Fernando Alonso admitted he was concerned about the potential performance of the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team during the Belgian Grand Prix, but he was happy to be able to head into the summer break with a fifth-place finish.
The Spaniard admitted he was lucky to make up a couple of places at the start at Spa-Francorchamps and be able to keep both George Russell and Lando Norris behind him, drivers that he feels have more competitive cars at this stage of the season.
Alonso praised the team for making changes to the car, so they were able to show more competitiveness in Belgium, and the result is good news for the team heading into the mid-season break.
“I was lucky at the start: I made up a few places into Eau Rouge, but then I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to hold onto those positions through the first stint,” said Alonso. “We were fast – we kept one Mercedes and one McLaren behind us – so we were in the mix. That’s good news for the whole team as we head into the summer break.
“The car felt great today – and really gave me confidence. This is a high-efficiency circuit – and, after the British Grand Prix, we were a little concerned about our performance coming here. The team changed a few characteristics on the car and it really paid off.”
Alonso feels the first half of the season has been ‘incredible’ on his side of the garage, with six podium finishes in the opening eleven races, and to have that kind of performance would have sounded impossible before the season got underway.
“It’s been an incredible first half to the season: we are third in the Constructors’ Championship and third in the Drivers’ Championship,” he added. “It was impossible to think of achieving this before the start of the season.
“The whole team did an incredible job today. Now, it’s time to recharge our batteries over the summer break and come back stronger.”
“It was good to pick up a couple of points today” – Lance Stroll
Team-mate Lance Stroll was pleased to be able to score two points in Belgium on a track where they had not shown particularly good speed up until race day.
The Canadian admitted it was a gamble to pit for the soft tyre when light rain began to fall on track, but the conditions never worsened so he was able to make his strategy work and score a ninth-place finish.
It could have been better, but a fast moving Esteban Ocon was able to catch and pass him for eighth late in the day, but it was still a pleasing result bearing in mind where Aston Martin team had been earlier in the weekend.
“It was good to pick up a couple of points today, especially at a circuit where we haven’t been particularly strong this weekend,” said Stroll. “We made the decision to go for a long first stint on the Medium tyres because we could see some rain coming on the radar.
“The rain did come in some areas of the track, but it was drivable without needing Intermediates, so we boxed for the Soft tyre. It was a bit of a gamble – if the rain had been heavy enough, we could have saved ourselves the extra stop – but in hindsight two stops was probably the better strategy.
“The last stages of the race became about managing the Soft tyre, so I didn’t really have the grip to defend when Esteban [Ocon] was closing in.”
Stroll feels his season to date has been full of mixed results, and he knows that there is still work to do in order to find the same kind of competitive pace as his team-mate across the remainder of the year.
“We’ve had a mixed start to the season and I think we know there’s some work to do as we head into the second half,” said the Canadian.
“That being said, it’s been a huge step up from last year and I know the team is motivated to keep pushing for more.”