Alonso – Mercedes not as bad as team make out
By Ian Parkes
Saturday 1st April, 2023 - 10:15pm
Fernando Alonso has dismissed Mercedes’ concerns surrounding its W14 after being out-qualified by both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton for the Australian Grand Prix.
Over the opening weeks of the new F1 season, all within Mercedes have bemoaned the performance of its current car, with major upgrades now expected from the sixth race of the campaign in Imola.
Yet at Melbourne’s Albert Park, Mercedes proved its ‘zero sidepod’ car, the concept of which has been much debated of late, has the ability to deliver.
Russell finished 0.236s behind polesitter Max Verstappen in his Red Bull, with Hamilton just over a further tenth of a second off the pace.
The Mercedes duo relegated Alonso to fourth on the grid in his Aston Martin as the two-time F1 champion was beaten by his seven-time title-winning rival by 0.035s.
Asked if he was surprised by Mercedes’ performance, Alonso said: “No, I think in Jeddah (for the Saudi Arabian GP) they were within one-tenth of the pace on Sunday to us.
“If you read their comments, it seems they have a car that is out of Q3, but I don’t think it is 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 won a race last year after a very bad start, so I think this year they are showing the potential they have.”
Alonso aiming to capitalise on Perez position
Alonso appreciates he has a fight on his hands to claim a third successive podium after finishing third in the opening two races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
The bonus for Alonso is that he only has one Red Bull to contend with as Sergio Perez will start at the back of the grid due to a brake issue that saw him beach his RB19 in a gravel trap in the first part of qualifying.
“In terms of performance, arguably this was the best qualifying of the three,” said Alonso, who finished 0.407s behind Verstappen. “I think it is the closest we’ve been to pole position.”
Alonso was 0.628s behind Verstappen in Bahrain and 0.465s adrift of Perez in Saudi Arabia.
“So I felt the car was fast, easy to drive and I enjoyed it so let’s see tomorrow what we can do,” added the Spanish driver.
“The Mercedes was very fast in Q3, and they did a better job, but let’s see if we can challenge them.
“With Checo out of Q1, we will try to do a good race with no mistakes, and if we can be on the podium, great.
“If it’s P4, P5, okay. We will try to score points and hopefully take points from him (Perez) in the championship.”
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