Pierre Gasly was delighted to qualify in fourth place for the Qatar Grand Prix, despite last minute drama in the twilight session at the Losail International Circuit on Saturday.
With usual leading contenders such as Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc absent from the top ten pole shoot-out, Gasly took advantage to put AlphaTauri on the second row of the grid for tomorrow's race with a time of 1:21.640s.
“I’m super happy with qualifying, it’s been pretty amazing and we’re right behind Mercedes and Max again which is great," he commented afterwards.
But when he returned to the track for his final run of the day, Gasly ran over the kerb at turn 15 and broke his front wing which lodged under the car and caused a puncture leaving him limping over the line.
“To be honest, I don’t know what happened," he admitted. "I exited on the kerb and the whole front wing went under the car, blew the whole front right tyre and that was it.
“It’s a shame, the lap was coming amazingly,” Gasly said of that final run. “We finished P4, but I was another tenth and a half faster in my last lap.
"Unexpected fireworks coming out of the car!" he added. "But what is most important is the whole qualifying was amazing. To finish behind the top two teams is just amazing.
"It was still a really strong Qualifying and we’re in a good position for tomorrow. The Alpines are pretty close again, so I think it’ll be another intense battle in the race.”
"The front wing damage sustained by Pierre over the kerbs was unfortunate, as the lap was shaping up to be a good step quicker than his previous," commented the team's technical director Jody Egginton.
"It is something we will review to understand the various factors involved, but as we have seen with some other competitors so far here in Qatar the kerbs in the highspeed corners are a real consideration here
"Qualifying to secure a very well deserved fourth is especially pleasing, as getting the car into the right window at a new track can be far from straightforward."
While the drivers ahead will line up on the grid tomorrow on medium tyres, Gasly will start on a set of the faster but less durable soft compound which may be an early advantage.
“After last night we looked at all the numbers and I was really clear which tyre I wanted to use in Q2, because it’s a long start actually.
“Until Turn 1 it’s a pretty long straight, so I really want to maximise the start performance.
"So for me it was clear to start with the option. It gives us the flexibility in the race with the tyres. We have plenty of tyres, that’s the main thing.”
AlphaTauri were one of only three times to get both drivers through to the final round of qualifying in Qatar. Gasly's rookie team mate Yuki Tsunoda also finished in the top ten and will line up in P8 on the grid for tomorrow's race.
"Today was a good qualifying and I’m happy that I will be starting from P8 tomorrow," he said.
"It was unfortunate that I had to sacrifice an additional set of Softs to get through Q1, which meant I didn’t have them for Q3, but I’m still really pleased with how today went.
"It’s going to be difficult to overtake in the race, so the start will be key, but the positive is that we’re all in the same position, as no one has driven here before."