until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

The outlap race that wrecked Alonso’s qualifying

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Fernando Alonso blames his lowly Belgian Grand Prix qualifying position on ‘racing’ Lance Stroll during an aggressive outlap that the two-time Formula 1 champion barely finished in time before the chequered flag.

Alpine driver Alonso will start the race from 14th after a disappointing Spa qualifying in which team-mate Esteban Ocon made it into Q3 and will line up eighth.

Alonso’s final lap in Q2 was eight tenths slower than Ocon’s and left him behind the two Ferraris and Nicholas Latifi’s Williams.

“It was not a good day from my side,” Alonso admitted.

“I have to say that on the last lap it was all down to the outlap to be honest because we have no time to cross the line.

“So I have to race with Stroll all the outlap just to start the timed lap, and I finished the tyre on the outlap. That’s as simple as that.

“In Q1, I was like half a tenth in front of Esteban. In Q2 [before the final runs] I was half a tenth behind Esteban.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Spa Francorchamps, Belgium

“We were always half a tenth up and down. And then on the last attempt, as I said, I finished the tyre on the outlap fighting with Stroll for the time.”

Alonso left the pits at the end of Q2 with just over two minutes left on the clock and his previous best was only a 1m59.675s.

He was told he needed a fast outlap but also had to slow at the end of the Kemmel Straight to let by Sebastian Vettel, who was on a qualifying lap, while also making sure he stayed ahead of Stroll.

As Alonso approached the end of the second sector he was told he still have four seconds to make up compared to a normal outlap, and his final sector was only a second slower than his fastest in qualifying.

He crossed the line with around three seconds to spare to start his lap while Stroll behind was met with the chequered flag.

But the effort that went into ensuring he got the final lap in did compromise his performance as the tyres faded, as Alonso gained three tenths in the first sector, a second in sector two, but less than a tenth in sector three.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Spa Francorchamps, Belgium

By comparison, Ocon’s final flying lap was also three tenths quicker in the first sector compared to his previous best, but he was 1.5s quicker in sector two and almost four tenths faster in the final sector.

Alonso reckons he might have snuck into Q3 as well had he had a cleaner run at his final lap but believes he’d have achieved little more given Alpine’s pace deficit.

Ocon was 3.7s slower than poleman Max Verstappen in Q3 and a full second slower than the next car.

“There is something definitely missing on these conditions,” Alonso said.

“We are investigating that and hopefully we can improve for next time.

“But it’s a little bit of a mix, lack of my experience in wet [during his two-season absence], a little bit of bad luck with timings, and a little bit more work that we need to do as a team to be more competitive in these conditions.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Spa Francorchamps, Belgium

Because of that lack of pace, Alonso says “it’s not that in the race a miracle will happen” and the Alpines will be more competitive in the wet.

But he is hopeful the team can benefit from what is set to be an eventful grand prix given the unpredictable weather that has dominated this weekend so far.

“We are missing a little bit of grip, we are missing a little bit of feeling,” he said.

“But the race with changeable conditions always will offer some possibilities to risk, and when you are in the front of the pack you don’t take the risk. When you are at the back, you take some risk.

“Probably we are in that position and sometimes you can gain a lot, or lose a lot. Let’s see if we gain a lot.

“It will be a good race to learn and a good race for our team to progress for our future so we are willing to race hard and to be in the points.

“The seventh consecutive race in the points is the target.”

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