Speedy Alonso cautious over Saudi qualifying pace
Fernando Alonso put in another speedy showing for Aston Martin in Friday’s practice in Jeddah but cautioned he had no idea where he would end up on the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix grid.
The 41-year-old Spaniard, whose thrilling charge to claim his 99th career podium lit up the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, said the team had made a good start, but was wary that Friday form is not a reliable indicator for Saturday.
Alonso was second behind defending double world champion Max Verstappen of Red Bull in second practice, splitting the two Red Bulls at the high-speed Jeddah Street Circuit. Sergio Perez was third.
“We were P1 on Friday in Bahrain and then maybe fifth or sixth in qualifying,” he explained.
“So, you don’t know. You never know until you get to qualifying on Saturday.
“Today, we tested what we wanted to on the car and there is still not an ideal balance so we have to chase that a bit tonight, but so far so good. Another good start!”
He added that he had no idea where the Silverstone-based team was in terms of speed, relative to the other teams.
“I have no idea. I just drive the car and then in qualifying I see where I am.
“Obviously, there is a lot of free practice, and a lot of days in between races. There is a lot of data to analyse and a lot of predictions and estimations to do – but that is the beauty of F1!
“But, for us, the driver, it is difficult to read anything at all in free practice.”
The smiling and enigmatic Spaniard had earlier been praised by Aston Martin team chief Mike Krack for “infecting” the team with his energy and motivation.
“It is like we are riding on a wave,” said Krack. “It feels like that and with him especially. He is infecting us all, to be honest. You could hear him on the radio during the Bahrain race, how he gets into this mode.
“For us, it is very good. It’s inspiring. He pushes the team forward and everyone is going flat out to try and do as much as possible to bring success.”
Since leaving Alpine to join Aston Martin this year, Alonso has been revitalised.
His girlfriend Andrea Schlager, a journalist with Red Bull-owned Salzburg-based Servus TV, reported that he had trained intensively for the new season.
“The whole winter consisted of gym, tennis, skiing,” she said on Servus TV. “It was impressive how he went full throttle.”
She added that she expected his two-year contract at Aston Martin to be his last in Formula One.