From practice leader to podium doubt: Alonso’s stark Saudi warning

Despite Fernando Alonso’s impressive performance in practice and securing the fourth position in qualifying, he has decidedly dismissed any prospects of competing for a podium finish in the upcoming Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. The Aston Martin contender attributed this limitation to the vehicle’s rapid tyre degradation over extended stints.

Alonso conveyed to DAZN, “We have a very fast car on one lap,” but contrasted this by highlighting the car’s diminished performance over longer distances, “but not such a fast car on long runs.” This echoes the predicament faced by Haas in the previous season, now seemingly afflicting Aston Martin with similar tyre wear issues.

Nonetheless, Alonso acknowledged the car’s remarkable one-lap speed, “We have been very fast, with Red Bull and Ferrari, which is surprising,” also noting their superiority over teams like Mercedes and McLaren. With strategic changes implemented for the race, the team’s true pace remains an uncertainty, as Alonso remarked, “We’ve made some changes for the race so we will only have the answer then. But I am well aware that five days ago we were the fifth fastest car on the grid, and in five days history will not have been changed. I expect a difficult race.”

Elaborating on the car’s challenges, Alonso explained to AS, “The car warms up the tyres very well,” which benefits qualifying laps but detrimentally affects race performance due to accelerated tyre wear, “At the same time, it’s eating up the tyres a bit because of this good characteristic for one lap. So, good for you in qualifying, bad for you in the race,” he added, emphasizing a cautious approach to practice results.

Given these dynamics, Alonso firmly negated any podium aspirations from his fourth grid position, stating, “100 percent no,” when questioned about the possibility. He further detailed the performance gap to competitors, “In the long runs, Red Bull were 1.2 seconds faster than us and Charles (Leclerc in the Ferrari) was eight tenths faster than us. We will have to look back much more than we look forward, unfortunately.” Alonso also anticipated challenges from McLaren and Mercedes, reflecting on a significant pace discrepancy in the previous race in Bahrain, “McLaren and Mercedes are going to be too strong. In Bahrain we were with them in qualifying and in the race they were 30 seconds ahead, which is scary.”

(GMM)

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