From Alonso to Sargeant: drivers’ words and hopes ahead of Quali

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Photo: Scuderia Ferrari

Formula 1 is back on track for the third round of the season and things at Albert Park kicked off quite messily. Free practice sessions have been the talk of the paddock so far this week , not only following Stefano Domenicali’s ” they’re only for the engineers” remark, but also as the first free practice session of the weekend being red flagged for safety issues.

Around forty minutes into FP1 it became obvious that teams weren’t able to follow the cars running with GPS live tracking, which raised a safety issue making it impossible for drivers to be aware of cars appearing behind them.

Not much luck during FP2 either, as running was compromised by heavy rain falling on track. But let’s take a look at what drivers had to say to the media after this first day of practice, starting with the fastest car on track at the end of FP2: Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin.


Alonso and teammate Lance Stroll – who had it worse down in P16 getting close to the wall on two different occasions in second practice – agree that the AMR23 seems to be behaving rather well in Melbourne too.

Fernando Alonso – 1st in 1:18.887s

“In FP1 we concentrated on some test items and ran through our programme smoothly. The afternoon was obviously impacted by the rain, so there is still some work to do tomorrow.

We need to learn more about the tyres and the long run pace of the car because there was not much time for that today. So far though the car seems to behave well. The forecast tomorrow looks dry for now, and we would welcome that given we only experienced these conditions in the previous two races.”

Lance Stroll – 16th in 1:20.579s

“The car was feeling good and we used FP1 to test various new parts which gives us plenty of data to look through this evening as we continue to learn about the AMR23. We did not log as many laps as we would have liked during FP2 because of the rain, but it is something that all teams will have struggled with so I do not think it puts us at a disadvantage for the weekend ahead.

Thankfully, the weather looks like it will improve tomorrow, but it has been fairly unpredictable today so you never know!”


A little glimpse of positivity after a disastrous season debut for the Ferraris, who still have a long way to go to compete with the Red Bulls far ahead.

Charles Leclerc – 2nd in 1:19.332s

“I feel like the feeling is a bit better than the other races, so that is positive. It is probably our most positive FP2 of the season, which doesn’t mean much, but at least it is a Friday that finishes on a positive note.”

“Now we need to work, do another step in the right direction tomorrow and hopefully we will be a bit closer to the Red Bulls tomorrow [in qualifying], and especially [during the race].”

“In quali I think it will be close once again. In the race, unfortunately with the rain [in FP2], nobody did the high fuel runs, so on that we are going a little bit blind into the race. Maybe in FP3 we’ll see a bit more long runs and hopefully we’ll manage to learn a bit more there.”

“I think that with the different changes we’ve done today, maybe we [will] find a little bit of performance. We must not forget that last race, we were really, really struggling in the race and we won’t be finding this kind of lap time in the race, but this should be a step in the right direction,” he said.”

Carlos Sainz – 5th in 1:19.695s

“Obviously practice is practice, but we did use that FP1 to try some very different things on the car to see if we can find a bit of performance for the package that we have now,” Sainz began.

“We did seem to understand a bit better and find a couple of things that could help us in the future, but until we don’t put it into practice in a proper quali lap, we will not know.”

“I think it’s fair to assume that in quali we will play with them [the Red Bulls], but then in the race we should assume also that we should be one step behind like we were in Jeddah, no?”

“But with the steps that we are planning to do, and that we want to do from the things that we’ve tried to discover this weekend, hopefully that becomes a better situation.”


Closing this second outing behind Alonso and Leclerc in P3 was Max Verstappen who, along with his teammate Sergio Perez, is looking forward to seeing the RB19 in proper action – without interruptions – at Albert Park.

Max Verstappen – 3rd in 1:19.502s

“The conditions weren’t great out there today, we had low grip and the tarmac seemed to be slippery. It was quite tough to switch the tyres on, so that was difficult when you want to push immediately.”

“There were also quite a few interruptions with the red flags, so we never really got into a rhythm. It was difficult to tell how the car felt as we never got a window where I thought we were on top of the tyres. We’ll look over the data tonight and see what we have to do tomorrow. The conditions should be clearer for the rest of the weekend, so we can focus on that.”

Sergio Perez – 7th in 1:20.083s

“There were some issues with the GPS in FP1 and it felt like a lot of us still had issues with it in FP2.”

“We made some good changes from FP1 that I could feel in sector 1 and sector 2 but I couldn’t get a full lap in the afternoon with the traffic in sector 3.”

“I was a bit surprised in the damp conditions that I couldn’t get a good sense of the track, but in the dry it was great and the car felt good. There is plenty to do tomorrow, but we still take a lot of confidence from today. Tomorrow we will see where we really are.”


Not yet there with the pace are the silver arrows, as Hamilton and Russell agree: it will be a P5 at best for this Sunday.

George Russell – 4th in 1:19.672s

“A fair assessment,” he commented about Lewis’ P5 prediction, “third row, probably between P5 and P8 is what we are looking at the moment, obviously not where we wanna be as a team.”

“FP2 was obviously a little bit frustrating for everybody with the weather coming in a little bit surprisingly, but it was a reasonable session for us. We definitely made a step from FP1 which is a good thing.”

“We made a lot of set-up changes over the break [between sessions]. We’ve been doing some good steps recently; we’ve been changing quite a few things and getting the car into a nice window as the weekend progresses, so that’s quite satisfying to sit in the driver’s seat knowing that the car feels better and as a team we’ve contributed towards that.”

“We need to see how that translates into tomorrow but in FP1 I was not happy with the car and in FP2 I was pretty happy, so yeah, not too bad.”

Lewis Hamilton – 13th in 1:20.323s

“This morning was good, this afternoon wasn’t so good,” he summarized.

“It felt a little bit better this morning. We made some changes, they didn’t work, so we’ll revise those tonight, and then it rained off. So it wasn’t the greatest of sessions.”

“I don’t think we’ll be competing against the Red Bulls. It’ll just be about trying to see if we can get up as high as possible. So I think we’ve got pace to be around fifth [place] area, same as the last race.”


Positive feelings for Kevin Magnussen despite ending up at the bottom of the timesheet.

Kevin Magnussen – 19th in 1:21.266s

“Sometimes in practice you don’t get your lap when you need it and on new tires – the soft tires – I just got traffic with that GPS failure.”

“In FP2, it started raining when we went out so I’m not too worried about the positions, I’m happy about the feeling in the car. Given all the stuff that happened today, I don’t really think we can see who is where. I’m just going with the feeling and that’s positive, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow and seeing what we can do.”


Not the best opening to this Australian weekend for Williams, as the took part in FP2 with only one car after Sargeant’s single-seater stopped on track towards the end of FP1 because of an electrical issue the team is still investigating.

Alexander Albon – 18th in 1:21.182s

“It’s tricky to know where we stand today with the weather conditions. I think we’re in a decent place and I felt very happy with the car during FP1. It’s going to be tight out there but let’s see; I’m positive and feel like compared to last year the car feels much better and we’re in the fight.”

Logan Sargeant – 20th, No Time

“A bit of a messy first day here in Australia. I think generally, the pace isn’t too bad, and I felt comfortable with the track right away, so there’s plenty of positives to take into tomorrow. I think if we can make the most of FP3, we can set ourselves up for a good qualifying.”