Fernando Alonso believes Aston Martin had its most competitive qualifying session of the season at the Australian Grand Prix despite losing out to the Mercedes drivers and starting from fourth.
Aston Martin has been the surprise package of 2023 so far, with Alonso finishing on the podium in each of the first two races and sitting just 14 points off the championship lead. Having started on the front row in Saudi Arabia, he will line-up behind Max Verstappen, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton on Sunday in Melbourne but believes he was closer to pole than at any other venue.
“The circuit was a little bit difficult to judge sometimes and especially the wind was changing in strength and direction, but I think it was quite a pretty normal qualifying for us, improving a little bit every session,” Alonso said.
“In terms of performance, arguably this was the best qualifying for us of the three, I think it’s the closest we’ve been to pole position. The car felt fast and easy to drive and I enjoyed it, so let’s see tomorrow what we can do. The Mercedes were very fast in Q3 and they did a better job but let’s see tomorrow if we can challenge them.”
Having seen both Mercedes drivers outqualify him — Russell a little over 0.2s off Verstappen — Alonso says he expected to be closely-matched but is focused on taking points out of Sergio Perez in the drivers’ standings with the Mexican starting from 20th.
“I think in Jeddah they were within 0.1s of the pace on Sunday to us. Here they were P2 yesterday I think Lewis… If you read their comments, sure, you think they have a car that is out of Q3 but I don’t think it’s that bad. It’s not as good as Red Bull — no one has a car close to Red Bull — but they are getting better and they will be a contender for wins soon.
“They did last year and they won a race after a very bad start, so I think this year they are also showing the potential that they have.
“But in our case, especially with Checo out in Q1 we will try to do a good race with no mistakes. If we can be on the podium great, if it’s P4 OK, if it’s P5 OK… We’ll try and score points and hopefully take points from him in the championship.”
Alonso believes his race target of finishing on the podium is on shared by three other teams given the performance shown so far at Albert Park.
“I started also in front of the Mercedes and they had very similar pace in Jeddah compared to me, so I think if they start in front it’s going to be very difficult to overtake them. So tomorrow I think the race is probably with the Red Bull, the two Mercedes and probably the Ferraris as well that are better here with these cooler conditions. So it’s going to be an interesting race.”