Alonso: Aston qualifying pace in Bahrain ‘a massive surprise’


Fernando Alonso says his qualifying performance in Bahrain on Friday came as a “massive surprise” considering the uncertainties about Aston Martin’s one-lap pace.

Alonso’s best effort in Q3 positioned him sixth in the pecking order, but just 0.363s adrift from poleman Max Verstappen.

The solid result reflected not only Aston’s encouraging form but also the tightness of a field in which the top nine contenders were separated by only half a second.

“It was a nice surprise to find ourselves competitive," the Spaniard said after the electrifying session. "After winter testing we had some doubts in terms of one lap pace.

"In free practice, it was a different car this weekend, we felt more competitive. But normally we run maybe more engine [power] or less fuel or whatever and we find reality sometimes in qualifying, so we were very cautious into qualifying about our possibilities.

"We found ourselves quite competitive in Q1, in Q2 and then in Q3. Now we are in the mix. Within one tenth we are together with Ferrari, in front of Hamilton, together with the McLarens. So it's a massive surprise and extremely happy."

Alonso attributed the strong performance of his AMR24 in part to the new machine’s excellent response to the setup adjustments implemented after last week’s pre-season testing.

"I think the car was more connected," asserted Alonso. "We had some difficulties last week to really feel the needs of the car. It was quite inconsistent.

"This weekend, all the set-up changes we are trying are doing exactly what we expect from them and this is always a nice thing when you're trying to fine-tune a Formula 1 car to extract the maximum.

"So, the extra level of confidence in the car was the positive thing about this weekend."

While now delighted with his mount’s one-lap pace, Alonso remains cautious about his car’s potential in race trim based on the long runs conducted last week and in free practice which positioned Aston behind Ferrari and Mercedes.

"We had some so-so runs in winter testing and yesterday we didn't look particularly good," the Spaniard explained.

"It's going to be an extremely tight race. Racing in a group of cars is never an easy thing to manage in terms of tyres and things like that, so let's see how we deal with those problems.

"It's a very, very good start. A little bit unexpected, but we take it. If we want to compete with Ferrari and Mercedes and these teams, we need to raise the level of development throughout the season.

"Last year we started with a good base car, but we got stuck there for many races. This year, we changed the concept of how to design the car and the upgrades.

"So, to start out strong, it brings me a lot of optimism for the future."

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