Alonso thrilled his “bet” on Aston Martin paid off with fifth on grid for first race · RaceFans

Fernando Alonso described qualifying fifth on the grid for his debut with Aston Martin as “unreal” after joining the team for 2023.

He set the quickest time in the second and third practice sessions and was been tipped by many of his rivals as a genuine contender for pole. Despite qualifying behind both Red Bulls and Ferraris, Alonso says he was still delighted with the result in his first qualifying session with the team.

“It was amazing,” he said. “I mean, the whole weekend has been unreal for us.

“It was like too good to be true every session and every performance of the car. And then in qualifying, our expectation was to be around half a second from Red Bull and I think we are half a second or six tenths from pole position. So it was quite right.”

Qualifying has confirmed that Aston Martin’s pace is genuine, Alonso says, after he could not be certain about how their performance would measure up based on testing and practice.

“In practice we knew that we were around third or fifth or fourth,” he explained. “We didn’t know exactly what Ferrari was doing. For sure we were behind Red Bull, but I think it was just a couple of milliseconds always that we were in front of them, so the position looked too good.

“Now there is not much more to downplay anything because this is qualifying, all in the same conditions and we are in the mix with Ferrari and Mercedes. So again, unreal.”

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After going nearly a full decade without a race win moving between teams in a bid to chase a third world championship, Alonso admits he is not used to heading into a race feeling optimistic about his chances.

“It feels so strange for me to say that we’ll start P5 and maybe we are aiming for more,” Alonso said.

“We thought, to be honest, that the first three teams, they were untouchable this year with the advantage they had last year and maybe try to lead the midfield or mix in the midfield. But now we’re saying that we start P5 and maybe we fight with the Ferraris for the podium – so this is just incredible.

“So let’s keep on going, let’s keep working, keep the feet on the ground and execute the race the best way possible, no mistakes, good start, good pit stops and let’s see where we are. But so far we are living a dream.”

Alonso joined Aston Martin after leaving Alpine at the end of last season. He admitted he had taken a gamble in joining the Silverstone-based squad.

“I don’t know even what to say, because eight months ago the project was just a bet,” he said. “But now to be race one with a completely new car, I think we need still to unlock a lot of potential.”

Asked if he envisioned being able to fight for a podium in tomorrow’s race, Alonso said “let’s see.”

“I mean, I’m laughing because going for a podium in race one,” he continues.” It feels, again, too good to be true. But for sure what we saw so far on our car and also historically, Aston Martin has very good tyre management. So if we have an opportunity for sure, we will take it.”

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