session.

“And at the end, I think I put the lap together in Q2, and in Q3 in the last lap, and that was enough, but let’s say that the positive side of today is a very strong starting position, feeling-wise I had better Saturdays.”

0.999s covered the nineteen cars who completed a lap in Q1. A mere 0.702s covered the pack in Q2.

Navigating a field with such minimal margins for error added to the pressure, as Alonso acknowledged

“You’re risking more, unfortunately, because there is no way that you can be calmer in one corner and lose one-tenth; you cannot afford that anymore because you’re out of the session; I think it’s very stressful for everyone.

“Also, the track limits is a very painful matter that we go through every lap, but it’s the same for everybody, so we try to execute it better.

“I think it was low grip in general; in braking performance, I was struggling a bit to stop the car where I wanted and have the feedback from the car, and follow the track evolution.”

Aston Martin has the mammoth task of attempting to gain back the fifth position of the Constructors’ Championship from the faster McLarens.

Alonso remained optimistic but wary about the race pace they have, stating: “It’s not all granted for tomorrow; I think we have more pace tomorrow; if not, we’ll have a long race.

“I expect a tough race; I think that the tyres are struggling a little bit more than what we thought, so I think tyre management is gonna be the key tomorrow, but also the traffic; I think when you are in a group of cars and you are fighting the tyres they seem to struggle more than when you are in free air, but there is no free air with the gaps that we have right now.

“I think it’s gonna be a very long race. For us McLaren is the only target that we have; they are starting, both of them, in front of us, so we need a little bit of chaos if we want to overtake them. On a normal race, they will finish in front of us and that’s not enough.”