Fernando Alonso focuses on trio of teams behind with Red Bull ‘in another league’: PlanetF1

Fernando Alonso starts alongside Red Bull’s Sergio Perez on the front row in Jeddah but doesn’t expect to challenge for victory.

Red Bull predicted the peloton would bring them back for the Saudi Arabian GP after dominating Bahrain’s season opener, but Bahrain winner Max Verstappen was giving reason to believe the opposite was true as he dominated the three training sessions.

His dominance continued in qualifying, and it looked like only a small miracle in the eyes of his rivals could prevent him from securing pole in Jeddah. And a miracle is what the distant hunting pack received.

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Verstappen would suffer a driveshaft failure during Q2 which would end his qualifying session and entry prematurely as he accepted a P15 starting spot, while Perez ensured there was a Red Bull on pole in Jeddah, making it consecutively positions in pole position on this site.

Alonso qualified P3 in the Aston Martin, 0.465 seconds off Perez’s P1 time, although he will start P2 due to a 10-place grid penalty for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

And while Alonso doesn’t want to sound “pessimistic”, he simply doesn’t see how Aston Martin can battle Red Bull in the race, and will therefore instead be looking to keep Ferrari, Mercedes and Alpine at bay.

Unless of course Red Bull encounters other unexpected obstacles on Sunday.

“I don’t know [if we can beat Perez] – I think we are not in that position yet,” Alonso told the media after qualifying.

“In pure pace, I think Red Bull is in another league and I think we need to focus more on the teams behind. So Ferrari will be very strong, Mercedes is strong, Alpine too – they are fast here.

“I think our race is right behind us. We saw today that Max was probably in his league today in qualifying and he couldn’t finish qualifying with a mechanical issue.

“Even though we focus on our rear-view mirrors and try to keep people behind, if something happens in front, we will try to seize the opportunity.

“I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but if we see the pace of free practice and in Bahrain, we have to be honest with ourselves and know that Red Bull is a bit ahead of everyone.

“It’s not the objective tomorrow, to fight for the victory with Checo. But, as I said before, Formula 1 is not exact math, you know, anything can happen and today Verstappen was P15. These things happen sometimes.

It is a big plus for Aston Martin, however, that Alonso sees race pace as his strength, which proved true in Bahrain where he overtook Mercedes’ George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, as well as Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in road to a podium.

In this sense, Alonso was delighted to have improved his qualifying position by a few places on the P5 he had obtained in Bahrain.

“It was a very good weekend for us,” he said. “Qualifying was our weak point in Bahrain, but today the car felt very good over one lap.

“Obviously Charles has a penalty, so we’ll be starting on the front row of the grid, so it’s just amazing.

“The long race yesterday was affected by traffic, but the car was very solid. I still think the strong point of the car is the pace on the long runs and the way we deal with the tires, so that Should be better on Sunday than Saturday.”

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Lance Stroll will start from P5 in the other Aston Martin, and admitted to feeling some frustration as he feels there is still time on the table in qualifying.

“A bit boring, I felt like there was more lap time at the end,” he told Sky F1. “I messed up turn 22, sector 1 purple, then it went bad, so a bit boring, but still a good position to fight from tomorrow.”

Nonetheless, as Alonso looks over his shoulder, Stroll plans to be one of the drivers on his radar as he chases a podium finish.

“I think it’s totally possible,” Stroll said of the prospect of a top-three finish. “I think we will have a good race pace, so we have to overtake the Ferrari in front of us and the Mercedes and go and score some good points.”

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