Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso suffered his worst qualifying session of the year at the United States Grand Prix. He criticised Aston Martin’s performance and signalled a gloomy outlook for the rest of the race weekend.
Alonso will start Sunday’s race at the Circuit of the Americas from a disappointing 17th position on the grid. His retirement in Q1 marked the first time this season that he has failed to qualify in the top 10. This setback came despite the fact that Aston Martin arrived in Austin armed with their final major update for the year. The updates included changes to the car’s floor and diffuser.
Complicating factors: Sprint weekend and brake problems
The problems were compounded by the limited practice time available under Formula One’s Sprint Weekend format. To make matters worse, both Alonso and his team-mate Lance Stroll experienced brake problems which further hampered their preparation. The limitations of the F1 sprint weekend format and braking problems that further restricted the FP1 run meant that Alonso had an uphill battle.
“It [the lap pace] was the maximum,” says Alonso.
“The out-lap was not ideal, especially with the traffic, it was very badly managed – I think I crossed the line one second within the limit. I started the lap too close to the cars in front.
“But the lap felt ok. Let’s see if we can have a good Sprint because the Grand Prix is heavily compromised now.
“[There were] too many unknowns in terms of how to operate the package on the new car. So yeah, I think we went a bit blind into qualifying and obviously we see the results.
Looking forward with a touch of pessimism
The Spaniard went on to say that his team’s prospects for the grand prix race are “severely compromised”. With the cars now in ‘parc fermé’ conditions, meaning no major changes can be made, Alonso suggested that the focus would have to shift.
“So nothing we can do now, we are in parc fermé, we use this weekend as a test for next year as well, even if they are painful. So let’s see what we can learn in the remaining sessions,” he concluded.
Alonso’s team-mate, Lance Stroll, fared no better. Limited to just two meaningful laps in practice due to brake problems, Stroll also retired from the Q1 session. “It didn’t feel like a bad session,” said the Canadian.
“I actually felt like I was OK in the car… but we just weren’t quick enough.”
The United States Grand Prix has so far proved to be a challenging battleground for Aston Martin, with both drivers struggling in qualifying. It certainly doesn’t look like it’ll improve anytime soon for this Grand Prix, or perhaps even the next.
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