Fernando Alonso’s first Qualifying session since returning to Formula 1 saw the Spaniard claim an excellent ninth place on the grid for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Alpine F1 Team driver had struggled for performance during the three free practice sessions at the Bahrain International Circuit and there were doubts that the two-time World Champion would even advance out of Q1 on his return to the sport.
But Alonso put those doubts firmly to bed by not only getting out of Q1 but also advancing into the top ten shootout, where he was able to claim ninth ahead of Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team’s Lance Stroll.
“We have to be pleased with our qualifying session today,” said Alonso. “I wasn’t totally confident with the car balance in any of the practice sessions this weekend.
“In qualifying, though, the temperature was a lot cooler and I was able to attack and feel the car a little bit better. It was really exciting to drive these cars again with low fuel and peak performance from the tyres.
“Qualifying is always amazing to experience in Formula 1 and I have missed that feeling!”
Alonso says he hopes to move forward in the race and score some points in Bahrain, although he knows drivers around him will likely have an advantage when it comes to tyres on Sunday.
“The plan for tomorrow is to attack and score points,” he said. “We’ll try to make up some positions from our starting spot but we have to be wary of the cars around us as some of our competitors are starting on the Medium tyres so it will be a close race.”
“It was a very disappointing qualifying on our side of the garage” – Esteban Ocon
Team-mate Esteban Ocon was less than happy with his result on Saturday evening, with the Frenchman being in the wrong place at the wrong time to end up eliminated in Q1.
Ocon was forced to lift off the throttle during his final attempt as he was forced to negotiate yellow flags in sector two, and the time lost meant he was on the wrong side of the cut off time at the end of the first segment.
From sixteenth on the grid, Ocon still feels there is a chance to move forward and fight for points on Sunday as he hopes to show the potential of the A521 under race conditions.
“It was a very disappointing qualifying on our side of the garage,” said Ocon. “Unfortunately, the yellow flag meant I had to lift off through sector two and I lost quite a lot of lap-time as a result. It’s unfortunate as there was pace for a lot more today.
“I think as a team we’ve worked well all weekend during the practice sessions and had a good set-up on the car for qualifying, so it’s disappointing not to show our potential.
“Tomorrow, we still target points. Anything can happen and we’ll push hard to make up some places and comeback. The weekend is not over.”