Alonso qualifies in worst position of the season
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The last time Fernando Alonso failed to make the third session of qualifying, he went on to win the race itself.
But the Ferrari driver does not expect that to happen from 11th place at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.
Alonso’s qualifying performance Saturday was his worst since he qualified 11th at the European GP in June last year. He managed to win that one, but given how Ferrari has struggled for consistency on the tricky Yas Marina circuit so far, the Spaniard has set his sights lower this time.
“In Valencia it was a complete surprise. If we win the race tomorrow it will be even more (of a) surprise,” Alonso said. “We need to be more realistic, we need to start the race thinking it will be tough because we have not been competitive in all the practice.”
The two-time former world champion, beaten by just three points by Sebastian Vettel in last year’s title race, is now resigned to scrapping for points to help Ferrari finish second behind Red Bull in the constructors’ championship.
“The important thing is to get more points and keep fighting,” Alonso said. “We need to score good points. I don’t know what the goal is we can achieve tomorrow because (there’s) a little bit of a question mark.”
Ferrari is battling with Mercedes for second place in the constructors’ championship behind Red Bull, which has already won the title.
Mercedes leads Ferrari by 313-309 points, with Lotus back in fourth with 285.
“The problem that we are facing is that we are not very competitive,” the 32-year-old Alonso said. “But this will not stop us fighting because we know we have some strong points in the team.”
Abu Dhabi does not hold fond memories for Alonso.
He lost the 2010 title to Vettel on the last day by four points after a poor tactical decision saw him caught in traffic and he finished seventh, having started from third on the grid.
In the three practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, he did not manage higher than eighth place.
“We struggled a little bit more but it’s only Saturday. Maybe tomorrow we finish with both cars on the podium,” Alonso said. “Definitely a difficult track for us here. Sometimes we saw races where it is good to start from position 11 with new tires. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll see one of those.”
Alonso’s pure driving ability makes him dangerous even from the back of the grid.
He showed that at the Belgian GP in August, finishing second after starting from ninth, and two races later in Singapore he placed second from seventh spot.
“We have to be very concentrated, attack the race,” he said. “Starting at the back there are more possibilities to get it wrong, because you need to risk more to overtake.”
He’ll have to get past Kimi Raikkonen, who starts from fifth, and then Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. That presents a big challenge on a circuit that does not suit Ferrari and exposes its traction problems because of its long, sharp turns and hairpin bends.
“Every time we test a small part on the aerodynamic side, a rear brake pad, or a leak here or there, the car change(s) completely,” Alonso said. “We don’t have optimized traction.”
Alonso has been beaten in qualifying by teammate Felipe Massa for three consecutive races — an usual turnaround given how Massa has struggled this season.
“In the last few races he’s a lot in front,” Alonso said. “But (here) we saw Webber in front of Sebastian, Nico in front of Hamilton, there are some surprising results.”