Alonso driven by hurt after rare mistake

Fernando Alonso conceded to hurt after an error in qualifying which has put him on the back foot for his home race in Spain

Fernando Alonso conceded to hurt after a mistake in qualifying which has put him on the back foot for his home race in Spain

Fernando Alonso is confident of thrilling his home crowd with a comeback drive in the Spanish Grand Prix after being left hurt by a rare mistake since joining Aston Martin.

In the opening minutes of Q1 at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya on Saturday, Alonso was one of five drivers who made an error that ultimately led to a red-flag period due to the amount of gravel on the circuit.

In Alonso’s case, his incident at the final corner severely damaged the floor on his AMR23, compromising its performance.

Despite ongoing repairs through the session, an additional mistake on his single run in Q3 resulted in him only qualifying ninth. The 41-year-old will start eighth, however, due to a double penalty for Alpine’s Pierre Gasly.

Reflecting on what unfolded in qualifying, Alonso said: “In Q1, I probably did compromise everything.

“I made a mistake, I went on the damp part of the circuit I guess, on the last corner because I lost the car and then it was very costly because that gravel completely destroys the floor.

“It hurts even more because it was the out lap, I was not even pushing. It was not the push lap, so I’m disappointed with my performance. Hopefully, I can do a better Sunday.”

Alonso declared his car to be “moving weirdly in a few corners” in the build-up to the incident, adding he was unsure if it was due to “wind or just the track conditions”.

“It was a strange qualifying to see (Charles) Leclerc out of Q1, (Sergio) Perez and (George) Russell out of Q2, who were struggling as well,” he added.

“I think it was tricky for everyone, but in my case, it was just my mistake on the out lap of Q1 so that compromises everything.

“But the car still feels competitive, even with some damage on the floor.”

From eighth, Alonso feels he can make progress during the race. “If we put everything together, I’m still optimistic we can score many points,” he said.

“I would say top five, top six has to be possible but I realise Checo (Perez) is starting behind and he will pass by very fast.

“Then from that point, we need to recover four or five places. It is going to be tricky but we will try.”

Aston Martin performance director Tom McCullough outlined the level of damage to Alonso’s car following the initial excursion into the gravel.

“When you fly into the gravel trap at that speed it’s just like sandblasting the car, and the underneath, the strakes and everything got a real beating,” he said.

“It ripped off some of the veins and winglets underneath as well, so we were definitely quite suboptimal with the car.

“But each time the car was in the garage, we were able to slowly repair it to the point that near the end of the qualifying three, we had got half of the deficit back from the data side of things.

“Unfortunately, Fernando, on his one new set of tyres in qualifying three, went in a bit deep to Turn 10 and ran wide onto the dump patch.”

McCullough stated that Alonso likely lost around three- to four-tenths of a second in Q3, and but for the additional mistake would likely have been second on the grid alongside polesitter Max Verstappen in his Red Bull.

With the team able to change the floor for a spare, like Alonso, McCullough is confident the two-time F1 champion will make progress, as well as team-mate Lance Stroll who starts fifth.

“We’re hoping to have good pace and good degradation,” said McCullough. “So we are hoping to get the two cars up into the top end of the points-paying positions.

“A lot of it depends on the first lap, where they come out from there, and the strategies everybody chooses, so both cars inside the top six would be really good. But let’s see, there’s some stiff competition.”

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